There’s a lot of success to be had in the budget Android market if do it right, and it seems to me that this is what Archos have tried to do here. With a price tag of £149.99, you’ll be able to grab yourself an ARCHOS 79 Platinum complete with Android 4.2, a 7.85” screen, 1GB of RAM, 1.6GHZ ARM Cortex A9 quad core processor and a rather small 8GB of storage.
However, my first impressions when I took my review model out of the box were actually quite positive. I thought the tablet actually looked good and at a brief glance, enabled me with a lot of options, including the microSD expansion slot (which you’ll probably need!), a Micro USB and MicroHDMI slot. However, my perception changed slightly when I first picked it up and actually started to use the device.
I can’t put my finger on it even to this moment, but there is just something about the material used that doesn’t sit right with me. Whilst it’s not a perfect comparison, I used my Google Nexus 7 tablet to illustrate my point to myself. The Nexus just glides in a design sense; it feels right in the hand whereas the ARCHOS 79 does not. The screen panel seems like it was just stuck onto its aluminium backing, leaving a ridge between the two which I just keep feeling as I hold it.
Despite the lightweight and cheap yet cheerful materials, the ARCHOS 79 clocks in at 366 grams, making it heavier than the Nexus 7 from Google (290 grams), the iPad Mini (331 grams) and the Kindle Fire HDX 7 (311 grams). However, that doesn’t mean picking it and moving around is like dragging around a bag of bricks, it’s still a good weight for a tablet and it does sit well in my hands.
The next thing I noticed was the ports on the device. It’s not like they were nicely spread out for me, they were all packed onto one side of the device. Now, this is a handy set-up if you want to quickly pick up what goes or blindly poke cables around, but on the flip side, it will leave you constantly turning over the device to see just what slot is what. Indeed, it had me doing that a lot!
The power and volume buttons are located in a sensible position near the corner of the device, with ideal placement for those fingers we have on our hands.
Interface & Performance
Despite what was said in the previous part of this review, the ARCHOS 79 offers you the pure Android Jelly Bean experience and for (what my co-editor would describe) an ‘Android Noob’ like myself, this is a good starting point.
What I personally love about the system is that it’s simple, with the ability to add widgets onto your home screen and a notification bar that I actually think acts and looks better then Apple’s. If you’ve used iOS or Jelly Bean before, the actions will all be natural to you, which is yet another plus point. Tap to head to the app, swipe to delete; it’s so simple, right?
As a result of the tablet running a ‘pure’ install of Jelly Bean, I have to say that tablet actually runs like a dream with most actions. Apps open fairly quickly (the stock ones certainly) and actions just seem slick and fast. However, one fairly annoying issue which I encountered was that every time I went to turn the screen, there would be a noticeable lag before the screen would re-orientate itself. It’s not jaw-droppingly irritating, but it’s noticeable.
The hardware in the Archos 79 is certainly capable of playing HD 1080p or 720p comfortably and in a side-by-side test with the Nexus 7, I have to say it really held its own when playing a 1080p version of Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’ and honestly, seeing that made me quite happy.
AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, MPG, PS, TS, MKV, FLV are all supported on the device so you won’t need to search far to play a video.
Much like movies on this device, the music also relies heavily on Google’s own applications. You’ll find a stylish player and a comprehensive collection on their online store. Much like with the movies again, Archos has included their own application, but with the Google apps doing a fine job, I can’t see them being used all that much.
However, if playing music out loud is your thing, you’d be best to give it a miss on this tablet. The speakers are simply not up to standard. You’ll want to purchase a pair of headphones if you’re wanting to enjoy your media.
Camera and Battery Life
Now, I’m sure the camera is rarely something you base your purchases on. We don’t expect much from them at all, but the camera on the ARCHOS 79 is just so bad that you have to question why it was put on there in the first place. To hit that ‘Camera’ criteria? Maybe.
The back camera is generally the one that packs the most punch when it comes to megapixels but the back snapper in this tablet comes in with a MP that we usually see in front-facing cameras. However, even for a ‘budget Android tablet’ this is pushing it a little. The quality of the pictures are just far below-par of what we expect from today’s gadgets.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much anyway but the pictures seem to just lack sharpness, comes complete with webcam style fuzziness (which is cool if you like that sort of thing!) and the colours just look faded, and slightly dull. Not good if you’re going for that artistic #selfie.
The battery however more than made up for the cameras failings. After three days of moderate usage, a bit of browsing, watching the odd music video and leaving it on overnight, the battery finally warned me at 4% to charge. That warning came around three days after I first turned it on after a full charge. Impressive stuff methinks.
Overall I would say that this tablet is actually a good piece of kit for the money you’re paying. It can handle full HD video very well, seamlessly glides around when you’re using the tablet and as one person said to me “This is better than the Nexus 7!”. That comment came after some browsing and general usage and in some ways, I would say that this tablet is at least on par with the Nexus 7 with respect to certain actions, and again; for the money, it’s a beastly little machine, just don’t expect too much.