Archos Titanium 97b Review

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With me today I have another tablet offered by Archos, in particular the Element Series Titanium 97b which is a 9.7 inch tablet at a very affordable price.

After reviewing a slightly different and more unique tablet by Archos, the GamePad, I‘ve been sent a more traditional styled tablet compared to the GamePad which was focused more toward gamers.

Equipped with a high resolution IPS screen, I’m definitely looking forward to finding out  how this tablet will perform as the IPS panel should offer superior viewing angles, which should be very important for watching movies.

With its dual core A9 CPU, Quad core Mali GPU and 1GB of memory, it should have enough performance for almost any media related task, but may not be able to cope in games due to the high resolution of the IPS panel.

Included in box • Tablet, charger, USB data cable, documentation
Display • 9.7’’: Super HD display, IPS, 10 point capacitive multitouch
Application Framework • Android 4.1, “Jelly Bean”
Processor • Dual-core A9 @ 1.6GHz
• Quad-core GPU Mali 400 MP4
Capacity • 8GB* flash memory + Micro SD port (64GB compatible)
RAM • 1GB RAM
Video playback1 • H.264 HD (up to 1080p @30fps)
• MPEG-42 HD (up to 1080p @30fps)
• With the above codecs, the device can play video files with the following extensions: AVI, MP4, MOV, 3GP, MPG, PS, TS, MKV, FLV
Audio Playback1 • MP3
• WAV (PCM/ADPCM)
• AAC3, AAC+ 5.13
• OGG Vorbis
• FLAC
Photo viewer4 • JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF
Subtitles • .srt, .ssa, .smi, .sub formats supported
Cameras • Front 2MP
• Back 2MP
Interfaces • Micro USB 2.0: Mobile Transfer Protocol (MTP)
• USB host via OTG
• microSD (compatible with 64 GB cards)
Wireless technologies • WiFi
Miscellaneous • 2 Built-in speakers
• G-sensor
• Built-in Microphone
Power source • Internal: Lithium Polymer battery
• External: Power adapter/charger
Dimensions & weight • 242 mm x 189 mm x 10.5 mm (9.5’’ x 7.2’’ x 0.41’’)
• 650g (1.43 pounds)
Software update • Updates can also be downloaded at www.archos.com

 

On the outside of the box the styling is very similar to the GamePad with an overall grey theme and highlighting features on the outside but in a more visual way compared to the GamePad due to the increased surface area of the box due to the size increase.

After opening the box there I’m presented with two areas, one with the tablet and the other with various cables. The tablet which is protected by a soft synthetic material and then held in place by some polystyrene inserts looks quite safe from shock and movement. Underneath the tablet various manuals and warranty information can be found. As for the other areas there is a power adapter with various sockets for around the world and a USB cable.

After getting the tablet into my hands, it is apparent to me straight away that this tablet has significantly better build quality when compared to the GamePad. It feels a lot more solid and better in my hands. The next thing I noticed was the weight which naturally in comparison to my device of normal use, the Nexus 7, seemed extremely heavy but this is to be expected considering the difference in size.

The overall aesthetic of the tablet is quite pleasing in general. It sports a glossy white dust seeking finish. The edge is finished in a chrome style plastic trim which looks acceptable, except for the buttons which look a bit cheap in general.

Now moving on to the accessibility. The Titanium 97b, like the GamePad, comes equipped with a MicroSD card slot which supports up to 64GB (SDXC). This is a major feature which is not as common in the high-end market with the only major manufacturer which still includes in religiously being Samsung. Next we see a MicroUSB, power plug, microphone and headphone port. One thing I feel is missing is the addition of a MicroHDMI port which was present on the GamePad which incidentally has the same internal specification. On the other hand, the inclusion of a dedicated power plug is very much a good thing as it means you can use a microUSB to USB adapter and plug in external storage which you play movies or other media formats from it.

The next thing I noticed is the addition of a camera on both the back and front making this device fully photograph capable, the only question is the quality it is able to produce.

The final feature I’m going to touch upon in regard to the design is the inclusion of stereo speakers, this is something which is just starting to gain traction in the mobile world and will definitely improve your movie and gaming experience, the only qualm I have is that the speakers are rear mounted as opposed to front mounted like on phones such as the HTC One.

Overall the feature set is rather good, even if it isn’t exactly comprehensive with my only major issue being the lack of a dedicated HDMI out port.

To test the usability of this tablet I used it as my day to day device for a few days, the results of said testing were quite impressive as there is no major pitfall of the device whatsoever, and the only issues I can touch upon are minor rather than major.

The first thing I want to mention is the weight of the device, normally I hate larger tablets due to the increased weight and this tablet is no different, after prolonged use my wrists do start to ache. This is a problem which many people don’t think about before buying a device and it is something which they should most definitely consider. If you have problems with your wrists, I would recommend buying a case with a stand or opting for a smaller device in general.

Next we move onto the ergonomic design of the tablet.  Overall, nothing interesting has been added to this tablet to make it feel nicer in your hands. A contoured rear surface would have been a welcome addition in making it more comfortable to use but as it stands it is just a flat backed device. I would most definitely like to see a large tablet aim to improve on the general unwieldy nature of them. On a positive note, I don’t find my hands moving to places , blocking ports or the cameras, so the location of the inputs are in a good location.

The IPS panel on this tablet is truly phenomenal, there just a single issue – despite having fantastic viewing angles, no matter what sort of light environment you are in, the viewing angles are always eclipsed by some form of light being reflected on to the glossy screen. So although the tablet does perform in regards to viewing angles, the sun or any other light source may hinder that. A solution to this is to turn the brightness up to maximum as this tends to make the reflections invisible but it also has dire consequences on your battery life.

On the software side of things the tablet is running Android 4.1.1, which although it is a very good version of Android, it is definitely due an upgrade to the latest version which is 4.3 as it is getting a bit dated now.

I noticed that in general things don’t seem particularly snappy; apps often require half a second to load in properly, in addition to this there is also a slight stutter on the screen transitions. On a positive note however once in an app I can’t say I’ve had a problem with the performance of the device even with many apps sitting in the background.

As for the apps included with the tablet, in my previous review of the GamePad (LINK) I reviewed each app included, the apps included on this device are the same as the on the GamePad as such I’ve retested and changed my phrasing from the last review where necessary.

First is the Archos Remote Server app. This app allows you to control the tablet from another Android device. There are several ways in which you can control the tablet the D-Pad, media and a touch pad. The D-Pad and media function just great and exactly as intended but I find the touch pad is very prone to stuttering, and although it functions I feel that it’s not as good as it should be. However, overall I can’t help but think that this app doesn’t have much of a purpose unless you have your tablet is plugged into a television and you want to play/pause a movie or something similar because playing a game with this remote would be impossible.

Second is the Archos Video app, a basic media playback app. I found the experience quite enjoyable with a very nice user interface. Some additional playback options would have been nice, but the overall it worked very well. There are many apps on the Play Store which you can download to fill this role and can be configured to suit your exact needs for example VLC if that is what you prefer. After testing 1080p HD playback, the app was very smooth. You should have no problem playing this sort of content via Archos Video.

In addition to the video app we have the Archos Music app. This app is very similar to the video app, and if the two apps functionality was merged I feel that would be overall better. The music app offers a media library for all your music, overall the interface is very clean and functional I have issues in this area. You can also pause, play and change songs from outside of the app with the included widget and the playback bar in the notification area.

Finally, we have the file browser and performance monitor apps; they for the most part function exactly as intended. The file browser has a fantastic UI and is an absolute pleasure to use being better in many ways to others on the Play Store. Then there’s the performance monitor, this app allows you to monitor which apps are running and uninstall them from within the same app if required. I can’t help but think the Performance Monitor is a little bit underwhelming as it offers no real statistics about your system.

Overall the experience offered by Archos was just as good as in my previous review, only difference is that all of the issues I had before have now been solved in regards to the build quality and more. I’m pleased with what they have managed to offer for the price as it comes in at a very modest £170 which when you consider what it has to offer is truly phenomenal.

For my performance testing I used all of the standard Android benchmarks, due to my lack of a tablet to compare this device to the scores will be compared to the previous reviews GamePad.

Antutu

Antutu Battery

Quadrant

3DMark Ice Storm

3DMark Ice Storm Extreme

For the cost of the device, it performed very admirably as under the hood nothing has changed from the GamePad in regards to processor, memory and graphics. The improvements from the GamePad to this device have definitely been focused at giving the user a better media and browsing experience compared to the GamePad which was solely focused at high gaming performance. There is one issue which I feel is quite important to mention – this tablet does begin to run rather hot when doing anything beyond browsing the OS.

If I were comparing this tablet to other 9.7 inch I’d definitely be saying that it doesn’t perform well but when you consider that every single contender against this device costs around double and doesn’t even include many features such as a MicroSD slot you really can’t fault this device.

This device certainly isn’t perfect, there are many pitfalls such as the fact that after prolonged use the tablet will get hot in one specific area and the fact that sometimes the UI doesn’t feel as responsive as I feel it should.

A major strength of this tablet is the ability to charge and play from storage such as a flash drive through use of a microUSB to USB adapter (OTG).  This gives you a fantastic flexibility in the applications of this tablet, for example during a long car journey you could connect the charger to an inverter and then also connect a flash drive to watch or listen to any stored media. If they had included the microHDMI output which was present on the GamePad I would say the overall accessibility of the device was pitch perfect with not a fault, but as such I have to admit I’m a little disappointed with the lack of one.

Another thing which I was shocked to see missing on a device was the lack of Bluetooth. This feature has been present on almost every device I’ve bought in the last 10 years but Archos seem to be making a habit of not including its functionality.

Next is the addition of a rear facing camera, which although may not seem particularly useful on a device of this size is definitely a welcome feature as strictly speaking you never know what you’re going to want to take a photo of and having another device which can quickly and easily take photos is no bad thing.

With a price tag of £170 (as of time of review) you would be hard pressed to find a better 9.7 inch tablet which can provide a better experience than this device. The only problem is that I’m having the exact same thought as last time, which is why haven’t they released a higher end tablet as if the results in this price bracket are to be trusted it could be a real contender for the money versus the likes of Apple, Samsung and Asus.

Despite my niggles with a few things overall the experience was fantastic which is why I feel it deserves a value award because it might not be the best at any of its features, but it most definitely is when you consider that it costs half as much as the tablets which it competes with.

awards-value

  • Performance
  • Design
  • Value

Summary

With a very strong showing the Archos Titanium has impressed me in many areas but there is one major factor that this revolves around which is the cost of the device, if this tablet was priced higher it wouldn’t be getting anywhere near the praise it’s getting now. But once more I find myself wondering what Archos are really capable of and hope to see interesting things from them in the future.

3.3

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