The Archos G9 101 is the first Archos tablet to use version 3.2 Honeycomb of Google's Android operating system. Although it has produced more than a half-dozen tablets using the OS, this is the first one to use software intended for tablets. Crazy, isn't it?
The result is that this is easily the least compromised Archos tablet yet. It doesn't feel as though the software has been stretched to fill the screen's 10.1 inches, a vibe the first Archos 101 occasionally suffered from. The design philosophy of Android Honeycomb is largely the same as it is in the smartphone 2.x edition of the software, though.
It grants you homescreens that you dump widgets and shortcuts onto - these are your virtual playgrounds - as well as a scrolling apps menu that holds all your apps in icon form. Plenty of widgets don't quite look right yet on a tablet, but some goodies are starting to seep through, such as HD Widgets. The G9 devices, the 101 and 80, are the first Archos Android tablets to give you Android Market access as standard, and it's what makes the 101 G9 a viable alternative to more upmarket rivals. While it doesn't feel "fancy", you can do everything you can with a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 here - and more besides, as we'll find out later.
Performance isn't perfect, though. Android Honeycomb has been available within tablets for more than six months, but we're yet to see a Honeycomb device that isn't fairly buggy and prone to unexpected glitches. The Archos G9 101 is worse than most. The most noticeable foibles here are the moments of unresponsiveness. Occasionally, the touchscreen simply refuses to repond for brief intervals. It might be argued that the 512MB of RAM is the bottleneck (most Honeycomb tablets have 512MB), but these never feel like brief load times - rather the products of under-optimised software. It's as if the G9 101 has fallen asleep with its eyes open. It's even picky about whether it responds to the power button, refusing to come out of sleep mode like a spotty teenager refusing to get up.
Power on tap is good - day-to-day performance isn't so hot though
This could also be down, in part, to the processor, but not because of its speed. The G9 101 uses a dual-core 1GHz Texas Instruments processor, rather than the Tegra2 model seen in the vast majority of Honeycomb tablets. This isn't the reference model for Android 3.x - the Tegra2 chipset is - and the differing architecture can't have helped. When tested using the AnTuTu benchmarking tool, it performs roughly as well as the Motorola Xoom, a Tegra2 tablet with 1GB of RAM, scoring 4753 points. The last affordable dual-core tablet we tested, the Time2Touch HC701A, scored just 2870.
If you can cope with the odd pause and moment of unresponsiveness, the Archos G9 101 has the power to handle high-powered Androids app and games easily. However, we found the erratic behaviour a continued annoyance, rather than something you just get used to. Hopefully Archos will remedy this with a software update. But for now this is buggier than the other Honeycomb tablet's we've tested.