- Large storage capacity
- Fusion Storage with a microSD card (quick insertion of large files possible)
- Full HD resolution
- Many connections
- Quality video player
- Poor screen brightness / reflection
- Glass too far from the touchscreen panel
- Yellowish tinge on screen
- Battery life too short for a so-called multimedia powerhouse
- Wall charger too limiting
- Checkered performance depending on use
- Camera needs work
- Delivered with Android 4.4 only (no upgrade to Lollipop in the pipeline)
Archos is being talked about a lot this year. What with its Fusion Storage, the sledgehammer blow that was the 50 Diamond and the return of very large capacity devices, the brand hasn’t been sitting on its laurels. And its one of these bigger tablets that we’re looking at here today as with its Magnus series, Archos is bringing back massive storage capacity to the Android tablet. The 101 Magnus Plus we’re testing has 128 GB of storage and a Full HD screen… but in the end, that’s about it.
- Operating system (OS)Android
- OS version tested4.4
- Chipset (SoC)NA
- Processor (CPU)Rockchip RK3288 1.8 GHz
- No. of CPU cores4
It’s been a while since Archos has managed to attract the limelight to its family of Android tablets. When it announced the arrival of its large-capacity tablets, the manufacturer highlighted a real lack in the Android range, whereas its sworn iOS enemy, iPad, often offers a range of storage capacities, up to 128 GB. Archos decided to shake things up with a 64 and 128 GB tablet, with its famous Fusion Storage, which allows you to accumulate internal and external storage when you add a microSD card. Initially, there had been plans for a 246 GB version, but the brand preferred to drop this (temporarily?), faced with, amongst other reasons, mute enthusiasm from distributors.
The Archos 101 Magnus Plus is on sale for a recommended price of £249 (as far as we’re aware, this tablet is not available in the United States).
DESIGN & HANDLING
This tablet is pretty classic-looking, although its sides, without actually changing in thickness by one iota, seem to be thinner on one end than the other. Quite a feat. The build is made up of several pieces of plastic, but overall it doesn’t look cheap.
The 1 lb 2 oz / 515 g of the tablet will leave indents in your wrists after holding it for a while, but also in your palms, due to its thin edges that dig in. We would have liked softer edges. With the exception of the upper side, the bezels aren’t too thick. All the connections are on the top of the tablet.
This tablet doesn’t overheat at all, even when running at full pelt.
With its screen that’s just a cut above Full HD, in a 16:10 format over 10.1″, the Magnus’ screen is nice to view. The pixel density is not as good as on the iPad Air 2 (264 ppi) or the Galaxy Tab S (288 ppi), but 218 ppi is enough for whatever you want to do and to be viewable from whatever distance. The IPS panel is not outstanding, however. There’s a good contrast ratio of 992:1, but max brightness is only 297 cd/m² and brightness reflection is a pretty mediocre 15% (the iPad Air 2’s is 3%). In combination, these scores are too weak to ensure decent viewability in all circumstances, especially as the screen’s glass sits a long way above the panel, exacerbating the problems.
The colors are not particularly exceptional, but they are still fairly accurate and the average Delta E is 5. The colors could have been managed better to be more balanced, but overall they look good, which is important for a tablet that is clearly geared towards media and video use. However, the color temperature is barely more than 6100 K, so Archos has taken the risk of seeing its tablet’s colors veer into the yellow…and that’s unfortunately what happens. If you like the sepia look, you won’t mind about the tinge on the screen, especially when reading text. But if you like your whites whiter than white…or just plain white, the 101 Magnus Plus doesn’t fit the brief.
The ghosting time is 20 ms, ranking this tablet at the low end of the middle of the table for IPS panels. As for touch response time, Archos seems not to have made any progress (like with its smartphones), with a time of 140 ms. That’s twice the response time as on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 or an LG G Pad 10, and seven times the time for one of the record-holders, the Google/HTC Nexus 9. Overall, we had been expecting much more than a screen that’s the right size for videos.
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
We’re already more than half-way through 2015 and Archos is launching a new product running Android 4.4.2 KitKat. As the brand doesn’t usually rejig Android software, the tablet suffers from being woefully behind the times for Google management and navigation options when compared to recent and as-yet unreleased tablets or those updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop. You do get the usual Google apps suite and Archos media apps.
The Rockchip RK3066 has a decent amount of brute force and is at about the same level as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC for most uses. Although the Rockchip might well be firing on all cylinders for specific tasks, multitasking is a problem. When a handful of heavier apps are open, the tablet slows down. What’s more, bizarrely, is that navigation within the apps browser isn’t as fast as we’d like either.
The HD 720 and Full HD 1080p video player doesn’t have any basic flaws and works well when accompanied with Archos Fusion Storage and a good microSD card. This card has been formatted to Fat32 and gets round any 4 GB restrictions by transferring files—it basically splits them and re-collates them on the tablet.The Magnus is a quality multimedia player for which it relies on a clear and comprehensive optional app. It’s a shame there’s no window mode, as Samsung has.
The headphone output is powerful enough for the vast majority of headphones. At full volume, the distortion level’s not the best we’ve heard, but it’s acceptable. Both the stereo output and the dynamic range are fairly decent.
The speakers sit at the front, above the screen. This is an advantage, as they are not obstructed when you’re using the tablet. Unfortunately, the quality is not great. They’re not very powerful, there’s incredible amounts of distortion on voices, which is the only frequency range that is rendered. The rest of the spectrum is completely missing.
The Mali T-764 GPU does what it can to offer decent graphics for gaming. We did notice games randomly slowed down and even stopped for a second on some graphics-heavy titles (NOVA 3 and Real Racing 3, for example). It’s not an ace for gaming, but we’ve seen worse.
The Magnus’ main rear camera is 5 Mpx, but this is difficult to believe as the pictures are not up to the standard of similar cameras on competing tablets. Shots are dull, dark and clearly lack sharpness and detail. The camera is barely a last-resort solution. And as for the video… forget about it.
The front-facing 1.9 Mpx camera held our attention slightly more, if only for the possibility to use it for videoconferencing (Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.). The quality is mediocre, even when the camera is in optimal lighting conditions. There’s no ghosting, however, and very little lag-time. But there is some slight distortion when you move the tablet, even just a little bit.
There’s a 7,000 mAh battery built into this machine. The kind of capacity that would lead you to believe battery life would be good. Nevertheless, once again, in practice what we see is far from positive. When streaming from Netflix, the 101 Magnus Plus conked out after five hours thirty-eight minutes. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 lasts almost twice as long, as does the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10. The observations are similar for the video player, which barely lasts out six hours five minutes. It’s way too short a time for a heavy-weight tablet that’s designed to be a media powerhouse and with all the memory capacity to do just that. In our protocol overall battery life test, the battery died after seven hours twenty-four minutes. The two rival machines mentioned above managed four and a half hours and nearly ten hours more, respectively. Even if the time the Magnus manages isn’t a fatal flaw in itself, Archos has chosen to position its tablet alongside serious competitors, and needs to improve the optimization of its battery life. What is worse is that charging is via a wall charger with a slim connector, not a micro-USB, and that a full charge requires a little over five-and-a-quarter hours.
Archos has never burdened itself with an overlay or programming over the top of the Android interface. It uses the stock Android touchpad on each release. With this model, you get the basic, practical KitKat keyboard, but there’s no predictive text, no real dictionary and no trace-to-type. You basically lack the typing essentials for a decent Android tablet.
On paper, the Archos 101 Magnus Plus had it all, bringing together a multimedia tablet with loads of storage and a high definition screen. However, the hit-and-miss optimization, the mediocre display quality and the poor battery life for this type of device mean it doesn’t live up to expectations. If you absolutely have to have a high-capacity multimedia Android tablet, this is doubtless the only one you’ll find on the market.