Archos 80b Helium 4G Tablet Review



Archos LogoTablets have become ubiquitous over the past five years to the point that Android devices are almost a commodity item in the smaller screen sizes. Regrettably favourites such as the Nexus 7 and Tesco Hudl have been discontinued and the Amazon Fire tablets are tied to their own ecosystem. What’s a geek to do for a secondary tablet or younger family member?

Fortunately there are other models and suppliers. Here we have the Archos 80b Helium 4G tablet for under £100 online. On paper it seems like a great deal – 8″ HD screen, quad core processor, 4G connectivity, 16 GB RAM, microSD slot and dual cameras. Let’s take a look and see whether it lives up to expectations.

Archos 80b Helium Tablet Box

Opening the box reveals the 80b Helium tablet plus a USB travel charger with UK and continental adapters. The charger manual does mention a US adapter but there wasn’t one in the box I received. There are two booklets, though one is only warranty and legal information. The other is a Quick Start Guide in a dozen languages.

Archos 80b Helium Tablet Front

The 80b tablet has a white screen surround on the front and a silvered back panel on the rear. The top above the camera on the back pops off to reveal the slots for the microSD card and not just one, but two SIM cards. The part that comes off is a little flimsy, so I wouldn’t expect to be switching memory cards or SIMs on a regular basis. (The dirty smudges in the picture below are where I’ve blurred out IMEIs).

Archos 80b Helium Card Slots

The 80b Helium feels good with slight texture to the metal back: it’s easily held in one hand. There’s a small ridge round the edge of the screen and a microphone and camera at the top. There’s a single speaker on the rear, plus power button and volume rocker on the upper right hand side. Finally the top side has the micro USB port and 3.5 mm audio socket. The top micro USB port may not be to everyone’s taste and the slight downside of a single speaker on the rear is that it can be easily muffled when the tablet is on a soft surface.

Archos 80b Helium Tablet Rear

Turning the 80b on, the tablet runs largely stock Android 5.1 Lollipop and you have to look fairly hard to find the Archos customisations. As a bonus, Archos has pre-installed a selection of software including Angry Birds, Asphalt O, Green Farm 3, Little Big City, News Republic, Jamendo and MobiSystems’ OfficeSuite, to name a few. There’s also Archos Video player and FM Radio. As the 80b has a SIM slot, there’s a phone app too, and the tablet can be used as a giant phone. Probably best used with a headset as aside from not looking like an idiot, there’s no proximity sensor and ears press the screen.
(Note: some of the online specs say that the 80b runs KitKat but the version sent for review had Lollipop both installed on the tablet and printed on the box).

In addition to making phone calls, having mobile connectivity on-board was handy and meant that I wasn’t always having to look for a wi-fi hotspot to download my latest email or news feed. Obviously there’s the cost of the extra SIM plan though I found that having the extra screen real estate over my phone meant that I was more inclined to get a little real work done on email.

The screen is an 8″ 1280 x 800 IPS display with a plastic surface and this gives screen a slight soft or diffuse appearance at times and benefits from having the backlight turned up. There’s no ambient light sensor in the 80b Helium so it’s a manual adjustment. Depending on the expected use of the tablet, having a plastic screen may be a benefit as perhaps it’s more robust than a glass one. In terms of resolution, 1280 x 800 is the same as the original Nexus 7, though the 2013 model upped it to 1920 x 1200 in a 7″ screen. I like that extra inch in screen size and it’s just enough to make reading magazines a bit more comfortable.

Performance-wise, the 80b is not the fastest tablet in the world. Running Geekbench 3 benchmarks shows that the 1 GHz quad-core MediaTek ARM CPU runs somewhere between the original Nexus 7 and the 2013 revision. Having said that, I felt that Archos tablet responded well and played games like Alto’s Adventure well enough. What I did notice was that loading times were a little slow and switching between apps wasn’t that nippy. The solitary 1 GB of main RAM probably has good deal to do with this.

Archos 80b Helium Single Core Archos 80b Helium Multi Core

Although I didn’t do a full battery test, in normal use the tablet seemed to get through the power source at the expected rate. It neither lasted ages or burned up quickly, though playing any high powered game reduced the charge fast.

The cameras are specced at 2 megapixels (1600 x 1200) for the rear one and 0.3 (640 x 480) for the front facing camera. The camera app has a couple of interesting features. First, a picture can be taken using the “V for victory” sign which is handy for group shots where everyone needs to be in the frame. I found it worked best in well-lit situations and it was a little hit-or-miss where the light levels were low. Second, there’s a “live photo” feature, which is a 5 second video with an inset, perfect for uploading to social media sites. In the live photo mode, the camera is constantly recording, so the clip is the 5 seconds before the shutter button is pressed. Other than that, there are a few controls for white balance, exposure, scenes and effects. Below is an untouched picture (click through for the full image) taken with the 80b’s rear camera on high sharpness.

Archos 80b Tree

Way before Android 6 Marshmallow introduced adoptable storage, Archos had Fusion, a clever OS mod which melded internal storage with a semi-permanently installled SD card. Inserting a 32 GB microSD card and formatting it for Fusion gives the 80b an effective internal memory of 48 GB and the Fusion system is completely transparent to installed apps. It’s neat idea, especially for pre-Marshmallow tablets.

I think we’ve covered all the main bases and it’s time to review the findings. In summary, the Archos 80b Helium is not a flagship device by a long way but as it only costs £92 it would be unfair to expect it to be. This is a budget tablet with 4G mobile connectivity which makes the 80b a bit of a rarity and a useful one too.

For example, I would see the 80b Helium being good for travel where undemanding usage as an ereader and media player along with the bigger 8″ screen make it a suitable choice for entertainment on the go. It’s robust enough to be thrown in a bag and paired with a suitable data plan (such as Three’s Feel at Home), there’s no need to pay for expensive hotel wifi. And at less than a hundred quid, it’s not a disaster if it’s damaged or stolen.

To hit that price point, the Archos 80b Helium is all about compromise. On the downside, it’s slow, the screen quality’s not great and the camera’s poor. On the other hand, the screen’s bigger at 8″, there’s expandable memory with Archos Fusion and 4G mobile connectivity for information on the go. Ultimately, I liked the 80b and it migrated to my bedside, but it’s not going to be replacing my Nexus 9 anytime soon.

The Archos 80b Helium 4G tablet is available from good online retailers.

Thanks to Archos for providing the 80b Helium for review.


3 new Pebble watches hit Kickstarter



Pebble_Family_Blue_CropDespite the introduction of Apple Watch and the lineup of Android Wear watches, Pebble remains, somewhat at least, the darling of the market. While not the first smartwatch, it was the first to make an impact on the market.

Since the days of its debut, the company has released other models like Pebble Time, which brought a color screen and more features.

The watch maker has launched three new models on Kickstarter now. The Pebble 2 is an updated version of the original model, adding a heart rate monitor and activity tracking. It’s selling for $99.

The Pebble Time 2 “delivers the ultimate pro smartwatch with a larger, color e-paper screen and heart rate monitoring”. It will be selling for $169.

The Pebble Core isn’t a watch, but it promises phone-free fitness tracking along with GPS and music for only $69.

“Bringing delightful, affordable wearable technology to the world is the puzzle Pebble lives to solve. Our latest vision for the future is almost complete. We’re back on Kickstarter for the most important piece…You”, the company concludes.

You can find all three devices here.


GNC #1120 Google wins Big



Google wins big over Oracle and sent their lawyers home to work on their appeal. Wrapping up 6 years of litigation and a big win for fair use advocates. This case was a big deal and if upheld by appeals court should help programmers worldwide. I have another monster show for you so enjoy and have a great holiday this coming weekend.

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GNC #1119 Facebook says it’s Innocent!



This is a monster show with a massive amount of critical content and news stories you are not going to want to miss. We have news on Facebook who is saying that they are innocent and not guilty of manipulating the news.. Some conservative voices have weighed in on meetings that.

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Ferrari Arrives On Instagram



Ferrari LogoWhen it comes to objects of desire, a Ferrari is close to the top of many a wish list. The gorgeous shapes, the fabulous sound and rich racing history are all part of the aura surrounding the Italian company and the famous prancing horse. It’s perhaps a little surprising then that it’s taken this long for Ferrari to join Instagram and show off the red supercars in all their glory.

Social media isn’t new to Ferrari, with active accounts on both Facebook and Twitter, but Instagram is the obvious platform for pictures and now, sound. As well as the visual treats, Ferrari have recorded aural delights to get more senses involved. It’s all very current too with the first set of photos fresh from last weekend’s Mille Miglia.

Lined up. #Ferrari #RossoFerrari #MilleMiglia

A photo posted by Ferrari (@ferrari) on

Follow @Ferrari to keep those dreams alive!


Dell XPS 12 2-in-1 (Laptop or Tablet) Review



xps124Last year I reviewed an Dell XPS 13 and absolutely fell in love with the Laptop, so when given a chance to review the Dell XPS 12 2-in-1 (Laptop or Tablet) and a bunch of accessories I jumped at the chance. With any device that I review they get a real world test, in this case I have been using the Dell XPS 12 2-in-1 now for three weeks which included a two week road trip as my only Laptop / Tablet.

I have never had a Laptop with a detachable screen so my main concern was not so much it being detachable, my concern was more based on performance. Would the XPS 12 act more like a Tablet or a Laptop. My typical travel does not require me to edit video, but on this trip beyond normal work stuff, I had 4 videos that I needed to edit for a client and the XPS 12 handled them like a champ. I was actually taken back a little bit, encoding video is typically the true test on a computers performance and the XPS 12 performed remarkably well with the Intel 6th Generation M5 Processor.

The Dell XPS line has set the bar in workmanship, just like other XPS models this one utilizes premium materials such as Carbon Fiber, Machined Aluminum and screen hardened with Corning Gorilla Glass. Weighing in at 2.8lbs with the keyboard base of 1.75lbs with just the tablet. The build of the Dell XPS 12 2-in-1 is solid and elegant. While XPS Laptops are thin to begin with this one has already garnered a lot of attention by the folks I have exposed it to.

The screen docking utilizes magnets to snap it into place to establish a solid link between the keyboard and the screen. The 12.5 inch 4k Ultra HD display using the XPS 12 in tablet mode is simply incredible bright and vibrant. When you detach the screen from the keyboard you are asked if you want to stay in PC mode or switch to Tablet. Either choice is fine with Windows 10 the experience is pretty much seamless. The screen features a 352 DPI and has 8 million pixels resulting in an incredible screen experience. I cannot say it enough the screens of the XPS line is really what sets Dell apart from the competition.

The XPS comes with 2 cameras a 5MP user facing camera an 8MP world facing camera. Perfect for high res photos or web-chatting. Thunderbolt 3 has arrived in a big way the XPS 12 has two Thunderbolt 3 ports with the new Type-C connector for blazing fast file transfers.

xps123Let’s talk about the keyboard’s, when you order your XPS 12 you will be able to choose between two keyboard’s. When I tested the XPS 13 last year, I felt that the keyboard on that laptop, was the best keyboard ever designed for a laptop. When I received the XPS 12 with it came their Premier Keyboard with Premier Magnetic Folio which has a 1.9mm travel, when I expressed to the Dell team that I really loved the XPS 13 keyboard they surprised me by sending me the XPS Slim 12 Keyboard – with 1.3mm travel and adjustable viewing angles up to 150 degrees. xps122This blew me away, in that I could have “my” choice of keyboards. Do not get me wrong the premier keyboard is a great keyboard, if you like a little deeper keyboard action the premier is for you.

The XPS fits into a business environment with all the management and security features of a Latitude. The new Dell Thunderbolt dock, a story in itself connects to the XPS 12 with a single cable. I will be talking in detail in a later article about dock and other key peripherals.

For travel the Dell Adapter – USB Type C to HDMI/ VGA / Ethernet / USB 3.0 allows you to quickly connect for presentations and or hard wired networks. The Dell Active Pen allows you to interact with the XPS 12 with a stylus.

During my last trip, I was late in preparing a report for my company, which required about 4 hours of work. So while on the plane ride home, in coach I was able to knock out the report in laptop mode and then watch a 4k movie with plenty of battery life left comfortably on the tray table. It’s a sweet time to have this much power and versatility.

No longer do you have to travel with a massive laptop to get the performance and screen real-estate to get work done. Whether I am crunching multiple spreadsheets one moment in laptop mode, or watching a video in bed in tablet mode the Dell XPS 12 2-in-1 (Laptop or Tablet) is the perfect business or travel device. In a world where versatility in being able to get multiple functions out of one device the XPS 12 has allowed me to lighten my travel load while at the same time provide the power I need to do what I do whether at the office, home or travel.

Bit of a side note if you’re looking at other options. I used a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 recently for a few hours so it’s not a full comparison here. But if I was asked to choose between one or the other the choice is very easy, my pick is the Dell XPS 12 2-in-1.

Disclaimer: I have been provided the Dell XPS 12 2-in-1 (Laptop or Tablet) to review from Dell. The views and commentary are my own and represent my experience with the product line.

xps125


GNC #1118 Military Tech Toys



Still dealing with Jet lag bad but the show had a bunch of great tech in it tonight. Lot’s of Military Tech articles covered as well. The studio has lost some weight, cable weight that is, with lots of streamlining in progress.

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Netflix launches its own speed test website thanks to frustrating ISPs



Netflix_Web_LogoA big deal has been made of bandwidth when using Netflix, especially so after the streaming service had to arrange a payment agreement with Comcast because it was throttling customers — a fee that amounted to little more than protection money from a mob shakedown.

Netflix also publishes a monthly report that calls out ISPs for their speeds. Since that public shaming wasn’t really enough, the company is now releasing its own speed test so it’s customers can see exactly what it is they are paying for.

The new site, which goes by the name fast.com, is similar to some existing services. It’s the same, but different from what the company has been doing.

“This consumer speed test is different than our Netflix ISP Speed Index. Fast.com measures your personal Internet connection at any given time. The speed index measures average monthly speeds of actual Netflix streams during prime time hours”, Netflx claims.

The service works in every country and you don’t have to be a Netflix customer use it. It’s also free, which is always a plus for people.


HYPER Releases USB Type-C Hub with Mini DisplayPort Support



HYPER USB Type-C Hub with Mini DisplayPort supportSanho Corporation, creator of the HYPER line of Apple and mobile accessories, has announced the availability of the HyperDrive USB Type-C Hub with the Mini DisplayPort support which allows the USB Type-C enabled 12” MacBook to connect to the Apple Thunderbolt Display and other Mini DisplayPort compatible displays (like the Apple LED Cinema Display).

HyperDrive is an adaptor that expands the single USB Type-C port on the new Apple 12” MacBook to 5 different ports including Mini DisplayPort, microSDXC, 2 x USB 2.0 and a USB Type-C port that supports pass through charging so that you can use the HyperDrive USB Type-C Hub and charge the MacBook at the same time.

Despite the number of ports, the HyperDrive USB Type-C Hub is very compact and as thin as the MacBook itself. It has been designed to stay flush with the MacBook. It comes in Gold, Space Gray, and Silver aluminum (so you can match it to your MacBook). The HyperDrive USB Type-C Hub acts like an extension of the MacBook, so you never have to take it off.

The HyperDrive USB Type-C Hub with Mini DisplayPort retails for a MSRP of $49.95 and is currently available.


GNC #1117 Cable Companies Crying Wolf



It’s absolutely wonderful to be back in the studio. But Murphies law played a trick on me.. I discuss whats happening here and a pile of tech news including how cable companies are crying wolf .. Glad to be back in Hawaii for a couple of weeks.

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