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Archos 79 Xenon review

Richard Easton
9 Aug 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
148

A well-built tablet, but a low-res screen and poor performance count against it

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz MediaTek MT8389, Screen size: 7.9in, Screen resolution: 1,024x768, Rear camera: 2 megapixels, Storage: 8GB, Wireless data: 3G, Size: 320x134x8mm, Weight: 320g, Operating system: Android 4.2

The Archos 79 Xenon is a budget tablet with more than a few design cues taken from the Apple iPad Mini. It has a very similar-looking chassis and its screen has a squarer, iPad-style 4:3 aspect ratio.

This is unlike the screens on many other 7 or 8-inch Android tablets, like the Google Nexus 7, which have wider 16:9 panels. Which is the better aspect ratio for a tablet can be a divisive issue; some people prefer 16:9 as it’s the same aspect ratio typically used for widescreen films, but some argue that 4:3 feels more spacious and is more natural when you use a tablet in portrait mode.

Aspect ratio arguments aside, the 79 Xenon is a good-looking tablet that punches above its low price. It feels reassuringly well made, thanks to the use of aluminium for its chassis; Archos might have been excused, or even expected, to use plastic, as we've seen on other similarly priced tablets such as the Acer Iconia A3.

Archos 79 Xenon Tablet Thickness

However, when you turn the 79 Xenon on, it becomes apparent that some compromises have been made to keep the price low. The tablet's display has a resolution of 1,024x768, which is considerably lower than that of most other tablets we've tested. This is same resolution as the first-generation iPad Mini, but things have moved on; the resolution equates to a pixels-per-inch measurement of just 132ppi, and we’re used to seeing at least a 1,280x800 resolution on tablets this size.

Reading on such a low-resolution display wasn’t the most comfortable experience, with text appearing blurry. While the resolution was disappointingly low, the colours produced by the 79 Xenon were surprisingly pleasing and vibrant. Colours really pop and made our test images look great. Colour accuracy is good for a cheap tablet, too, with the 79 Xenon able to display 73.1% of the sRGB colour gamut in our tests. The screen was just about visible at maximum brightness when used outdoors under bright sunlight.

At 8mm thick, the 79 Xenon is marginally thinner than the Google Nexus 7, which is impressive. At 320g, it's a fraction heavier than the Nexus, although the 30g extra weight is hard to notice when you're holding the device. The sides of the tablet are largely clutter-free. The top has a headphone jack and a Micro USB charging port, as well as the power button. We found the power button difficult to use, as it’s almost flush to the side of the tablet, making it hard to press.

On the right you’ll find the volume buttons, which are two separate buttons rather than a rocker. Instead of a pair of speakers at the top and bottom like the Nexus 7, you’ll find two speakers at the bottom of the device that are aimed backwards. The Nexus 7 has a much more sensible speaker placement, which allows for better stereo separation when holding the tablet in landscape mode, as you would when watching movies. 

Archos 79 Xenon Tablet Tablet Back

Amazingly for its low price, the 79 Xenon has mobile data support. There’s a Mini SIM slot behind a removable top panel on the back of the tablet where you’ll also find a slot for a microSD card. This is pretty essential to expand the paltry 8GB of internal storage by up to an additional 64GB. 

The Archos 79 Xenon only supports up to HSPA+ speeds, rather than faster LTE, but being able to access the internet without having to find a hotspot is certainly a bonus. It also means the tablet can be used as a somewhat oversized phone if you need to, but we'd recommend a Bluetooth headset if you want to do this. The Nexus 7 with LTE is twice the price at £299, but does come with 32GB of internal storage. 

The 79 Xenon's processing power comes from a quad-core MediaTek MT8389 system-on-a-chip (SoC) running at 1.2GHz - the same as found in the budget 10in Acer Iconia A3. In our Sunspider JavaScript benchmark, the 79 Xenon was slightly quicker than the Iconia A3, rendering the test page in 1,463ms. This is still a low score, however, and web pages can take a while to render; once loaded, though, web browsing is smooth. 

The tablet's gaming performance was also below par. It only managed 1,322 in the 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme benchmark and 2,198 in Ice Storm Unlimited, which is far below the scores we see from premium tablets. Don’t expect to do any intensive 3D gaming without putting up with lower graphics settings or the occasional jerk. The tablet has disappointing battery life, lasting only 6 hours and 38 minutes in our video playback test; a shame considering the travel possibilities unlocked by its SIM slot. 

The Archos 79 Xenon runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. This isn’t the most recent version, but is still current enough to be a decent operating system. It has, however, largely been left untouched by Archos so you get an almost standard Android experience. The tablet comes with the usual array of Google Apps pre-installed and Chrome is the default browser. 

Archos 79 Xenon Tablet Front App Drawer

The tablet also uses the original Android Jelly Bean Camera app, which shows the camera control wheel when you long-press on the screen. Disappointingly, there’s no touch-to-focus function, and we found the rear camera’s autofocus would often struggle to find a lock. You're unlikely to use the 79 Xenon as your main camera, though, as it only has 2-megapixel rear and 0.3-mega-pixel front facing camera sensors. Photos taken with the tablet were very soft, even when taken in bright sunlight. In low light it was even worse, producing grainy images. The camera is definitely one of the areas where cost-cutting is evident. 

The Archos 79 Xenon isn’t a bad tablet, but its performance and screen resolution put it firmly in the last generation and its battery life is disappointing. The Vodafone Smart Tab 4 is a superior and cheaper 3G tablet. 

Hardware
ProcessorQuad-core 1.2GHz MediaTek MT8389
RAM1GB
Screen size7.9in
Screen resolution1,024x768
Screen typeIPS
Front camera0.3 megapixels
Rear camera2 megapixels
FlashNo
GPSYes
CompassYes
Storage8GB
Memory card slot (supplied)microSD
Wi-Fi802.11n
Bluetooth4
NFCNo
Wireless data3G
Size320x134x8mm
Weight320g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 4.2
Battery size4000mAh
Buying information
Warrantyone-year RTB
Price£148
Supplierwww.amazon.co.uk
Detailswww.archos.co.uk
Part code79 Xenon

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