Monthly Archives: December 2012

With the Arnova G3 tablets selling for more than half a year now, it is time for Archos to release a new range of budget tablets. In one of Charbax videos showing the GamePad, we noticed a nice white tablet sitting on the background. After doing a little bit zooming and sharpening, we can clearly see Arnova 10c G4 written on the box. This makes us think Archos is planning to release at least three 10″ tablets in the Arnova G4 line-up.

While we can’t see much, there are a few details we can notice. The new 10″ tablet will be coloured in white and looks pretty much like the already released Archos 101xs, with the steel frame around the screen and a front facing camera on the left. By looking around on the web, we found information that the Arnova G4 tablets will come in the first quarter of 2013 and will feature dual-core processors.

The GamePad is an interesting product. With the two dedicated dual analog sticks along with regular gaming keys and shoulder buttons, it is really aimed at gaming. Packed with Archos Game Mapping Tool you could play nearly any game you want. There are over a hundred games already pre-configured and in case your favorite game is not yet supported, mapping buttons is an easy task. Though the buttons don’t meet the level of a PSP or PS3 controller and you need some time to get used to them, they are pretty comfortable. Packed with a powerful quad-core Mali-400 GPU, it delivers very decent gaming performance and with a score of over 12000 in Antutu, we can definitely call the GamePad a beast. Not only for gaming. ;) Browsing, multimedia and other Android features are working fluidly. The Archos Multimedia Suite, which we know from the XS tablets is also installed on the GamePad and provides a very decent codec and network sharing support.

With a RRP of 149€, the same as for the 80 Cobalt, the GamePad does have its shortcomings. The TN screen is not as great as the IPS screens we are used to, especially when it comes to viewing angles. The plastic screen surface attracts finger prints like a magnet and they won’t go off that easy. The battery life of slightly more than 4 hours and 30 minutes for video playback is not great for a gaming tablet – after two hours of a heavy game with Wi-Fi and full brightness your battery will be empty. With the newest Android games being larger than 1GB, the storage can also be a problem – the 8GB internal memory will be full in no-time.

Even with its shortcomings, we think the Archos GamePad is worth its money. Currently, there is no gaming tablet on the market which would come close to GamePad’s value – the 400$ WikiPad is more than 2x as expensive. Just let’s hope Archos software guys will give the software a finishing touch with a firmware update. ;)


Pros
Cons
  • Design & Performance
  • Game Mapping
  • Archos Multimedia suite & Google Play
  • Value
  • Screen viewing angles
  • Battery life
  • Software glitches
  • 8GB of Internal memory

Don't forget to check our GamePad mapping page for details on games compatible with the tablet. Please use our GamePad forum if you have any question on the device. Visit us soon for more GamePad information.

The Game Mapping tool, exclusively installed on Archos devices, provides the right mapping for the 14 physical buttons and two analogue thumb-sticks.

In case your game is not mapped by default(by now there are about a hundred profiles included), you can add mapping itself. You can also change one of already existing profiles, to suit your needs.

Setting up mapping goes via a simple drag-and-drop interface.

Archos has made a video which shows how the mapping tool works:

When setting up mapping, we suffered sensitivity issues in some games for the analogue sticks(for example: Dead Trigger). In the newest firmware, which is going to be released within days from now, the mapping tool is improved and includes an option to change sensitivity. Unfortunately, we were not able to test that, but we will do it for sure once we get a device for a longer time. We have tested various games and emulators, most were working without a problem.

Please note that we are not used to playing on handheld consoles. We also didn’t play some of the tested games before and given the limited time we got for doing the review, the game results show in the video are not very good. The video is filmed mostly to show the working games, emulators and graphics, not the gameplay.

Speaking of games which won’t run – Wild Blood from Gameloft is not enjoyable at the moment. We have set up a separate page where you can share your experience with games on the GamePad.

Multimedia

Just like the Archos XS devices, the GamePad comes with the Archos Multimedia Suite – a set of applications for multimedia playback. The Video and Music applications include metadata scraping, auto-subtitles and of course, the best format and codec support around including 1080p video decoding. Combined with the front facing stereo speakers the ARCHOS GamePad can be your full on portable media device. The ARCHOS Media Center apps in the ARCHOS GamePad also have the best in wireless media sharing; with uPnP and Samba for streaming media from a PC or Mac on your home network, or the ARCHOS media server to stream to a DLNA compatible TV.

The in-built file manager is quite powerful and supports (un)zipping zip-files and there is also an Archos taskkiller pre-installed, just in case you need it. ;) And thanks to Mini-HDMI port, you can plug your ARCHOS GamePad into an HDTV to have your content up on the big screen. Archos GamePad is also compatible with Archos Remote Control application, so you will be able to control it wirelessly.

In the following video you will see the speakers quality and a demo of Music, Video, YouTube and Gallery applications.

We have to say we have experienced some screen time out problems and some other minor software glitches on our review sample with a beta firmware. We mentioned this to Archos and let’s hope they will have a look at it. :)

Continue to Part 5: Conclusion

Archos GamePad boot

Archos GamePad performance: benchmark results

Test conditions:
– Arnova GamePad pre-production device with firmware build dated 20121126
– all benchmarks were executed after all tasks have been killed
– test were run multiple times to check for consistent behaviour, the results shown here correspond to average values

Archos 101 xs vs Archos GamePad benchmark results
Archos 101 xs (G10) Archos GamePad
Test setup
Firmware version
pre-production device, with beta firmware
Linux kernel version 3.0.21+ built Aug 16 12:50:16 CEST 2012
Android 4.0.4 Build G10A-user 4.0.4 IMM76D 20120809.121151
pre-production device, with beta firmware
Linux Kernel 3.0.8+
Android 4.1.1 Build JR003H.20121126.142255
Antutu Benchmark
higher is faster
Total score: 5874
CPU: 2940
GPU: 1387
RAM: 1069
I/O: 478
Total score: 12167
CPU: 3922
GPU: 5831
RAM: 1748
I/O: 666
Linpack Pro v 1.2.9
higher is faster, benchmark run in multi-thread
(we took the best numbers we could achieve, there is a lot of variance on these bench results)
94.9 MFLOPS 79.8 MFLOPS
CF-Bench v 1.1
higher is faster
Native score: 10756
Java Score: 3288
Overall Score: 6275
Native score: 10156
Java Score: 2836
Overall Score: 5764
ArcTools v 0.69
higher is faster
Read: 29842 Kb/s
Write: 13780 Kb/s
Read: 27224 Kb/s
Write: 7351 Kb/s
Smartbench 2011 v 1.2.1
higher is faster
Prod. index: 2816
Games Index: 2810
Prod. index: 2972
Games Index: 1795
Quadrant
higher is faster
Total: 3557
CPU: 6170
Mem: 3346
I/O: 4671
2D: 1000
3D: 2599
Total: 3715
CPU: 6342
Mem: 4252
I/O: 4801
2D: 1032
3D: 2150
Vellamo v 1.0.3
higher is faster
1374 1384
Nenamark v 2.0
higher is faster
55.0 FPS 55.2 FPS
GPUBench v 1.0.0
higher is faster
Absolute: 39195
Relative: 34964
Absolute: 41931
Relative: 40939

While these numbers should be weighted by the fact they were run on the pre-production devices, they give the general idea about the machines performance. It appears the GamePad has about the same performance as the 101xs and that the Quad-core Mali-400 GPU is pretty powerful givent the high results in GPU benchmarks.

Battery Life

From a fully charged tablet, we played this video file big_buck_bunny_720p_AAC.mp4(Big Buck Bunny 720p, stereo sound in AAC format) in loop until the tablet battery gets empty.

More details about the test conditions:
– using latest firmware (20121126) available on the pre-production device
– machine started after a fresh reboot
– tablet fully charged (lockscreen says “Charged”, Settings / About tablet / Status says Battery level100%)
– media sound volume set to half (Settings/Sound/Volume, set Media bar to middle position)
– brightness set to half (Settings/Display/Brightness)
– Wi-FI disabled

During this test, on our pre-production Archos GamePad, we have measured an effective battery life of 4 hours and 36 minutes. For comparison, most other Archos and Arnova tablets of all sizes also give it up after 4-6 hours. We have used our ArcTools application to run the battery test for the details of the discharge curve, see below:

When it comes to battery life with gaming, it is worse. Running Asphalt 7 with full brightness and Wi-Fi on, the GamePad could only handle it for slightly more than two hours. Nova Battery Tester standard benchmark measured 1% drop per 72 seconds, or a battery life of 2 hours with maximum brightness and maximum CPU load(all the networks off). Archos 80G9 got more than the double in the same benchmark(results from Nova Battery Tester page). We can only say we would like to have a bigger battery in here.

Don’t forget to check our more detailed article on the ARCHOS GamePad battery life

Continue to Part 4: Gaming & Software

2

Archos GamePad packs a nice thin design with a steel frame finish. During Archos press conference in March, 2012, Crohas explained some details on how tablet are usually built following the model of Apple Ipad, with an machined aluminium body where a high quality glass is applied. Archos on the other hand has developed their own technology over the past 3 years. The tablet structure is made by highly resistant stainless steel embedded in a plastic enclosure. An extremely thin (about 1/10 mm) metal frame surrounds the screen as you can see on the picture below. The plastic screen surface does catch fingerprints though and it is not easy to get them off.

Compared to some previous Archos models, it seems there has been a lot of efforts in the tablet build quality, as the pieces are now better adjusted, the whole device seem quite solid and the materials feel quite good for this price range.

Connectors

The upper tablet side holds the connectors, from right to left:

  • the HDMI connector (mini HDMI format, aka HDMI type c connector)
  • a tiny hole for the microphone
  • headphone connector, usual 3.5 mm mini-jack format
  • micro USB connector (slave/host)
  • power button
  • volume buttons

The microSD slot is located on the down side of the tablet and the 0.3 Mpx front facing camera can be found on the front.You can see the steel frame being really thin.

Display

Archos GamePad comes with an 7.0″ TN screen, which is actually slightly bigger than the screen sizes we get to see on most handheld consoles. With the ppi(pixels per inch) of 169(for comparison, Archos 101 XS has ppi of 160 and the iPad 4 ppi of 264), the GamePad doesn’t have the biggest density. We definitely regret the GamePad coming with such a screen, an IPS screen would fit it much better. Though the colors themselves are pretty nice, we regret the brightness and the viewing angles.

Speaking of the resolution, we found it to be quite okey. All the text is readable, contrary to 7″ tablets with 800×480 resolution. Multi-touch can also be found, supporting up to five simultaneous touches.

Game Controllers

Before we got our GamePad sample for testing, we had a lot of concerns about the game controllers. Would the analogue sticks really be analogue and not just doubling the buttons? What about the screen size, won’t it be too big?  Fortunately, the analogue sticks are really analogue (for example, in gta 3 you can walk/run, same for emulators)  and all the buttons are unique. We didn’t find the buttons as comfortable as on a PSP or PS3 controller, but they are all reachable and are nicely made. You just need some time to get used to them. The tablet doesn’t have a vibrate function, so the buttons won’t vibrate.

Though on the photo the “grained” plastic surface may look weird, we found it to look and feel pretty nice. Instead of one d-pad, all the buttons are placed separately and it really depends on what you are used to.

The “shoulder” buttons on the back are transparant. L2 and R2 buttons didn’t fit there and are placed on the front side.

We definitely liked the double speakers which produce stereo sound. Contrary to most tablets, they are not placed on the back, so their sound is not attenuated when the tablet lies on its back.

Continue to Part 3: Tablet Performance.

Don't forget to check our GamePad mapping page for details on games compatible with the tablet. Please use our GamePad forum if you have any question on the device. Visit us soon for more GamePad information.

Only half a year ago, Archos released the 7″ ChildPad – an android tablet for kids. Just a few weeks ago, the 13.3″ FamilyPad was announced and for older kids and people who love to play games, there is now also the GamePad.  This new type of tablet, the GamePad, combines gaming controls with Android for a full tablet and gaming experience in one. The GamePad features a 7-inch, capacitive screen, physical control buttons and analogue sticks, runs a dual-core RK3066 processor @ 1.6 GHz combined with a Mali 400mp quad-core GPU. In addition, the GamePad includes automatic game recognition and mapping tools – patented technology to ensure control compatibility with every advanced Android game. Archos GamePad should be available December this year starting at 149 € / £124.99 / ~$199.99, just in time for the big Christmas sales.

The tablet sample we used for review is a pre-production tablet with a beta firmware. Though some minor things may change, it should give a good idea of the final retail model…

Our review will follow our usual methodology, first presenting the product packaging, the tablet design, performance, game mapping and other features; followed up by our conclusion. Enjoy ! ;)

Archos GamePad Specifications

Operating System Android 4.1.1 (Jelly Bean)
CPU Dual Core Rockchip RK3066 running at 1.6 GHz (ARM Cortex A9)
Integrated GPU: Mali 400 (quad core)
Flash Storage Memory Capacity: 8 GB
Speed: Class 6 range (tested Read: 27224 Kb/s Write: 7351 Kb/s)
System Memory 1024 Mb
Additional storage Micro SD slot (SDXC compatible, up to 64 Gb)
Display 1024×600 7.0 inches LCD screen using TN technology
capacitive 5 points multitouch, 170 DPI density
Bluetooth No
Wi-FI 802.11 b/g/n
Gravity Sensor Yes
Camera 0.3 Mpx (front facing)
Pictures resolution: 640×480
GPS No
HDMI Yes(mini HDMI, aka HDMI type c connector)
Interfaces micro USB Slave
micro USB Host, Mass Storage Class (MSC)
MicroSD slot
Battery life Video playing: 4 hours 36 minutes tested
More information on video playing test in part 3 of this review.
Google Play Store / Android Market Yes
Kickstand No
Dimensions As announced by Archos: 229.8 x 118.7mm x 15.4mm (9’’x 4.6’’x 0.6’’)

(10mm thin at its thinnest)

Weight 330g
Official Product page on archos.com

Archos GamePad tablet packaging

The tablet box contains:

  • the Archos GamePad tablet
  • a micro USB cable to connect the tablet to a computer
  • a power charger with a micro USB connector to the tablet, it outputs 5V, 2A, with a plug for EU socket
  • booklets: a “need help ?” paper, a warranty/legal and safety notice and a user guide

Continue to Part 2: Tablet design.

Don't forget to check our GamePad mapping page for details on games compatible with the tablet. Please use our GamePad forum if you have any question on the device. Visit us soon for more GamePad information.

Arnova 8c G3 is a nice looking Android 4.0 tablet with great features for an affordable price. It comes with Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, featuring a Rockchip RK2918 CPU, 1 GB of RAM and a 5-point multi-touch capacitive screen. In addition to our first custom firmware which brings root and Google Play on the device, we are now happy to provide a Jelly Bean custom firmware. Though we developed this firmware with the Arnova 8c G3 in mind, it should also work on BQ Kepler 2, Nextbook Premium 8SE and Prestigio 5080CPRO devices.

Main features:

  • Android 4.1.1 built from Oma JB v1.2.2
  • System in ext4 format
  • CWM Touch Recovery built from Prestigio 5080B
  • Custom kernel from JochenKauz (+optional overclocked kernel)
  • Up to 1.5GB for apps partition
  • Full google experience with Google+, Talk, Calendar and more
  • Google Ears&Now included
  • Picture in Picture (PIP) video player

This firmware also features full Google Play support and read/write access to /system partition.

Firmware limitations:

  • No USB debugging
  • Camera image mirrored

Arnova 8c G3 custom firmware install procedure

Before starting, please make sure you backup all your existing apps, data and files that are on your tablet as they will be erased during the flash process. Also make sure your device is connected to the power.

Step 1. Download

AN8CG3-20121109OMA4.1| ONLY FOR ARNOVA 8C G3 MODEL |

This firmware is specific to the Arnova 8C G3 model and should not be installed on other devices.
WE WILL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE TO YOUR DEVICE. THIS FIRMWARE UPDATE IS USED AT YOUR OWN RISK.WE RECOMMEND TO FLASH THIS FIRMWARE ONLY IF YOU ARE ABLE TO RESCUE A BRICKED DEVICE USING ROCKCHIP FLASHING TOOLS.

Download the file from above and extract the custom firmware files on your computer hard drive.

Step 2. Installing the driver

Please follow the Rockchip Flashing tool procedure: that will explain how to download Rockchip flashing tool, put your device into flashing mode and install the driver. Because we are using a different setup here(otherwise we would have to build six different firmwares), you only need to follow steps 1-3 from that tutorial. Please note that this procedure won’t work on Windows 8.

Step 3. Installation

Run EvolutionRKTool program from the first archive. Check that your tablet is connected by usb and is put in the recovery mode. RKAndroidTool should say “Found RKAndroid Loader Rock Usb”. There are three parameter files in the Loader folder. Select one of the three, corresponding to the size of the Apps partition you want to have(parameter for 512MB, parameter-1G for 1GB and parameter-15G for 1.5GB). Now tick the other boxes as shown on the picture below. Please note that Loader and Backup boxes are not ticked. If you want to use the overclocked kernel, locate the kernel-oc file for the kernel.

Now, click on EraseIDB. After the proces is finished(should take around 15 seconds), click on Run. When the CWM Recovery will show up on the device, choose Reboot System now. After a couple of minutes, the Start-up Wizard should appear. Please note that the portrait wizard itself may be a little bit slower than the stock one from Arnova. After start-up, in case “SD Card damaged” message will appear, format it. With Wi-Fi connection established, navigate to SuperSU app and update binary(should go automatically) to gain root access.

Tips&Tricks

Improving screen density. 

The procedure(based on the ChildPad, should be simillar for the 8c G3) is explained on our forum. After applying(doesn’t apply for density of 120), don’t clear cache and/or data of Google Play, as not all the apps will be visible then. This firmware comes with default density of 160 and we have found the densities 133,3 and 120 to work too. Find the suitable one for you. ;)

Overclocked kernel. 

JochenKauz built an overclocked kernel for the Arnova 8c G3, you can find it here or in the zip file above. If you want to install it separately or flash back the stock one, it goes pretty easy and takes only a few seconds. First, make sure the tablet is in recovery mode and run the same EvolutionRKTool you used to flash the firmware. Locate the parameter(choose the correct one, corresponding to the one with which you installed the firmware) and the right kernel file and tick the boxes as shown below.

The overclocked kernel provides a ~10% increase in CPU Benchmarks.

Stock:

Overclocked:

Let us know how this firmware works for you on the forum.

    1

    The ARCHOS 101 XS, part of the G10 family of products has just received a firmware update with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update. The other important part of this release is that ARCHOS applications (Archos Video, Music, File Manager, System Monitor applications) will now be updated thru Google Play (see Archos Inc. applications on Google Play Store)

    According to the release information, the detailed changes are the following:

    Version 4.1.0 – December 5th, 2012
    • Android Jelly Bean 4.1.1 firmware release
    • Archos Video: major upgrade with simplified video information retrieval and media indexing, new network shares infrastructureArchos applications: future updates of Archos Video, Music, File Manager, System Monitor applications (embedded in the firmware) will be carried out through Google Play

    Archos 101 XS G10 4.1.0 Firmware download

    firmware_archos_it4x.aos

    Firmware update procedure at Archos.com

    1

    It’s been a few months since we have seen a processor update from Rockchip. There is no official announce from Rockchip yet, but Cube chinese tablet manufacturer has revealed some details on the new RK3188 CPU. According to Cube documents, the Rockchip RK3188 should be an update of the RK3066, now offering a quadcore ARM Cortex A9, manufactured using 28nm process and provide high-speed communication interface for 4G-LTE equipments.

    28nm process manufacturing process

    In a recent interview with EE Times, Chen Feng Rockchip Vice-President mentioned that
    [Rockchip] can reduce cost, gain performance, but most importantly, we will reduce power consumption for tablets
    […] This gives us a better chance for competing against MediaTek which uses TSMC’s [more conservative] process node.



    He also reported to use GlobalFoundries industry-leading 28-nm SoC platform based on high-k metal gate technology (HKMG) for its upcoming RK31xx chip.

    According to globalfoundries.com, 28nm transistors offer up to 60% higher performance than 40nm at comparable leakage with up to 50% lower energy per switch and 50% lower static power.

    GlobalFoundries technology is available in super low-power (SLP), high performance-plus (HPP) and low power, high performance (LPH) technology offerings, to cater to the complex requirements of next-generation SoC’s.

    ARM Cortex A9 vs ARM Cortex A7


    New tablets using Rockchip RK3188 processor

    Cube Chinese Tablet manufacturer which has been using mostly RK3066 processors in their line of products should soon launch a new model with the RK3188, offering 1920×1200 pixels resolution.

    Via www.cube-tablet.com
    tgdaily.com
    Thanks to Bigben for the tip :)

    Rikomagic has recently updated the firmware for their MK802III Mini PC. According the the manufacturer revision history, this last release (2012/11/29) brings better compatibility with Hubs, and USB LAN adapters, it also adds new features to the MK802III, such as WiFI hotspot and a new Remote Control. While the stock firmware update comes rooted, we have brought some improvements such as latest SuperSU free version (0.99) to control the root access and extended storage space for applications with 2 Gb instead of the 500 Mb on the stock firmware.

    Remote Control feature

    This firmware is one of the first to offer a Remote Control feature for Rockchip RK3066 based devices. This function allows to control the MK802III Mini PC remotely from an Android device such as a Phone or a Tablet. This is done thru an Android application to run on the controlling device. There is nothing to configure on the controlled device (MiniPC).

    The Remote Control application can be downloaded here: MK802_III_Remote.apk (2.2 MB)
    (MK802 III Remote application version 1.1.0)

    The following video demonstrates an MK802III Mini PC controlled from a Nexus 10 tablet.

    Rikomagic MK802III rooted firmware feature list

    • Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean based on latest manufacturer’s update (2012/11/29)
    • rooted Android system with latest SuperSU 0.99 by ChainFire (free version)
    • /system partition fully writable
    • extended space for applications (/data) up to 2 GB

    MK802III rooted firmware download

    Custom rooted firmware for MK802III Mini PC (release 20121129)

    kasty-rikomagic-mk802iii-41-20121129-rooted-2G.zip

    This firmware is specific to the MK802III MiniPC and should not be installed on other devices.

    WE WILL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE TO YOUR DEVICE.

    THIS FIRMWARE UPDATE IS USED AT YOUR OWN RISK.

    WE RECOMMEND TO FLASH THIS FIRMWARE ONLY IF YOU ARE ABLE TO RESCUE A BRICKED DEVICE USING ROCKCHIP FLASHING TOOLS.

    Let us know how it works for you in our Rikomagic MK802III forum.

    SOCIAL