I had been keeping an eye out for a good Android tablet that met my minimum requirements and found one being sold at my local Staples. It is an Archos 80 G9 and can be seen here:
Staples.com / Archos 80 G9
I did not see very many reviews on this particular model and going in with the thought of "two week return policy", I went ahead and purchased one.
The specs list the internal memory as 4GB. I can verify that the 4GB listed is the "free space" available to the user. Totaled up, the internal flash memory comes to about 7GB (which seems odd, but maybe there is a spot unavailable and being reserved off of a standard 8GB module).
Also, the specs list the OS as "Honeycomb" with an "ICS Upgrade". Immediately upon unboxing and powering up, I had the unit go ahead and perform the "over the air" update through my wireless internet connection to get the latest firmware and OS upgrade. Yes, it does have Android 4 "Ice Cream Sandwich" running on the tablet right now.
I have used an iPad and though the screen is really nice, I feel that it is just a little too oversized for use as a reader and a little too restricting on what I can and cannot load to it. I have used a nook Color that booted to a Cyanogenmod7 SD card for full android tablet access and found the narrow 7-inch screen to be a little too small for easy viewing without a lot of zooming in and out of pages. Also, with my eyesight, the nook was not a good device for daily long-term usage.
This Archos tablet gives the same clear, crisp image you get with the iPad 1 and 2 (1024 x 768 resolution with a 4:3 layout) in a slightly smaller package. The screen is very vibrant and I have found that I have been slowly reducing the backlight levels with no real loss of clarity on the screen. I have loaded up several of my digital comics on the tablet and have no problems reading the text in either the captions or word balloons. I use "perfect viewer" as a comic reader and on a two-page layout the image slides smoothly left and right.
I had seen some reviews on the "turbo" variant that mentioned pressure on the rear of the tablet causing the screen to blur or flicker. Either I'm not holding it right to cause this, or my unit does not have this issue.
The tablet has a dual core A9 1Ghz processor and has so far easily handled everything I have thrown at it. Games play smoothly, images display smoothly, videos play smoothly. After several hours of continuous usage the back side of the tablet only feels slightly warm to the touch and this I assume is heat from the processor.
The tablet has no issues with wireless connectivity. At home it detected not only my personal router, but also an access point at my next door neighbor's and another which comes in weakly but I assume is from a business about a half-block away. I setup a shared folder on my WinXP machine and dropped a few files into it. The tablet connected to the shared folder and I was able to use the default file manager to copy files over easily and quickly. I loaded up the Netflix Android app and streamed a couple of television shows over wifi. I'm not sure if its the tablet or the Netflix app, but each show starts immediately with no buffering and appears extremely pixelated for the first few seconds until things "catch up". Again, this might be the unit or just the way the Android app works. I have not tried the market Netflix app on any other android device before.
For extra storage, the tablet has a microSDHC slot. I have stuck a 16GB card in the slot and it works fine. Accessing files and images form the card is quick and easy with the default file manager. The socket for the microSD card is along the edge and it is easy to unmount, swap, and remount cards as needed.
Also, there is a full sized USB port under a cover on the back of the tablet. It is meant for a 3G device to be plugged in, but acts like a standard USB port otherwise. It is a tight fit and any device with a thick cover will have a hard time plugging in directly. Using a short USB extender cable that came with a card reader I already had, I tried out different flash drives and even an external 250GB hard drive. I was able to play a video directly off the drive using only the power supplied by the table through the port itself. This is a handy little feature to have available. Once I receive my case I ordered for the tablet, I hope I can easily leave the extender cable plugged in and accessible without risking damage to the port.
The tablet also has built-in GPS. This is the one thing that seems a little hit and miss for me. I guess with the 3G dongle, it would be a little better but as-is the GPS seems to have a little trouble locking in on the satellites. Some times I see 3 week signals and no lock and sometimes I see 10-12 with good locks on nearly all. Add to this a lack of really good, true offline mapping apps and it becomes more of an interesting add-on and less of a true feature.
Update on GPS above:
I finally had some time to play around with the GPS on this device. After loading "GPS Test", a utility that lets me see the basic functioning of the GPS and an offline navigation program "Navfree USA", I was able to get a little more understanding and usage out of it.
Not sure why, but it seems if I can't get a good lock on the satellites all I have to do is "reboot" the device and it clears right up. This may be other programs attempting to use the GPS and causing issues or just hardware. Either way, once I have a lock everything runs smoothly. There is just a tiny delay on the positioning, no more than a second or two when turning off one road onto another, but it really is no more than other dedicated GPS devices I have seen.
This would actually come in handy if driving in a new area and just needing to know where you are.
Another hit and miss for some would be the speaker (yes singular) on the unit. It is on the back of the tablet and, though it can be loud when turned up, is not the best thing for sound. Personally, I spend most of my time reading and gaming with the sound at a minimum or completely off. However, with any heavy music or movie playing, a good set of headphones would be needed.
Through normal usage (web browsing, reading, playing games) I get a good 8 hours from fully charged to the default warning at below 15% battery level. I have not attempted a charge from a PC USB port but have instead used the supplied charge adapter. This gives a full charge in a couple of hours.
So, overall, I have an Android 4 tablet with an 8" XGA multi-touch capacitive touch screen, 4GB internal flash, microSDHC, full size USB, wireless, GPS, and full access to android market (or Google Play if you will) for about $200.
Personally, I find this to be a good deal.