ARCHOS 5 Internet Media Tablet - 8GB
Due to the sprightly pace of mobile technology and flash memory capabilities over the last decade, it'll be easy to not consider PMP (Portable Media Players) that are reaching their second year of shelf-life, as a plausible purchase. Especially a PMP which has only a storage facility of 8 gigabytes; also for many consumers, the brand is unrecognisable. Thanks to nano advancements the hand device spectrum has treated the consumer with remarkable storage abilities, at affordable prices. Along the way devices such as the Archos 5 media tablet with storage of 8GB has been over-looked to more popular brands ie Apple iPod Touch - and the high fidelity ranges by Creative Labs. Overall, Archos seemed way off the pace of the media tablet age, two years ago. Well that was until the emergence of the five series, which catered on delivering flash memory enabling the five series model to become more streamline and in-turn amiable weight-wise; Archos embarked on marketing lighter devices friendlier to the palm; in the autumn of 2009.
Series Five, Eight Gigabytes worth
The five series internet media tablet two years ago was manufactured with apps at the heart of its existence; then the app world had just got going with between 300 to 400 hundred apps available. Now, two years on, it runs into fifty thousands of them. It is priced cheaper than a high proportion of PMP devices at 139.99 GBP -(Amazon Market-Place) the Archos five series looks very appetising indeed. Its touch-screen interface embroiders round the whole app sensation, making this device the best for value on the PMP market today. Granted, the five series isn't on the same marketing league as the iPod Touch, albeit marketing prowess. Apart from that on applications available and U3 interface interactivity a wafer thin piece of paper can't separate the two devices. On style - maybe a several points maybe lost on the bulked up Archos brand name on the base; but for me, high response times on its interactive U3 interface, without sticking, will please techie PMP fans, and hits the right notes personally. You do not often find a two year old gem in this heavily screened PMP consumer market; overlook it at your peril.
One of the obviously attractive palm PMP devices that has rested on my palm; the touch-screen is nearly five inches and its slick, decadent vision pleases me because it is a Archos product, usually notoriously poor at engineering style and finesse - albeit always is at the pinnacle of new technology. Sadly, not packed with a stylus pointer, although that is easily rendered - it appears Archos has enrolled into the iPhone stylistics - not necessarily a bad concept. Impressive, TFT monitor, illuminating colours, in fact 16 million of them on an 800 X 400 screen format. The five series is capable all known digital media roles on the Google Android system already installed. Picture quality makes everything appear glossy and airbrushed. Digital images sing to me on a drop-down shadow as if sitting all pretty ready to be activated on touch. A swift flash encrypted short animation brings the screen alive, to whatever task the device has been asked to perform. By barely touching the icon starts the interface media performance right on cue, just like a well trained dog getting your slippers.
Palms Nooks and Crannies
All slim-line - obviously been on a diet. The device allows two ports whereby external micro slots can be slotted in to read data on the device or copy data onto the device. A volume control reel sits happily on the side - as does the On/Off switch - plus the mandatory headphone socket - USB port socket, to connect to your workstation - a stiff straw frame flips out as a manufacturer after-thought.
The two year market existence of this PMP has allowed extra Google options and icons; it fills a void where it originally didn't exist on its first launch. In comparison, it seems Archos has been given some of the keys to the Google app centre; applications differ greatly to the Apple app centre - the Google embraces a general consumer friendly environment rather than a notably more media friendly environment that Apple employ. One of the important notes to make is deciding what camp you belong in. Especially if you have already opted for an Apple iPod Touch and thinking of switching brands.
Not only are you aware of the spacious U3 screen interface, but for me, I cannot believe the French company (Archos) has made such a serious bid at claiming a chunk of the 'palm, portable media player pie.' Archos products were never light-weight. They almost prided themselves on their choice of navigational irksomeness, it seemed; even though Archos were the leading innovators of sensory technologies. What is also the case is the standard of high definition audio - video on all digital media format codecs; including MPEG4 (mobile-media) - You can't help but get a hint that the Creative Labs have had an input, via the high definition audio available on this player. The five series resembles the X-Fi Creative series - and that is another bold move into the highly competitive palm, PMP market.
It Is Not Always About The Storage
When it comes to actual storage, 8GB is a generous platform to store any forms of media data. Now due to advancements in media buffering technology is improving on a daily occurrence the need for 'actual' storage has dwindled comparatively quickly - These days it is more about the level of connectivity and what mobile server provides the best service. 3G Wifi is available for subscription. Don't necessarily opt for a higher storage facility either, the concept of having a 32GB of flash memory doesn't mean the device performs interactively on a more superior realm. I've often found the higher the storage spec the device is manufactured at, the bigger chance the U3 touch-screen technology wakes from hibernation and like me is unresponsive. In the past, I've overlooked that trait on non U3 PMPs, partly due to being duped in the vastness of the storage size, which never gets tested fully by anyone I've come across, anyhow.
Size-wise, do not be mistaken to think it will operate in the same means as a mobile phone, it won't. The 3G app used as a mobile phone is not worth the consideration. However, it works in tandem with the Android system. Nevertheless, the connectivity is just about fine for meandering on Google maps and ploughing through Google's extensive app collection.
*Please note: Integrated DAB FM Radio can be downloaded edited and audio encrypted to any preferred codec.*
Trial Apps v Full Apps
My tablet usage is mainly for the device's U3 interface, and palm portability alone. Android technology is indeed a technology I embrace, albeit, on a slight negative the tablet hasn't done an Amazon Kindle whereby it is user ready to a sublime standard, enabling users to seek a huge database of digital content. Archos deemed to have not such a huge resource centre they can offer customers via the internet. Archos may've cleverly opted for the best mobile interfaces out there ie the 'Android.' But as per usual the Archos brand has only got some fully installed apps on its device. So, beware of what you are being offered before purchase. The palm device has improved on the availability of fully installed apps from two years ago though.
The apps available as a full version included in the price tag
CinemaNow - viewing film and video great feature - HD audio.
Twidroid: This application sends out tweets and works as an email type server for receiving tweets.
Thinksfree: Works while you view word documents and excel files - PDF formatted content via online and decodes .
Quickpedia: a smaller version of Wiki.
eBuddy: Integrated in Google Android - A message service directly to the internet from the tablet.
Connectivity wise I've found the Wifi to consistently cut out. It is a real pity because overall the five series tablet is a lovely looking device, streams the media content back t me with ease and technological skill. Over complicating issues such as downloading - app subscriptions and plagued connectivity matters seems to cause a system overload. But for simply using the PMP as a stand alone portable media player without all the bells and whistle add-ons - the 8GB palm device deserves full marks.
For best results; download the media data via your workstation and by USB connect it straight to the tablet to save disappointment.©1st2thebar 2011
If I had a choice between this and an Ipod touch I would most definately chose the ipod over it. The features of both are very similar and I just found the ipod alot easier to use and more reliable. It has a nice enough looking design, and feels quite nice in the hand, if a little weighty. The archos at times can be a bit slow, and due to it containing a hard disk drive and not being flash memory it had a shudder to it when the disk was running. The touch screen wasn't particularly accurate and found myself often being sent into applications I had not clicked on. The problems with the touch screen only heightened when attempting to use the internet browser, the whole thing just didn't seem very intuitive. The 8gb internal memory was size enough to fit plenty of songs on, but if you began to use it for videos this space would soon run low. The sound and video quality was commendable but even still I would chose the ipod for versatility and the wealth of applications available on the apple. In summary if you are looking for a small handheld device to listen to music, watch movies, and surf the internet I would chose the ipod.
It is rare these days to find a product which still has something different to offer in the technology market. The area I am thinking of at the minute is that of the Portable Media Player or PMP. Now that mp3 players are redundant as standalone units we now look to devices which serve a myriad of functions but still more than fulfill the requirements of the original purpose. Essentially the market has only one choice that being the Apple iPod with it's massive popularity and cosmopolitan image. There are a few also rans perhaps most notably in Sony's rebranded Walkman and Creative's X-Fi PMP.
As well as being an established and innovative computer brand Apple has been there from the birth of the mp3 player and played a pivotal role in it's genesis. These days mp3 players are generally referred to as 'iPods' as we naturally assume that is what people are using given their ubiquity. The release of Apple's iOS4 has seen the PMP in the headlines again and now offers more features on the iPod touch, the flagship model of the Apple range.
So are there really any true alternatives to Apple's dominance? Well several units spring to mind but not many offer the same level of useful interaction as the Touch.
One company that does make a decent rival is Archos, a French computer engineering company founded in the late Eighties. They have a huge range of PMP's of which some of the recent had huge 500gb drives and large touchscreens. The problem with Archos is that it products tended to be expensive and use proprietary add ons which also had a premium. The expense did make them more exclusive but also the units were known to be weighty. That means big. What you want from a PMP are top spec features in a case of reasonable size and weight. Now Archos have learned a lesson a released something of equal style and beauty that also conforms to the requirement of a slim profile.
The Archos 5 Internet Tablet is available in 8, 16 and 32gb versions using flash memory for weight reduction, stability and speed. HDD versions are still available up to 500gb. The first thing you notice about the Archos 5 IT straight out of the box is the thin low profile the unit has despite still having a very large 4.8" touch screen. The native resolution of the TFT is 800*480 and looks truly stunning with a palette of 16 million colours and capable of playing HD video at 720p.
Looking around the unit there are 2 docking ports and a MicroSDHC slot on the bottom edge, the left edge has a 3.5mm headphone socket and a proprietary usb slot and the top edge has a volume rocker and the on/off button. The front fascia has nothing other than the screen and a small speaker and the steel underside has a recessed stand arm. The stand actually looks like a stylus which would have been a useful (and cheap) inclusion.
So rightfully the Archos is dominated by the screen which is of the resistive variety. I have to say screen is a real treat coming pre-loaded with various app icons and shortcuts for various forms of media. The colour is faithfully represented with good clarity and very easy on the eye for long periods. Video playback is excellent and runs very smoothly in both standard and high definition. It plays MPEG4, WMV and MKV with WMV HD and VOB available as a download.
Audio playback is very good also with the killer feature being the large number of codecs it natively supports which saves a great deal of time if you like to edit your collection. It supports mp3 up to 320kbps, WMA, WAV, AAC, OGG and FLAC. The bundled headphones are quite good but as with any audio product personal choice rules and invariably it is best to upgrade.
Like the iPod Touch WiFi is available at 802.11 b/g/n for speed and good bandwidth and it also supports Bluetooth. There is a FM radio receiver integrated and you can also transmit FM but this requires an add-on module.
The internet set up is very quick and easy to do requiring a quick scan and the entering of your WEP key or similar protocol code and it is then just a case of touching the appropriate icon to start browsing. The large screen makes web surfing an easy and comfortable experience though on some sites you will need to scroll around and use zoom features much as you would on any other device.
Where the Archos 5 IT is different is it's partnership with Google and the use of the open source Android OS as seen on similar mobile phones. This will mean that for the many the interface is familiar and easy to navigate. The version in use is 1.6 (Donut) though I am not sure if there are plans to change to a higher version. Pretty soon after set up I was advised of a firmware update being available but this didn't change the Android version.
Of course having Android as an operating system makes available the Market for 50,000 plus apps. Except that it doesn't. The Archos uses an app called AppsLib which I assume means Apps Library? but from what I gather you need to use a third party app in tandem with a specific firmware version to get access to the 'proper' Android Market. The pre-loaded ones are okay though some don't actually do anything. It seems from scouring the net that Google didn't want the Archos 5 IT having full market access as it doesn't have a camera or compass.
The Android OS has probably got you thinking of making calls on the Archos but that is not an option. You see the unit uses a mobile phone OS but it is NOT a mobile phone! It's a strange concept and not one I am sure truly works properly. Obviously you can connect to your mobile to use a 3G signal when out of WiFi range but calls over the 3G network are supported. I am left thinking 'What is the point?' but hopefully updates will make better use of downloadable content though I did expect it out of the box....
Inside there is a GPS unit which comes only as a 7 day full trial with the accompanying mapping DVD. The software is impressive with full 3D and street photography and maps covering Western Europe and the US. It seems that GPS is available to use on other apps so you are not required to make an expensive payment to use this facility. Again the problem is the lack of apps to make good use of this feature which Android does so well on mobile phones.
The best of what is available in terms of pre-loaded apps are as follows:
ThinkFree allows the viewing of Microsoft Office documents and a later update will allow editing also.
Twidroid is a client for sending and receiving tweets to Twitter and it is the officially supported version.
eBuddy allows IM instant messaging across multi platforms including AIM, Facebook chat and MySpace.
Quickpedia is a scaled down Wiki which saves some text for fast recall for repeat searches.
There is a DVR docking station available which allows you to display your Android content on your HDTV and play media at 720p. This is a great feature but again yet another case of buying another add on. An alternative to this is to stream media from your PC to your Archos and don't forget that TV and Radio are also available as web content.
In terms of media content the audio and video playback are both excellent and in this purpose the Archos excels. The screen is particularly good and a primary selling point. The internet experience is good but I often find the connection can be unreliable which detracts from the experience. In comparison my iPod Touch never loses it's connection.
Thanks to a speedy ARM Cortex CPU running at 800mhz the whole interface is quite nippy but the major flaw is the crippled apps catalogue. Not having the full Android Market available by default is a major error and Archos should have worked harder on this point. Fingers crossed that a further update will fix this!
As a PMP the Archos is excellent but ultimately the features which are unavailable or even worse unreliable make this inferior to the iPod Touch. With some time spent configuring this device meticulously then perhaps it could equal Apples finest but it will never actually beat it. As a gadget lovers alternative it is certainly a viable option and you probably won't see many others about. Ultimately it is simply not as good as the market leader and that is sad as it has so much potential.
Embedded_Operating_System: Google Android 1.6
Browse devices running this OS
CPU: ARM Cortex
RAM_capacity: 256 MB
Display: color transflective TFT , 16777216 scales
Display Diagonal: 4.8 "
Display Resolution: 480 x 800
Positioning Device: Touchscreen
Expansion-Slots: microSD, microSDHC, TransFlash
USB: USB 2.0 host/client, 480Mbit/s
Bluetooth: Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
Wireless LAN: 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Infrared Gate: Not supported
Analog Radio+Receiver: FM radio (87.5-108MHz) with RDS
Solid performer but not the best PMP on the market.