Hands-on with Android-Powered Archos 5. Good Now, Better Later. - LAPTOP Magazine: The Pulse of Mobile Technology

Hands-on with Android-Powered Archos 5. Good Now, Better Later.

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What happens when you combine two budding trends, ARM-powered mobile Internet devices and Google’s Android OS? The Archos 5 Internet Tablet, a handheld device that’s not quite a PC, but faster and more powerful than any portable media player, Archos’ own included.

Like a PMP, it has a Web browser, 4.8-inch touchscreen (a size too large for a phone),  and plenty of space to hold your digital photos, music, and videos (flash models also have an SD card slot). But like a smart phone it has Android’s interface, and an integrated GPS receiver.

Although you don’t get full Flash support for watching YouTube or Hulu on this device, Archos’ device will become more compelling once Adobe issues an update for Flash 10 that works with ARM-based processors. Here’s our first take on this promising PMP.

In our hands-on, the stainless steel tablet felt light yet sturdy in my hand. If you get a hard drive rather than a flash-memory model (more on capacities at the end of this post), the device might feel a little thick, but still lightweight enough to be portable. The slightly textured finish on the back side was a nice touch.

Although the tablet has resisitive touch, whose dual layers often leave people jabbing, say, ATMs in frustration, this one is pretty responsive: we were able to make smooth, single-fingered gestures, such as swiping, without a problem. Add in Android’s candy-colored, intuitive interface, and the Archos 5 is very satisfying to use. There’s also a stylus that pops out of the back and doubles as a kickstand for propping up the tablet while you’re watching video (we prefer that use to the stylus).

The Archos 5 promises to output 720p video, but you’ll need a pricey (around $100) station that plugs into your TV. Although the video was smoother than we would have expected, it still lagged enough to make us  think this particular feature is little more than a gimmick. We were more impressed by the Web browser, whose tabbed interface makes it accessible to lots of users. As we said before, though it doesn’t support full Flash; sorry to disappoint you, YouTube fans.

Rounding out the feature set is the GPS receiver; between the large 4.8-inch screen, a size similar to what you’d find in a standalone GPS unit, and the attractive 3D maps, we think you can easily get away with using the Archos 5 instead of a personal navigator.

So what about apps? Therare 12 pre-loaded apps on the device, and Archos says there will be about 300 available from the Archos AppsLib store at launch. The company promises to have 1,000 apps compatible by the end of the year.

The device costs between $250 and $430 depending on whether you get a flash model (8GB, 16GB, or 32GB) or a hard drive model (160GB or 500GB). One set of maps (your choice of location) comes included in the price. Want to learn more? Check out the hands-on video and gallery of photos below.

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  1. Fanfoot Says:

    Archos has a history of abandoning support for previous products and of shoddy support. Also the TV recording features of previous models didn’t work that well, so I’ll wait for a full review that covers those features before considering this.

    If you leave out the TV recording features etc since you suggest they’re a gimmick, why would you buy this rather than the iPhone/iPod Touch? Which has a better app store, a better touch screeen, etc.

    I’d love a device like this that could handle Flash for example, but I’m *not* going to simply assume it will work great later when they get around to releasing it. So far the Flash option on Android isn’t going so well… see HTC Hero…

  2. Optimistic Says:

    I’ve heard the noise about Archos support….and it gives me pause. This (to me) has the best combination of features.

    I’m a little nervous about the lack of direct Marketplace support…the need for the Archos AppSite smells like compatibility issues. It’s the AppStore that makes iPhone/Touch even worth considering.

  3. Cynyr Says:

    @Fanfoot
    Why I would buy this over an iPhone, not paying AT&T. I would buy this over both the iPhone and iTouch because this has linux support. Now before all the comments come in that yes you can sync you iphone on linux, thats if you jail break it, and then use SSH over the wifi. As for the Archos 5 my only complaint is why not a standard USB connection n the device end, and a seperate one for things like the tv recorder, dock, etc?

  4. Nervous Says:

    Similar to previous posts, the feature set seems enticing, however, the rumors regarding support are giving me pause. Validating this point is my experience (today) where I called the customer service order line in the middle of the business day and after listening to recorded messages and music for 30 MINUTES without being able to ask questions of a human being, I hung up. If this is indicative of Archos’ attitude towards potential customers, I can only imagine what tech support would be like. As much as I would like to check out the new unit, I’m starting to lean back towards the ipod touch.

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