Archos 5 Internet Tablet (Android, 32GB SSD) In-Depth Review.

Posted on 06 December 2009 by



About a year ago,  we went to Amsterdam to get some hands on with an interesting device. It was the Archos 5 and it was interesting because it was one of the first devices to use an advanced platform from Texas Instruments that promised much faster processing power for both computing and media tasks, in the same sized package as with previous platforms. It was impressive and brought Internet to the fore in a way that the previous model, the Archos 605 Wifi, couldn’t deliver. The Archos 5 went on to be one of the more popular media players and one of the first media players to successfully integrate the Web as a core part of the product.

Archos 5 Internet Tablet (34)

In the year that followed, Archos did some homework, announced a move towards Internet media and decided to change the operating system from the closed, proprietary Archos OS to the Android operating system, perhaps to open it up to be a dynamic, web-focused platform that could ride on the wave of the Android story.  The Archos 5 Internet Tablet on the Android OS was first available at the beginning of October 2009 and we bought an SSD version as soon as it became available. Here’s a full, in-depth review of the current build of the Archos 5 32GB SSD Internet Tablet.

Full Specifications, review links and opinions, feedback on the Archos 5 Intenet Tablet Product Page.

Unboxing

In the unboxing video below you’ll see a 10-minute look around the device and an an initial switch-0n test. [From out sister-site, UMPCPortal]

Packaging, included contents.

IMG_1401 IMG_1405
Click to enlarge.

First impressions

My first impressions of the device (published here) highlighted a very unstable and buggy product. Version 1.022 of the firmware was terrible but in the last two months, Archos have stepped up and produced a number of firmware upgrades which have really improved the device and solved most of the instability problem. I’ll talk more about stability below but at least I can say that it’s a product that can be used now! It was the screen size and form factor that really impressed me in the early days of owning the device and even 8 weeks later I can say that I’m still extremely impressed with the form factor and how comfortable the screen is. Especially for web-based applications. There’s no comparison with even a 3.5” 800×480 smartphone here because the extra sizing makes web pages easy to read and reduces the amount of space that notification bars take up. I’ve always been a believer that for web-based activities,  a 4.8” screen with an 800×480 resolution is one of the most comfortable combinations you can have.

One big disappointment with the Archos was the lack of Google applications. No contacts syncing. No maps applications and no Android marketplace. This is not a complete Google Android device unfortunately. Adding to the disappointment was the poor and rather sparse selection of apps in the ‘Appslib’ applications store. Archos’ version of the marketplace.

LIVE Q&A Overview – 1hr video.

We presented the  Archos 5 in a live stream soon after we recieved it (Using an early version of the firmware and with very little Android knowledge.)  Thanks to JKK of JKKmobile for joining.
The video is available at YouTube [1hr Live vodcast]
Live sessions are held at http://www.umpcportal.com/live
Follow us on Twitter [carrypad - official] [chippy - author] to recieve early live session notifications.

From the outside.

There’s not much that can be said against the aesthetics of the Archos 5 Internet Tablet. The SSD version is slick and smooth. There’s a nice glossy finish to the hard plastic and very few buttons. The polished metal rear also looks nice. In practical use, it can be a little bit of a slippery device and there’s a big problem with fingerprints but if you keep the Archos 5 clean, it looks great.

Archos 5 Internet Tablet

Ergonomically, the Archos is great for screen thumb-typing in landscape mode. Sizing and spacing of on-screen keys is good but the lack of any haptic feedback is a minus-point. Portrait mode typing is somewhat strange as the device is too big for single-thumb typing (as you might do with one handed smartphones) and slightly akward with two thumbs as the device is a little top heavy in this mode of operation. Flipping to lanscape mode isn’t a problem though.

The stand is a great addition. It’s strong and neatly hidden when not in use. The Micro-SD card slot is easy to use as is the headphone and microusb port. Note that the positioning of the headphone and mic port make landscape usage difficult when in use.

Archos 5 Internet Tablet (48) Archos 5 Internet Tablet (47)

Archos 5 Internet Tablet (41) Archos 5 Internet Tablet (37)

Archos 5 Internet Tablet (4)

It would have been nicer if the power-button had been better separated from the volume button to avoid accidental standby and as you’ll read later in the review, some Android-specific buttons would help to de-clutter the display.

On the Inside

It’s hard to believe that there’s really much inside this 10mm thick package but Archos have done a good job in combining a relatively high-power processing and media platform, storage, GPS, speaker, SDHC and touchscreen together.

The device is running on a Texas Instruments OMAP platform. The CPU uses an ARM Cortex A8 core and is combined with other processing units for video and graphic acceleration.  Clockrate is thought to be 800Mhz but recent information from the Archos 5  suggests otherwise. 600Mhz is mentioned. (Ti talk about ‘up to’ 800Mhz) In real-world terms though, the Archos 5 is fast. We’ll talk more about performance later inthe review but in tests with the Androidbenchmark Pi test , the Archos 5 returned consistent top-10 results from over 7000 submitted scores. This is simply one of the fastest Android devices available at this time.

In the model we’re testing here you’ve got 128MB  RAM and 32GB of flash storage which seems to be split up to leave 30GB for user files and what looks like about 140MB read-write space for programs.

There’s a GPS unit inside the unit which we don’t think is internet-assisted based on the slow cold-start lock times we see. Interestingly, GPS isn’t mentioned in the current online specifications. An accelerometer is inluced but there’s no electronic compass. There’s no camera, no 3G and no cellular voice capability (just to make that clear, this isn’t a phone!)

The screen is a resistive touchscreen with a very bright and sharp 800×480 resolution. Resistive touchlayers may not be the best for ruggedness and or sensitivity but so far, the Archos screen has proven to be one of the best. There’s very little ‘milkyness’ and the touch layer is nice and sensitive. After two months of use it appears to be nicely scratch-resistant too.

Wifi b/g/n is specified (only tested with b and g networks for this review) along with BT2.0 (not a complete software stack though) and an RDS-capable FM receiver with direct audio recording capability (RDS, audio recording tested OK.) A FM transmitter is also included for easy playback on car radios.

A good quality mic and speaker round-up the internals.

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Categorized | Reviews

23 Comments For This Post

  1. gmich says:

    Great review as always, Chippy. I’ve had my Archos 5 IT for a little over 3 weeks, and I’m really liking it a lot for web browsing (very fast), ebook reading, and video/music playing. It will also do in a pinch for email and other uses. The re-flowing text on webpages makes it really easy to read and navigate.

    I agree with almost all of what you have to say about the device and, like you, I hope Archos focuses future updates on stability. The Android market would be nice (I haven’t done the hack yet), but it’s a pretty capable device as is when everything works as it should.

    Note: I’m still running on firmware 1.3.07, because I’d heard 1.4.?? wasn’t as stable and that there were more problems with YouTube. Have you found that to be the case?

    Thanks for all your good work and for the detailed review.

  2. alese says:

    I’m waiting for 8GB version, hopefully around 200 EUR.
    It should be a great home information device for internet access, reading and some video.
    Of course I can do all that more or less on my HTC Advantage already, but it’s slow (especially web browsing), video is not particularly good and built in HD makes it not as rugged.

  3. alslayer says:

    If my Nokia n800 ever died I would totally get the archos 5. Right now I am in the market for a 7″ device and I can’t seem to make up my mind.
    :(

  4. HG says:

    I can agree with Chippy that the Archos 5 is becoming a more usable device as Firmwares are released. Nice to hear that Archos will be releasing a update to Android 1.6 and hopefully include the Android Market App. I have the hacked Android Market on mine now and also Google Maps. Maybe with Android 1.6 we can get Google Navigation hacked like on the Motorola Droid. I have installed the Dolphin Browser that James at Jkontherun mention and works very great with the Archos. It has a lot of more features. The Volume becomes a page up or down using the Dolphin Browser. See the video I did of it here

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fJ6mCbT7ek

  5. gmich says:

    HG,

    I also installed the Dolphin browser after seeing your video on jkontherun. I thought the stock browser was pretty decent, but Dolphin is better. The volume as page up/down is a great feature, the tabs are easier to work with, and the gestures can come in handy as well. I wish I could get some themes installed but the market is the only way to get those it seems.

    HG Reply:

    gmich, have you installed the hack to have the Android Market on your Archos 5? Yes I agree the Dolphin Browser is great and the more you use it you can find better ways of using it and have a great browsing experience on the A5. From what I have read, Archos should be releasing Android 1.6 around the 17th of this month. This is going to be great, but we will have to wait and see if will allow the full Android Market or will have to hack again. :)

  6. Android applications says:

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  7. midtoad says:

    You say screenshots aren’t possible with Android. Not so: there are least two ways to do this. The first involves installing the SDK and then taking snapshots via the emulator, and the second involves rooting the device (in which case there are on-device apps to take screenshots).

    Steve 'Chippy' Paine Reply:

    The SDK method is not working due to 32bit screen buffer (so I read.)
    Hacking and rooting the device is not something I’d recommend for getting screenshots!

  8. Coldsun says:

    Great review Chippy. I know my sons will be very excited on Xmas day, as both of them will be opening one of these. :)

  9. lenmor8040 says:

    so i got a question. i know the archos 5 has bluetooth. but can you take out a sim card out of a android based phone (like a mytouch 3g phone). and put it in the archos 5 for internet connection without using a wifi?

  10. fugazi says:

    Really good review.

    I’ve owned the Archos 5 IMT for 6 months now and have had very few problems with it; unexpected reboots while using the Opera browser being the most annoying. For all intent and purposes, it’s a computer and they all require a reboot at some point. :-) I haven’t experienced any of the other problems other users have in the past, so I thought I would look to upgrade to take advantage of the new Android OS.

    I managed to persuade my other half to purchase the 32GB for Christmas. Collected it yesterday. Just one problem, I’m not allowed near it until the 25th…

  11. MOJO says:

    Hi I read that by the end of the year there will be a full 2,0 android so you can get all apps that you can with droid. Anyone know for sure?

    Bob Reply:

    i heard that too, but no worries you can get android market, gmail, google maps and all that by reinjecting them, not even worthy of being called a hack, it is so simple and yeah, i think it’s because all files are .apk or something… that would be cool though :)

  12. Niels says:

    Firmware Version 1.7.33 is now available (January 20th, 2010).

    http://update.archos.com/7/archos5/changes_firmware_archos5.html

  13. midtoad says:

    I’m finding that the Archos 5 crashes a lot, at least 10-20 times a day. Most of these crashes are just a restart of the Android GUI, and not a machine reboot. At first I just the thing was buggy. But after installing SysTray Monitor, I could see that system responsiveness would slow to a crawl as free memory fell below 20MB, and then Android would crash around 16 MB free. My impression is that the A5A has insufficient RAM to operate effectively. Consequently it requires continual vigilance, and the use of a tool like TasKiller, to manually kill off apps before all the free RAM bleeds away and another crash ensues.

    Note that I have to do none of this with my HTC Magic 32A, which has 288 MB RAM. The Archos A5A however, has only 128 MB RAM. WTF were they thinking? This unit is nearly useless as a general computing device because of the need to be continually monitoring your free RAM.

  14. midtoad says:

    Correction, the non-Android version of the A5 has only 128MB RAM. The A5 with Android has 256MB, but apparently only about 103 MB of this is available to the user for running apps. Lots of chit-chat on the ArchosFans forum about the need to be actively managing the free RAM.

  15. midtoad says:

    you say in your Conclusions that the use of a bluetooth keyboard was untested. Well, I’ve tested it, and it works great! So far I’ve tested with a foldable iGo Stowaway (Blue Fn keys work, Green ones don’t), and a full-size older-model white Apple bluetooth keyboard (almost all keys work, though Arrow keys are swapped around).

  16. Good Forex says:

    Haha, Thanks for your sharing,it’s very useful :)

  17. mortgage home vegas says:

    Love to have that for my birthday – Thanks for sharing

  18. UK SEO Company says:

    Nice product. Cant wait to buy one for me on my birthday.

  19. watchfamilyguy says:

    First!

  20. France Dayne says:

    Is this the latest gadget? hmmm.. really very nice! But its hard to have one!

  21. Narinder says:

    A fantastic looking product but I too will be waiting for 8gb device.

  22. Webdesign says:

    WOW Looking good ! Will definitely make it’s way onto a few christmas card lists I am sure !

  23. Fire Surround · says:

    when i bought a car radio, i picked the car radio that is built by philips because they are well built ,`-

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