Archos 5 hands on at IBC. Video. Thoughts.

Posted on 16 September 2008, Last updated on 11 November 2019 by

When I wrote about Opera 9.5 Mobile a short while back I highlighted how it was a great browser with no hardware to run it on. What I said was that the processing power and screen size wasn’t enough for the software. The user interface was good but in order for it to be taken seriously as a crossover mobile/desktop, entertainment/productivity browser, it needed better hardware so when we heard about the new Archos devices recently and their Cortex ARM general purpose processors we knew there was a chance for some serious challenges to the Intel-based MIDs. The Archos devices have a rich, enjoyable touch user interfaces, very good video performance (see video below) and a suite of content and application accessory offerings that can be bolted on to improve the package further. Add the possibility of getting a 3G-enabled version and you got the makings of what could be one of the best MIDs yet. [More after the pic…]

archos5-2

At IBC in Amsterdam yesterday, I had the change to give the new Archos 5 a little test courtesy of Opera who were showing their product suite and using the Archos 5 as a demonstrator. I had no intention of testing out the video performance so while I was there, I played exclusively with the browser. You’ll be pleased to hear that its much, much faster than the one on the older 605 but what’s not clear is whether the rendering engine is using the new Opera 9.5 SDK. [Update. The browser is based on the 9.0 SDK] The browser didn’t have the smooth zoom, momentum and finger-friendly features of the Opera 9.5 Beta but that might have been because Archos have their own interface. With the 4.8" screen though, there’s rarely any need to zoom in though so I guess its not a problem. Rendering speed was comparable with the Gigabyte M528 (maybe a little slower) but in the important sub 10-second range. As usual, Archos have their tabs feature, nice touch keyboard and good bookmarks and history system.

archos5-1 

A 3G-enabled version of the Archos 5 I saw today would probably hit the hot-spot better than any of the Intel MIDs I’ve seen to date. Its stylish, small, has a really great, satisfying and responsive UI, a reliable video engine, a speedy browser, with mature drivers, a good accessory range and expandability that takes it up to PVR standards with remote TV capability. It still has its roots in entertainment though so don’t expect office suites, Bluetooth capability or a lot of multitasking but that probably isn’t what most people want. As an upgrade to an iPod touch I find it a compelling choice and for anyone that has been waiting around for devices like the BenQ MID or a faster Nokia N800, this is probably a better choice.

Here’s a video of the device in use. I didnt do my usual spoken overview as this is simply a video to show you browsing speeds.

For mobile Internet users, the 3G is absolutely necessary and the cost and battery life of these features will be the big issues to consider. Estimates on the price of the 3G model vary between 400 and 500 Euro which isn’t bad. The Gigabyte M528 is 575 Euros and that brings you the Bluetooth and keyboard but only 4GB of storage (plus Micro SD slot.)

Its almost impossible to say whether the Archos 5g will be good enough for you pro-mobility users at this stage. The 9-second penalty that I talked about a year ago has definitely been reduced to insignificant amounts but if there are the same compatibility issues with the browser as there were on the previous Archos browser (as found on the 605 and 705) then it won’t give pro-mobility users enough confidence to leave the laptop at home until Archos provide an upgrade. What I can say is that the hardware, processing platform and UI seem perfect for MIDs though. If the Cortex/Opera combo works out, it gives OEMs a second choice and allows smartphone manufacturers to extend their products into the MID arena. Intel are now playing with Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, 3D Labs, Nvidia and other ARM licensees in the MID game.

I’ll try and get the question about SDK answered because if its version 9.5, you can guarantee more accuracy and speed with complex pages. [Latest: I have just had confirmation from Opera that it is built on the 9.0 SDK which is a little disappointing. They are obviously trying to encourage Archos to upgrade to 9.5 but we’ll try and get word on this direct from Archos] I’ll also try and get hold of a 3G version as soon as I can for testing as its a product that should be considered if you’re looking at MIDs. If the 3G version comes in at under 500 Euro then it’s going to be a good value option.

Also worth mentioning here is that Opera have announced the 9.6 SDK which supports some cool new stuff including the ability to use OpenGL accelerated zoom and pan and, here’s something unique, OBML support which allows the browser to display Opera compressed content just as is used on the Opera Mini browser. This is superb for travellers that want to cut their roaming data costs because it saves up to 90% of bandwidth and is fast in low-bandwidth scenarios. I’m looking forward to seeing this on a MID as it will be a great feature to have available.

33 Comments For This Post

  1. Erwos says:

    The Archos 5 and 5g are definitely near the top of my list when it comes to buying some new portable AV gear next year. You just can’t beat the combined functionality – GPS, DVR docking (w/ HDMI!), web browsing, streaming, AV playing, etc.

    The only downside to the 5g is that it’s apparently only a 30gb drive, so I’ve got to decide whether 3G (which I may only use quite infrequently) is worth the extra money and drive space. Why couldn’t they have a 5B with Bluetooth tethering? :)

  2. Charbax says:

    Who told you it uses only the Opera 9.0 SDK? Back in January, Opera and Archos did a joint press release saying that Archos was working on the Opera 9.5 SDK: http://www.linuxelectrons.com/news/embedded/15653/opera-introduces-opera-9-5-sdk-devices

  3. chippy says:

    Opera communications people gave me that info and it sounds right. There’s nothing anywhere that states that Opera on the current Archos 5 is using 9.5, despite the recent announcement that said they were working on something.

    Steve

  4. Charbax says:

    According to the video you posted comparing Texas Instruments Cortex A8 with Intel Atom processor, the TI Cortex A8 at 600mhz should be faster for browsing then the Intel Atom at 800mhz..

    I load http://nyt.com for example in less then 3 seconds after I hit Enter.

  5. chippy says:

    That was a Gecko engine on the video, not Opera 9.0. It doesnt matter too much though because we’re now in the situation where we have two MID architechtures that can deliver similar results.

  6. Steve says:

    Just another piece of Archos Junk that is DRM Crippled and won’t play ANY lossless audio…
    I’ll be interested when they release a version that is 500 Gig and supports any flavor of lossless audio.

  7. Tokyo rob says:

    Just go and buy a iPod then .. you will know the meaning of “DRM Crippled” it’s plays DviX fine and I don’t to convert them so it’s fine for me

  8. chippy says:

    500Gig? Pray tell why?

  9. Steve says:

    I currently have over 1 TB of Lossless Audio on my home server. Being able to carry at least half of my music collection with me is a personal requirement of mine.

    I actually have a 160 gig Ipod. That proved to be a waste of money as the classic Ipod is flawed. large bitrate files randomly pause. And apple will not acknologe the issue.

  10. John says:

    I gotta imagine that carrying around portable pr0n is important to some people. You never know when you might get lonely… and want to watch stuff on that 5″ screen. Squinting subsequently follows.

    I’m sure the OP’s original intention was to gobble up his 500 gigs w/ lossless audio though :P.

  11. Charbax says:

    Sure the officially announced price for the 5G with 30GB is around 400-500€ unlocked probably, but that is cause Archos probably plans to try and sell most of them subsidized through carriers. So the pricing you would see of it sold through a carrier would probably be closer to 199€ or even free with the DVR Station as long as you sign up for a 2-year HSDPA data contract with a carrier. The carrier probably isn’t going to be paying 500€ per device, but probably closer to 300€ (wild guessing here). But this does probably mean that the Archos solution might be around half the price of Intel Atom powered MIDs.

    You may consider the official MSRP retail price of the Archos 5 60GB without HSDPA is 349€. I don’t know how much more it would cost to add HSDPA in the device, but you may balance out that the basic HSDPA model has half the hard drive storage at 30GB capacity.

    Also, I wouldn’t know exactly why they only have 30GB for the HSDPA model announced for now, hopefully Archos will easilly also provide up to 500GB on the HSDPA model, they might just need to get the basic HSDPA model out on the market first to get things started..

    Also at 12,9 mm in thickness versus 22.5 mm and at 250gr in weight (with Chrome black colored metal-like casing design) versus 340gr, the Archos 5G is quite a bit more compact and light then the Gigabyte M528 even though it’s got a 1.8″ hard drive for storage versus flash memory in the Intel Atom powered MID.

  12. chippy says:

    It is possible to subsidise other devices you know! Carriers will pay 100-200 per customer depending on contract type. MIDs won’t get treated any differently. Example: Benq MID is going to launch through a carrier soon.

    And lets not put the two devices in a competition against each other. Its pointless. Both devices have advantages and disadvantages. For some, the 5G will be useless without a keyboard and with a locked OS. For others, the UI and media support will be exactly what they are looking for.

    I know how you unconditionaly love Archos products but please dont feel the need to defend them. We love anything that provides us with exactly what we need.

    Steve

  13. Charbax says:

    Sure, but my argument on pricing is to say that the ARM architecture achieves similar if not better results at half the price (perhaps even lower, for example if Archos re-made a Flash version, they could sell it at below 200€ again like they did with the 605 WiFi 4G)..

    So hey, I’m just saying, about the price, it kind of matters.

    Sure carriers can subsidize MIDs, but the contracts are going to have to be more expensive, more restrictive and stuff. With the Archos I expect monthly plans with unlimited HSDPA to start at 19€ per month or even lower, while I don’t think carriers might be doing the same thing if the product costs them twice as much..

  14. chippy says:

    What makes you think that a product sold for just 20% more in the open market will cost a carrier 100% more in bulk?

  15. Charbax says:

    How is MID pricing at launch going to be just 20% more then the Archos 605 WiFi 4GB at $150 on the open market?

    The new Archos 5 is launched at MSRP $350, but open market pricing should quickly put that down to around $250.

    And that is cause the Archos 5 only comes in 60GB model, a hard drive which costs more to integrate. If Archos provide a Flash version it could be sold again at below $200, even though the screen is 4.8″ and the processor is newer and better and all that.

    Which capacities are going to be sold by carriers will be all up to the carriers to decide. If the carrier wants a flash version, to make it a bit cheaper, then Archos certainly can do it since they have done it before. Also if the carrier wants to provide 500GB, Archos can do that as well (it’s just a matter of 2.5″ hard drive pricing, currently $130 more then 250GB).

    So saying that the Archos is half the price of a MID is probably a high estimate. The real pricing difference probably is closer to 3 or 4 times.

  16. UMPCMAN says:

    The Archos looks great! and pocketable! I’d easily trade that vs a keyboard. If only they didn’t have a proprietary operating system, I’d be on it 100%.

    What about temperature? Did it feel hot in your hand?

  17. chippy says:

    No heat that I felt. Even in Expo conditions.

  18. Charbax says:

    About the closed Operating System problem, I am hoping Archos will find a way to run Android applications, at least provide some Archos version of the Android Marketplace, with a few selected, perhaps ported and converted Android applications that they would provide for people to install. Especially social networking and GPS location based services in Android apps are going to be I think really huge and not something they can just ignore.

    Versus Android, iPhone, MIDs, Windows Mobile, the next Symbian, Archos can’t ignore the need to let people run at least a selection of the most popular third party applications.

    Luckilly, hopefully, the embedded Linux OS that Archos is using is pretty similar to the embedded Linux OS that is Android, and thus I am hoping that within the next 2-3 months, once the worries about shipping a very stable firmware, the Archos 5G and delivering large stocks to satisfy all the demand, one the source code of Android OS is fully released and open and free to use, then I am hoping Archos will be able to give us a nice surprise and tell us Android applications will be supported, at least a selection of them.

  19. Phillyguy says:

    Though the device looks to be interesting, if you search the Archos forum you will find there are lots of problems. It seems that Archos has good ideas but falls short on implementation. The Archos 5G is France only.

  20. chippy says:

    So far. Archos would be silly not to seek other carrier deals. Surely.

  21. Phillyguy says:

    Chippy, you are right. But there track record is such that any carrier might question the reliability of the device and their customer service. According to the forum the major brick and mortar stores dropped Archos due to excessive returns. Perhaps the new ones are better but this will be a tough sell in the US where Apple dominates.

  22. Jenn says:

    The Archos 5 and 7 are both HSDPA-ready. You need a USB modem, the Archos mini dock, and the 3.5G Ready plug-in to make it all work, though. It’s inconvenient compared to the 5g, but at least you can have more storage.

    BTW, I think the browser was always Opera 9: http://www.opera.com/pressreleases/en/2008/09/01/

  23. Phillyguy says:

    Plus when you add all those mini docks it makes the unit bulkier and less likely to fit in your pocket. So if you go for additional storage and the dock you have a larger device, kind of defeating the purpose in a way.The smaller 5g has less storage and of course the battery drain may be substantial. And why no Bluetooth? I’m not buying the idea of a carrier in the US. Apple rules that kingdom.

  24. Charbax says:

    In the USA, there are about 3 other big carriers that don’t have the exclusivity deal with Apple. I think Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint all have very big interests in providing iPhone alternatives to their customers. And I think the Archos is in many ways an iPhone alternative, sure it doesn’t do the phone function, but bundled with any low cost phone, you get two devices, one phone with buttons that is a good phone and one Archos that is better at all the other multimedia and Internet features.

    As for dongles being bulky, well it’s kind of like carrying a pack of gum in your other pocket. It doesn’t have to be catastrophic.

    Of course it would be best for Archos to get a deal with one of T-Mobile, Sprint or Verizon and sell the Archos 5G at $99 with the DVR Station with a 2-year HSDPA contract at around $19 per month or slightly more. They could also provide unlimited music services which can easilly integrate with the Archos for a few dollars more which Apple doesn’t provide on their iTunes thing.

    Also Archos is at 19% owned by US Dish Networks, they just bought some 700mhz spectrum, sure it’s not shipping yet, but I do see a possibillity Dish Networks help Archos in terms of marketing and penetration in the US market in all kinds of different ways.

  25. chippy says:

    There is no way that the Archos, UMPCs or any non-voice MID is an alternative to a voice device. Sorry I completely disagree with you. They might be interested in it, but not as an iPhone competitor. The Archos is way too niche. Like MIDs. Like UMPCs.

    I thought Echostar bought Archos recently?

  26. Charbax says:

    I am not suggesting that any carrier distribute the Archos instead of Android, Instinct, Viewty, Blackberry storm or xperi. I am saying, just as carriers are subsidizing netbooks with built in WWAN HSDPA, the carriers are going to push Internet Media Tablets as well. And thus some people will definitely prefer having a cheap basic compact phone and a much more feature rich 5″ pocketable tablet. And by definition you don’t want to put a large screen to your ear everytime you phone. So in that way Archos is definately competing with th iPhone for the same kind of technology early adopter kind of segment.

    As for price versus MID, I think it is pretty clear ARM and DSP is much cheaper the Intel Atom.. and just like Moores law, I think it is a constant and will remain that way. ARM just needs to provid a X86 like Internet experience, they are pretty close of being there now.

  27. Peter says:

    Hey nice product and video !

    another review of the Archos 5 at

    http://www.archoslounge.net/The-Archos-5-review-on-ArchosLounge,8336.html

  28. Mikey says:

    That keyboard really surprised me, its something I could live with, looks a worthy contended but Id have to get a 5g one.

  29. Brent says:

    I will be very surprised if Archos does anything close to updating the browser to a newer version. What’s up with the button in the corner not responding? Looks a little buggy…

  30. Phillyguy says:

    Chippy, there doesn’t seem to be much point in arguing with this Charbax person. One check of his Archos forum will reveal him to be the the ultimate fanboy. Sounds like he works for them.

  31. turn.self.off says:

    interesting how it grabbed the flash video and directed it to full screen.

  32. rahul says:

    Some questions:
    1. What was your experience with javascript heavy sites?

    2. You had to tap multiple times to close the browser. Was that a bug?

    3. Does this thing have an email client?

  33. turn.self.off says:

    2. could be just a sensor issue, like not putting enough pressure on the display, or letting up to soon.

    pressure sensitive displays have issues with corners in general iirc…

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