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.
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.
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.
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 inch 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 inch 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 https://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.
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.
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.