Archos have done a great job on the screen. Colors and dynamic range are impressive. Viewing angle is extremely wide in all directions and there is no milkiness that you often get with resistive touchscreen layers. Brightness is excellent. The only complaint is that the backlight doesn’t go low enough for dark-room reading.
Some of you might wonder why the device has a glossy screen. The answer is that it is part marketing and partly a sensible choice. Glossy screens look great indoors for sure but at least you can put a filter on top if you need to use it in sunlight. With a matt screen, there’s no option.
The default keyboard is clean and usable and as mentioned above, works well in landscape mode. Portrait mode is also possible but the large size of the Archos and the smooth plastics means it can be quite unstable. Unfortunately there is no haptic motor in the Archos 5 so people that are used to this will definitely notice its absence. Sound-on-press is available. Use with external bluetooth keyboard is possible but we haven’t tested that. An RF and USB keyboard and mouse test was successful through. See below.
Having tested many devices with built-in keyboards (we have a Nokia N900, Omnia Pro, Nokia N810, Eking S515 here right now) we want to highlight the higher concentration rate required for even the best on-screen keyboard compared to hardware keyboards. Creating the occasional short message or one-line email response isn’t a problem but if you need to get into any sort of multi-line text input, you’ll probably want to move very quickly over to your PC. The Archos is focused as an ‘output’ device so we understand the reason why there’s no hardware keyboard on this device but we wanted to point this out for people that might be thinking of using the device as a netbook replacement.
Readers that are familiar with Android will be at home here. Users that aren’t familiar with Android won’t have any problems navigating around either. The home screen is landscape oriented, touch driven and consists of three pan-able home screens (center, left and right) on which shortcuts and widgets can be placed. Shortcuts can be for applications, bookmarks or playlists and through third party applications, a wide range of widget applications can be installed. Weather, Facebook, clocks, monitoring applications and many many more. The top-bar is dedicated to Android contol and notification features. Notifications can be expanded by dragging down from the top to reveal more detail and links. From the right you can drag in the applications window which contains a complete list of installed applications.
Portrait mode operation home-screen operation is something that would add a lot of value and we’d like to see this in a future upgrade to avoid having to move the device around in the hands after using an application that works best in portrait mode. (Most applications are designed for portrait mode as they are written primarily for phones but nearly all will also auto-rotate into landscape mode if needed.)
Overall, the user interface is relatively intuituive (there are some issues as you get into the Archos Media application) and relatively smooth. Improvements could be made all round with responsiveness and smoothness but we have no hesitation in puting the UI into the top quartile. [Ref: Our history of testing comes via our Sister publication, UMPCPortal.com]
Archos ship the device with a number of applications including their own PMP application which has it’s own application bar on the home page. From here you access the video, audio, streaming, gaming and other Archos-specific media features. The application takes control of the Archos screen. More about the Archos media features below.
Also included on the Archos 5 are:
- GPS navigation 5-day trial. More information here. Untested due to short duration of trial. [We are trying to get a new free trial but so far we haven’t had any luck.]
- Deezer. Audio streaming app for free hosted audio tracks. A search for Depeche Mode returned a ton of terrible cover and karaoke versions so we refuse to go further with that one. [Depeche Mode fan here!]
- Twidroid. A great twitter application
- Craigsphone. An app to get to Craiglist? Does this need to be re-installed on evey firmware upgrade? We guess someone paid to have it on the Archos 5.
- Dailymotion. Driect access to the Dailymotion video site.
- Droidln-lite. Direct access to Linked-In profiles.
- A DVB-T applications (for when the DVB-T free terrestrial TV adaptor is bought and connected.) Untested but we’re interested in this one.
- Ebuddy. A good multi-protocol instant message application. (No Skype support)
- Email client (Imap, pop) Fast and useful considering the Google Mail application is not available.
- Global Time application. Does nothing except provide a spinning globe as far as we can see.
- High Paying Jobs. Another unnecessary app that reapears every time you upgrade firmware. Annoying. Bloatware.
- Moov. Device search utility.
- Android Music App. Basic but usable. (No genre search/listing, rating)
- Quickpedia. Quick and useful online access to Wikipedia articles.
- ThinkFreeMobile. Read-only access to many document formats including Google Docs online. Useful. Deserves a review in itself.
- Yellowbook. Another app that gets in the way most of the time. A search for Pizza in Bonn, Germany returned useless results from the U.S. Uninstalled. Bloatware in our opinion.
- Additional Android apps: Contacts (useless as it doesn’t sync due to missing Google software components), File manager (Archos app) sound recorder and the usual Android Settings application, extended with Archos-specific features.