It is important to be aware that the Archos 5 is not a Google Android device. It is not even capable of running Google Android applications. No Email, calendar or contacts syncing. No maps and VERY IMPORTANT: No Android Marketplace. The Archos 5 Internet Tablet is not a personal organiser (PDA) out of the box.
Archos AppsLib marketplace
Archos have not been able to get Google approval for the core Google features that do not form part of the core open-source Android operating system [In this Firmware 1.4]. Instead, Archos have implemented an application market for free applications called ‘Appslib.’ From day 1, this application has been slow, buggy and not very exciting to use. The selection of applications is growing but remains a fraction of what is available in the marketplace. A recent upgrade to Appslib has improved the stability and speed and new applications are starting to appear at a faster rate but without any monetisation program driving developers, we don’t expect to see top-quality applications appearing here. Recent examples of applications include the ‘U.S. Anthem’, Bubblewrap and ‘Farm Sounds.’ although there are some gems to be found in the library. Swift, Aldiko, FBreader, Acast and others. Current app listings show about 750 applications with about 200 approved by Archos.
Note: There have been some efforts to hack Google marketplace onto the Archos. This has been shown working and we’ve tested it successfully ourselves but it introduced higher CPU load, memory usage and instability. Search Google for ‘Archos Android Market’ for more information.
Archos Media features
Unfortunately we just haven’t got the resource here to fully test the media features but we’re going to outline as much as we can. Audio and video playback is an extensive topic covering many thousands, probably tens of thousands of combinations of audio codec, video codec, container, bitrate, codec features and resolutions.
The media application follows the design of previous Archos Media devices with a folder-based menu system offering access via favorites, title, etc. Search is available along with playlists and access to A/V features such as equalizations, FFWD/REW, pause, aspect ratio, FM transmitter, shuffle, etc. Album art is available and videos are thumbnailed with moving video.
There are two media library methods used on the Archos 5. The first is the ARCLibrary process used for all the Archos media center features. The second is the Android media library process used for the Android media player and software. Both can be set to occur on bootup, insertion of SD card and removal of USB. In general the process are reliable and efficient although the ARCLibrary update can take some time on insertion of a large, loaded SD card.
We’ve thrown a number of formats at the Archos and it has done extremely well. Out of the box you’ll find some limits in the format support which need to be enabled using a registration process (free) and an optional pay plugin. At 15 Euros we recommend the plugin which enables certain HD and multi-channel audio formats.
One of the features is the ability to play video and audio from uPnP sources or Windows shares. A 7.5mbps WMV HD file played well from our Windows 7 box over Wifi and easily beat what we have been able to get out of many netbooks and UMPCs in the past. [at UMPCPortal] Coral Reef adventure, a WMVHD demo from the WMV showcase played flawlessly over the WiFi and looked stunning on the high-quality screen. MPEG2 taken direct from a DVB transmission worked, a 4mbps Divx, H264 in AVI and MKV containers and much more. Archos have been keen to highlight that they’ve worked hard on support for the MKV container so multiple audio tracks and subtitles are working in most cases.
In general, resolutions up to 720p are supported. 1080p is not supported.
The other thing that doesnt work out of the box is TV-out. Considering that many smartphones are offering TV-out via the 3.5mm headphone jack, it seems a little unnecessary and even awkward to have to buy a $30 clip-on docking station just to enable this feature.
See below for TV and screen output via a docking station.
Archos have thought about online video and provide support for the direct playback of YouTube (Vimeo and other sites are also supported) videos even though the browser doesn’t support flash. When YouTube videos are detected and selected, the device starts streaming the HD version of the video. Unfortunately the feature is slightly flawed at the moment as it can’t play the 1080p videos that are stating to appear as HD versions. There are bugs, sync and other issues too. [Example, in a test I’ve done as i write this, two videos failed to play, one played with huge video errors and the 4th attempt played OK but has caused a system hang at the end. I need to do a full 10-second power-button reboot to recover.] When it works, it’s an amazing way to browse through YouTube in high quality, when it doesnt work, it’s annoying and time-wasting. Web-based video links, if supported, are downloaded or streamed to the device. Again, a good feature.
There are other ways to view online videos. The first is via the Dailymotion application, it’s also possible to get hold of the Android YouTube application and install that but there’s also an Archos streaming TV and Audio application (WebTV, WebRadio) that uses Vtuner. It’s basically a huge directory of online radio, podcasts and TV and is enjoyable to play with. Quality varies from poor to amazing and depends on the provider and locality. A stream from one of the local TV stations wasn’t working well despite the low, 300kbps bitrate. A 600kbps stream from Deluxe Music, however, was working well. NRJDance, a 700kbps stream out of France kept us distracted for way too long! Finally you have the Archos Video and Music sections of their media club. It’s nothing more than a few web-based gateways. One of them is the Archos film center where you can download pay films. There’s not much to choose from (in Germany) but it’s worth keeping an eye on. Euronews and DWTV (German news service) is available. You’re going to get different offerings here based on where you are in the world.
The mono speaker is good quality and loud enough to use the device as a stand-alone radio/podcast/audio/video playback device without headphones. The mic is also surprisingly good. The included sound recorder application returned good results although don’t expect this to replace a pro, handheld sound recorder.
Audio support is, like the video support, extensive. Here’s a list of supported formats from the Archos website.
â€¢ Stereo MP3 decoding @ 30-320 Kbits/s CBR & VBR,
â€¢ WMA, Protected WMA, WAV (PCM/ADPCM), AAC(except protected content),
â€¢ AAC+ stereo audio files
â€¢ Ogg Vorbis up to 320kbs @44hz
â€¢ Flac up to 1000kbs @44hz.
With optional software plug-ins (downloadable from your tablet or on www.archos.com):
â€¢ AC3 stereo audio and 5.1 sound files (via SPDIF output of DVR Station )
Flac support gives you the ability to use a loss-less codec but I’m sure that most people are going to be happy with MP3, WMA and AAC+ support.
Audio output was tested on a reasonable quality 125W, 4-speaker HiFi system and the results over the analogue stereo cable were clean and high quality. The SPDIF output from the TV docking station has not been tested but with Flac support, this seems like a nice way to feed pure digital content into a digital amplifier.