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

Posted on 06 December 2009, Last updated on 10 June 2018 by

Gaming

There are two sides to gaming on the Archos 5. Firstly, you’ve got access to applications via the AppsLib applications library. Currently the selection is rather poor and without and monetisation capability it’s unlikely that many advanced titles will appear. If Archos enhance the Appslib with some form of monetisation or switch to the official Google Android marketplace then things will change.

The second type of gaming supported is through a standalone flash player application. Instead of running games in the browser you download them (usually by grabbing them from a web page using something like the ‘page info’ feature in Firefox which allows you to view and download any media in a web page.) and save them to the Archos in a folder called ‘Flash.’ When you start the flash application the games or applications appear and can be started.

Not that many games wont work and many are slow. When you find a good one though, it’s fun! There are many thousands of Flash games out there and it’s touch to find them without getting bombarded by ads and pop-ups but on a quick search for ‘top 5 flash games’ I found a reasonable selection quite easily. In the video below you can see the problems though.

[youtube]_1PYEttp71c[/youtube]

Web

One of the highlights of the Archos 5 Internet Tablet is the web experience. The large screen, high resolution and relatively high-power processor make browsing websites a very comfortable experience. Page load times are some of the fastest that you’ll currently find on any ARM-based platform and among current Android devices, the Archos is the most powerful. There’s no inline Adobe Flash support so some websites built around that technology won’t work On the plus-side though, many flash-based ads don’t work either which can make the browsing experience smoother and more enjoyable.

IMG_1429

The browser is a standard Android Webkit-based browser with finger panning and zoom buttons. There is no double-tap-to-zoom feature (on this Android V1.5 based firmware) but the zoom buttons work well. The browser can be set up to present itself as a mobile browser or desktop browser giving the user the option to see full or mobile-optimised websites. History, bookmarks, multiple windows, text select, find, downloads and page sharing (through resigstered applications like Twidroid and email) work well. There’s a pop-up blocker, cookie controls, password storage and Google Gears support. [ Note: We’re not sure that Gears support is working as it should. More testing is needed here.]

One of the surprising features is the speed of javascript decoding. The full, desktop version of Google Reader loads very quickly. Google Mail too. This is one of the first handheld devices based on a smartphone platform that could be used for web applications which makes it a very interesting development.

Auto-rotate and finger scrolling are quick and smooth when web pages are fully loaded.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of Android hardware buttons there’s a permanent need for on-screen control buttons which take up a noticeable percentage of the screen, especially in landscape mode. There must be a way to auto-hide these in the style that is used by Opera Mobile browser products and we hope that Archos find a way to implement this, soon.

Here are some examples of website loading times over a wifi hotpspot located in another room about 10m away. 10Mb broadband-connected. Cache cleared. First number indicates time to view/scroll page. Second number indicates time until the page is completely loaded.

  • Carrypad 12/14
  • Google News 2/5
  • CNN.com 8/17
  • Facebook.com 3/5
  • UK.yahoo.com 3/8
  • Techmeme.com 3/5
  • Mail.google.com (Full javascript version) 12/16 Error: No scrolling available.
  • Mail.google.com (Android-optimised site) 3 / 5
  • Engadget.com (full) 7 / 15

In summary you have a very fast handheld browser that is a huge step forward from the sort of browsing speeds we are seeing on mainstream smartphones and ARM11-based web devices. Remember that with 800×480 on a 4.8 inch screen, many web pages show as full width and text can be read without having to zoom. This adds an extra speed element to Web browsing.

Note: The Web browser and Adoind networking subsystem does not appear to support proxy servers.

Ebook Reading.

We understand that back-lit LCD screens are not everyone’s favorite long-term reading solution but there are a lot of positive things that can be said about the Archos 5 with respect to Ebook reading.

IMG_0896 IMG_0897 Archos Android Internet Tablet (1)

Size/Weight/FormFactor.

In portrait mode we’ve found this to be one of the most comfortable device designs we’ve tried. It’s one-handed, lightweight, silent and doesn’t get warm. We’ve tested 7 inch form-factor pads but in portrait mode they required two hands. The 5 inch screen seems to be the best trade-off between large screen size and hand-held comfort.

Ereader Software.

There a now 3 significant ebook reading software packages for the Archos. Two are available in the AppsLib store. FBReaderJ is a Java version of the popular FBReader application. It supports many open formats. Aldiko takes it one step further by supporting an online store for copyright-free books. The most interesting solution we’ve found though has been the commercial Ereader.com package which allows you to purchase commericial books. This solution wasn’t available when we made the video below but in it, you’ll see FBReader and Aldiko deomnstrated.

[youtube]ykmGNnKq0_g[/youtube]

Online reading.

There are millions of websites and millions of RSS feeds. The online, Android-optimised Google Reader web application is a very comfortable way to read feeds. One disadvantage is that Google Gears doesn’t seem to work and there’s only a limited amount of offline reading possible. There are many offline RSS readers out there thoughand our test with ‘NewsRob’ , a free application from the AppsLib store worked well. It syncronised with Google Read to provide a nice offline experience.

Background audio, Wikipedia, Storage

You may like to have audio and internet available while you read, others don’t. If you need it, it’s there in high quality.

Negative point: Battery life.

Offline reading at medium to low brightness settings (OK for indoor use) is going to bring you about 8-10 hours reading time. Overnight standby won’t affect the battery life much either so for most people there’s more than enough battery life for a weekend’s reading but for those that are used to a week or more battery life, the Archos can not deliver. We feel that overnight charging is something you’re going to do anyway but the battery life point needs to be made. Speaking of which…

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