In general we can say that the Archos 5 is going to last a full working day connected to a WiFi hotspot. With some use of suspend, a ‘whole day’ can easily be from early morning until late at night.
Battery Life Test
We performed one full battery life test with the device connected to a Wifi hotspot and streaming MP3 audio from a remote server over WiFi. We left a Twitter application running with other internet-enabled applications in the background and set the screen to stay on at 50% brightness. (Normally the screen dims after one or two minutes saving significant amounts of battery power.)
After five hours we had to pause the test. The battery level meter read 30%. The device was placed into suspend for 9 hours and the device indicated another 6% drain. 1.5hrs later the device shutdown. 6.5hrs online, screen enabled use over a 15+hour period is impressive.
Archos claim the audio will play for 22hrs. With the screen and Wifi off we have no reason to doubt that. Video playback is quoted at 7-hours. Again, with Wifi off (and background applications closed) this should be achievable. [Again, note that we are testing the SSD version here. Hard-drive versions may give different battery life.]
Charging times depend on how the device is charged. Archos do not supply a main charger for the Archos 5 Internet Tablet so the only option is to charge via Mcro USB. This is a long 4+hour process which can be much, much longer if the device is in use at the same time. We tested charging with the $30 Mini-dock and it was much faster. 2.5hrs with the device in use indicating that the device could be charged from empty to full in well under 2hrs if the device was left off.
Heat and noise.
*Remember we are reviewing the SSD version here. Hard-drive versionsof the Archos 5 Internet Tablet may differ.
The device remains totally silent (it’s fanless) and there is no heat build-up whatsover in normal use. Under USB charging conditions there is a slight heat build-up which spreads across the rear metal plate from the area of the charging port but this is not significant. When using the device with the docking station and when simultaneously charging and running, the device can get quite warm across the rear plate (clearly the metal plate serves as a heatsink.)
In normal use, while connected to Wifi and running one or two Internet applications there should be no heat build-up at all. (Which, incidentally, indicates a very efficient device.)
When connected to a WiFi hotspot, throughput appears to be good but there are some stability issues. Losing a hotspot connection can mean a long wait for reconnection. Moving between hotspots can require manual intervention via the settings application. In a home situation, users aren’t going to be aware of these issues but if you’re moving between coffee shops, using weak WiFi signals or in a situation where there are multiple hotspots, you should be prepared for some issues. We hope that these issues can be addressed through firmware updates. (See important section on stability below.)
The Bluetooth software supports A2DP (stereo headphones), ACRP (remote control), HID (used for external bluetooth keyboards/mice/input devices) and Dial-up Networking. It does not support PAN networking which means that any phone that doesn’t support DUN can not be used as an internet modem. We tested the Archos successfully with a Nokia N82 but could not connect to the internet via a Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone.
Note that there is no file transfer/photo transfer support which is something we would have liked to have seen. Beaming pictures from a cameraphone for better viewing, editing and sending to Flickr seems to make sense to us.
Up until this section, we’ve been very up-beat about the Archos 5. The length of this review is testament to the amount of functionality this device has but we must mention stability issues.
Note: Version 1.4.09 firmware is currently loaded on our device.
The first few days of use were particulalry bad with regular lock-ups, crashes and terrible browser instability. We were averaging one hard reboot per hour. The experience was terrible. Any normal customer would probably have sent the device back for a refund.
Fortunately Archos are working on bugs and since the early days with the device we’ve seen an average of one firmware update per week. All devices can be upgraded. (Note:Some very early devices require a manual upgrade) Many many bugs have now been fixed and stability is far better than with the early versions of the firmware but very serious bugs remain. Currently we’re seeing regular Android user interface reboots. Browser crashes are regular and strange lock-ups still occur. Hard reboots are now a rare requirement though and we are encouraged by the rate of updates from Archos. Despite this, we can not call the Archos 5 a stable device yet. Business and critical users should certainly be aware of this. Despite the browser being very fast and very high quality for such a cheap and small device, it can not be relied on for professional web-based work.
The Archos works best as a home or coffee-shop device and in these situations, a limited number of lock-ups and application crashes can be tolerated for such an advanced device but it refelcts on Archos that there are obvious gaps in their quality control.
In terms of applications, it’s difficult to comment on stability. Many Archos-approved applications are working well but we still see occasional crashes. Appslib, Archos’ own application library could be better too. While much better than the early versions we tried, it’s still slow and rather clunky to use. Archos need to improve this quickly. Without any sort of monetisation process, developers need to be sure that they can at least get free applications to end users. We keep our fingers crossed for true Android Market support in the near future but we have no official word on this.
[Update: We have heard that a Donut, Android version 1.6, version of the Archos firmware is nearing completion. We hope that the Archos teams have been working to bring this major upgrade to the devices with stability as a core focus. At this stage with V1.4 firmware, stability is more important than adding features.]
We’ll bring news and reviews on firmware updates in separate articles on Carrypad. This link will take to the latest news.
Memory and process management.
The Archos 5 has 128MB of RAM in which to run applications. Under normal use with a number of standard background processes, a browser and a few internet applications there is plenty of space available. Heavy users might want to be a little careful and install a process management application and keep an eye on the situation though. In some of our testing sessions we were seeing memory availability drop down to very low levels and high processor load levels which affected the usability. Slow response was common in loaded situations. Reboots only seem to help temporarily as many applications start background applications automatically. In one test we did using a (hacked) Google application suite to simulate a true Google Android phone the Archos became difficult to use. We aborted our tests and returned to a stock, freshly-formatted install.