Archos 5 in the Real World

archos_gizmodoLet me first say that I have always been an early adopter.  From my first Tandy Color Computer II to one of my latest automobile purchases, the great Mazda RX-8, I am on the hunt for the next big thing and the products that are just a little bit off but deliver big rewards to those who have patience.

This is what brought me to my latest acquisition of the Archos 5 Internet Table 16GB.  Anyone who is reading this is probably aware of this new device and after living it for the past week, I have seen witnessed the Jekyll and Hyde personalities of this little import.

Here’s the breakdown

The Good:

  • Fast ARM Cortex A8 800MHz processor with plenty of RAM but still limited on application space.  Can’t wait ’til the smartphones run this fast.
  • Big, bold, bright, beautiful (running out of b’s here) touch screen that is 800×480, 4.8 TFT and supports 16million colors and 720p HD output.
  • Sturdy casing, albeit a little uneven around the seams, not a huge issue–but clearly not up to par to likes of Apple, Moto, and now HTC.
  • Even though it will sync with MS Media Player 11 there is no sync’ing software needed here.  It just shows up as another drive and from there data can be dragged and dropped onto it ready to go…’nuff said.
  • The battery just keeps getting better with each charge.  I sprung for the charging mini-dock because the PC USB cable was way too slow.  Now it charges from zero-to-full in less than 3 hours.  I have gotten 5 hours of video playback w/ the screen at the lowest light and so far I have experienced around 10 hours of music/podcast playback (this is based on the time I listen to it in the car, etc.).  The battery mileage will vary based on screen brightness, running applications, WiFi usage.
  • Hey, it’s Android, so even with 1.5 the release it is stable and I actually attribute the occasional freezes and glitches to the Archos media UI.
  • Great way to watch movies, listen to music and podcasts, keep up with the web on the go.
  • MicroSD slot with which I populated with 8GB.

The Bad:

  • Resistive touch screen takes some getting use to, especially on Android because I have only been using the phones for the past year with capacitive.  I have gone so far as to stow one of my son’s Nintendo DS styli in my travel bag just in case.
  • No native podcasting application for catching and/or playing.  Coming from the world of iPod’s this is a must.
  • Maybe someone can help me out here, but I cannot seem to figure out how to play a movie from where I left off.  I use Handbrake and I have used different formats and deleted chapter headings from the movies but I still get an error telling me that the codec cannot be played.  Big Fail.
  • Runs a little hot when used often but nothing more than my other Android phones.
  • No Flash in the browser here folks…nothing to see here so keep moving.  You can access from the browser for videos and they will play in the integrated Flash player, no dedicated YouTube app as it’s in the Google Experience column with Gmail, Maps, Voice, etc.

The Ugly:

  • No support for the Android Market even though I have side loaded quite a few apps including Tiger Woods EA Golf 2007, BetterCut, DoggCatcher,Toggle Settings, and Twidroid Pro.  You have to go get these on your own.  But most apps simply will not work because of the larger screen and resolution.
  • The AppsLib store is a complete joke.  When it loads the apps, the ones that are available are not even close to desirable but the user probably won’t notice them since the server is offline most of the time anyway.
  • When I put the device in suspend at times I find that it has turned itself all the way off.  No biggie, but when I want it in Suspend mode… then I want it in Suspend mode, not Off.
  • The included GPS app is very poor.  I used it with the 7-day free trial and it is barely usable.  Won’t be leaving my Tom Tom at home anytime soon.
  • Absolutely no Google applications.  This is Android in its purest, stripped form with Archos UI only sneaking out when you play music, video, and browse pictures.
  • The Android browser is completely stock with no remixing from whatsoever.  You would think that after they shortened the name from “Internet Media Table” to just “Internet Tablet” that the browser would be somehow, I dunno, promoted to the forefront.  It would’ve been nice if they would’ve put more Internet in the “Internet Tablet”.

But when all is said and done this little gizmo is much like my beloved RX-8: quirky, needed TLC and understanding (even when the engine would stall in my driveway after not being properly warmed before moving), and not always the fastest thing around.  Yet the Archos 5 IT is on the Android forefront and with the updates and upgrades coming I am confident that the Android iterations of the Archos tablets and media players could be their best yet.

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