Oh! An Archos!
In effect, the design hasn’t evolved much since the original Archos 5. The old bronze look to the casing has become a more standard anthracite, but it’s still more or less the same shape and still made from stainless steel, perfect for picking up finger prints then - it’s not as if they couldn’t have learned a lesson from the Archos 5 or the iPod touch, but the company hasn’t paid any heed. Note that the manufacturing process has been improved and the mixture of steel and plastic works particularly well, with a really exemplary finish.
The 5 IT interface, a mix of Archos and Android
A word on the bundle: a player, a pair of headphones and a USB cable is lite for a high end MID/player. We would have expected to have at least a cover, a microfibre cloth or even a mains charger, that you have to buy separately. The same goes for theTV and other connection modules that don’t come with. The argument is alsways the same: the user shouldn’t pay for options they don’t want.
For navigation, there are the two well-known Archos and Android interfaces. The two don’t come together particularly well ,HTC showing with the Hero that you can do much better. The icons and other Archos themes are starting to look really quite old. All the same, any iPod, smartphone or video player user should feel at ease with it. Let’s have a look at the rest of the device.
Audio / Video: very much in line with its predecessors
On the audio side, we get support for a great variety of formats: MP3, WMA, Ogg, but also for those audiophiles out there: FLAC or Monkey's Audio. Same thing for video: we get Matroska with HD (720 pixels max but this is already good, especially as you can output to a TV if you get the right module). The Texas Instruments chip allows you to play these formats without prior re-encoding, which is very welcome.
What’s really great is that gone are the days of codec packs. In the past Archos was in the habit of charging extra for video plug-ins, still on the pretext that customers shouldn’t have to pay for features they weren’t using. This practice is now over, except for the GPS navigation feature that we’ll come back to in a sec.
The joys of glossy screens: on the left, our SLR focussed on the neon reflections and not the screen itself
Also note: the headphones will be thrown straight in the bin by many users. The socket is pretty good, top drawer for PMPs, so do go get yourself a decent set of headphones! The Archos 5 3G+ had a screen with an anti-reflective coating but the 5 IT is glossy again, and very hard to use outside. Disappointing!
Android yes, but the Market, no!
Henri Crohas, Archos CEO, has talked up Archos’ move to Android. Now, the Archos 5 IT screen has an 800x400 pixel resolution, which is higher than the current Android spec. And here’s the rub! The Archos 5 IT cannot therefore run any of the official Google apps, or access Android Market, which was nevertheless played up a great deal when it was presented!
The applications it does have are of course very complete but we’ll have to wait a few months for personalisation, when Android will be updated. For now, there is nevertheless a good navigator, which gives full page visibility without zoom, at the cost of some slight page re-organisation due to the fact that a lot of sites are designed for a 1024 pixel width rather than 800. You also get multiprotocol instant messaging software and a GPS app. However, for worthwhile GPS usage, you need to shell out another 60 pounds or so for maps and a holder.
In short then, we haven't been able to go very far with this test and truly give the product a run through its paces. As always, Archos has come up with some progressive software. Except that, because it has been hurried out early, just a few days after the new Touch, Archos is too far ahead of Google and limited by a system that isn't yet ready for it. Rendez-vous back here in a few months for a test on the new version of Android. Don’t rush and and buy your Archos 5 IT before then, as it’s not quite ripe.
- HD video compatability without re-encoding
- Internet navigation without zoom
- Glossy screen
- No official Google app yet, or Android Market
- Poor headphones
- Bundle on the light side
The Archos 5 IT is ambitious and based on a nice concept. However, Android doesnt yet add much because of the fact that Archos is too far in front of Google third party apps on Android Market cant yet be accessed. Well all have to wait for Google to catch up.