Is Google's Android OS enough to keep Archos top of the PMP tree and fight off Apple's advances?
Archos is usually the first name on the lips of avowed video junkies, but the French company's media players have often been hamstrung by arcane menus and fiddly interfaces.
So the Archos 5 Internet Tablet, which runs Google's lovely Android OS is, in theory, a match made in PMP heaven. With its huge 4.8in, it also nicely fills the void between big-screen mobiles and small-screen netbooks.
A giant among Androids
That screen means that this is the largest production device to run Google's Android mobile OS to date and, with an 800Mhz processor, also the fastest. A promising start.
Video, as you'd expect from an Archos PMP, is highly defined across 4.8in of screen territory and moving-image prowess is second to none. But there's more than one trick to this slender black pony.
Full-width web browsing
At 800 pixels wide, the Archos' screen displays web pages at their native resolution, so there's no need to use feature-stripped mobile sites or view full pages at an unreadable size.
It's fast, too, though the browser doesn't support Flash, so YouTubers will be scooted off to a separate onboard app, a la the iPod Touch.
For all that, the Android OS doesn't feel as slick as it does on phone handsets, and is let down by bits of Archos' own interface hanging around.
The company's AppsLib store – seemingly a replacement for direct access to Android Market – had just four free apps on our visit, leaving us with the feeling of having climbed into a powerful sports car only to find the steering wheel from a double-decker bus.
Despite the screen size, the Archos feels relatively light in the hand thanks to its waifish, centimetre-thin profile. Larger capacity hard-drive editions double that width and add 100g of bulk, so it's definitely worth using the microSD slot instead.
As with previous Archos devices, a built-in kickstand hinges from the back for prolonged table-top viewing. Plug it into a dock and you can output video in 720p to a hi-def TV. There's also the option to watch and record digital TV broadcasts via the optional £80 DVR station.
While the Archos 5 pumps out reasonably good sound quality, the bundled headwear seems to have been made from old crisp packets and string, with the leftovers from this hideous experiment used to make the built-in speaker. New buds are advisable.
Greasy-fingered video monkeys will also make heavy use of the supplied small cleaning cloth. Partly to blame is the excellent resistive touchscreen which – for the most part – responds to prods and swipes quickly and accurately.
If it's immersive video you want from a pocket media player, the Archos 5 Internet Tablet is a fine choice – but the iPod Touch remains the better portable all-rounder.
Archos 5 Internet Tablet 32GB review
The Archos 5 is pretty as a picture but doesn't quite have the Android dazzle we expected
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