So, you’re in the market for a portable media player – why shouldn’t you buy an iPod Touch? Well, this ‘Internet Media Tablet’ is one reason. Sure, the Touch is dinkier, but the Archos 5’s 120GB of storage (there’s also a 250Gb version available) makes the Touch’s 32GB max headroom look a little, well, embarrassing.
Okay, but why not buy a 120GB-equipped iPod Classic, saving over £100 into the bargain? Ah, yes, you know your gadgets. Well, the Classic may win out on sound quality, but the Archos 5 houses a stunning 4.8in screen, murdering the Classic’s 2.5in effort. That’s got to be worth a few quid.
Video in a flash
Now add the 5’s extensive spec list, which includes the ability to play Flash video and – crucially – BBC iPlayer. So, you don’t get iTunes, but you do get tasty TV such as Mock the Week, and radio including The Flight of the Conchords. Cheers Auntie.
Where this Windows Media Player-happy unit fails to beat its Apple rivals, though, is in the portability stakes: measuring almost 2cm deep and weighing 300g, this is a ‘full fat’ player, and – for safe carriage – needs more than your shirt pocket.
But, though it’s chunky, the Archos 5 is beautifully built and feels reassuringly solid. It also looks slick, and the smooth touch-screen UI, featuring simple menus, is impressively responsive.
Powered-up and wirelessly hooked into your network, this portable is a joy. You can stream music and videos from your digital libraries, while email access is, thanks to pre-set shortcuts, very speedy.
Internet browsing also seriously rocks. The 800x480 resolution screen looks sharp, and you can ‘drag’ your finger around larger pages. Response times are fast and the Opera browsing system offers intuitive shortcuts. Example? To add a ‘Favourite’ page, simply hold your finger down and you’re done.
So far, so sweet tablet. Here, though, is the bitter pill. While this machine does lots, if you want it to do lots more, it costs you extra.
The DVR Station, which lets you record programmes directly from your TV on to the Archos 5, costs £80. This neat system saves lots of PC-based ‘conversion’ kafuffle, but it does mean budgeting for an extra eighty quid.
Another add-on, the GPS system complete with car holder, costs a further £80. And, if you want to turn your 5 into a (truly) portable telly, allow another chunk of (yet to be confirmed) cash for the October-due ‘TV Snap-On’.
That latter feature enables time-shifting, so while watching telly on the bus, you can conveniently pause a programme while a gang of children tries to prise the player from your quaking mitts.
You can also bet the forthcoming High Def (720p capable) plug-in won’t be free, while the stated max of 12hrs music replay seems curiously wheezy.
It’s difficult to resent this machine, though: video performance is so good and, as long as you upgrade the garbage earbuds, audio replay is bass-laden and well-detailed. Up against Apple’s miniature pedigrees, this is a bit of a stocky mongrel, but Archos’s digital dog still offers lots of fun.