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Archos 5 Internet tablet review - an Android powered iPad alternative?
The Archos 5 Internet tablet is the first Android powered device from this French media player company. The device features a 4.8" touch screen, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and storage through built in memory with MicroSD expansion or hard drive storage up to 500GB.
The device runs the Android operating system, along with a whole host of Archos developed improvements and applications. The device takes the regular Android experience, and turns it into a very compact media/Internet tablet. So - can this $249.99 device really take the place of the iPad?
The Archos 5 Internet tablet supports music, photos, video and online content - half of the device is a great portable media player, and the other half is a portable computer. The Archos 5 even features a built in FM radio and FM transmitter - something not found on most portable devices.
When connected to a TV, the tablet itself acts as a trackpad to control all the playback features.
The Archos 5 Internet Tablet is extremely thin - a mere 10.4mm (0.409 inches) on the MicroSD versions, and 20mm (0.787") on the hard drive versions. Unlike Android phones, the Archos 5 Internet tablet relies entirely on screen presses for controlling the device, though there are power and volume buttons on the top. On the left side is a MicroUSB port and a headphone jack, and on the bottom are the usual 2 ports found on most other Archos players.
Battery life is rated at up to 22 hours of music, and 7 hours of video, and in my tests this turned out to be quite accurate. When you connect the Archos to its mini dock, you can use the USB host connector to add a mouse or keyboard.
When out of range of Wi-Fi, you can also use the built in tethering feature to hook the device up to your Bluetooth enabled mobile phone.
The list of available accessories for the Archos 5 includes a DVR station that turns the device into a TV recorder, a mini dock with video output, an mini HDMI dock, a mini DVR dock, a battery dock, a variety of cases and (on the non-hard drive models), MicroSD cards. Ideally, video outputs like component and HDMI would have been built into the device itself, without the need for additional accessories.
Hardcore geeks may even want to replace the Android operating system with something a little more powerful - and Archos provides all the information you need to turn the device into a dual-booting portable computer.
The cheapest Archos 5 Internet tablet comes with 8GB of storage an a MicroSD expansion slot. At $249.99 it is quite a bargain. The 16GB version is $299.99, 32GB is $379.99, 160GB is $399.99 and 500GB is $499.99.
These prices are quite good - the 8GB model may not have enough space for most people, but for around $30, you can add a 16GB MicroSD memory card.
The Archos 5 Internet tablet for travelers?
The Archos 5 has pretty much everything a traveler needs - movie and music playback, excellent browser, email client and a variety of decent Android apps. With the optional mini-dock, you can plug the Archos into a (hotel) TV, and with a USB or Bluetooth mouse/keyboard, you'll even be able to use it as a full computer replacement. Unlike some devices, the Archos displays everything from its screen onto a TV - not just specific TV enabled apps.
In my tests in a hotel room, using the Archos 5 as an entertainment device was just fantastic - very easy to set up and a breeze to use.
A viable alternative to the iPad?
Can the Archos 5 Internet Tablet replace an iPad? In one word - maybe.
It all depends on your requirements. The Archos 5 Internet tablet will most certainly not replace your iPad if you enjoy the applications Apple offers on its devices. Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of decent Android apps, but the Archos lacks access to the Android Market, opting for a specially designed app store built by Archos which does not offer access to some of the most popular Android apps.
Where the Archos beats the iPad (in my opinion) is multimedia - there is no need for iTunes to load content onto the device, and with an available 500GB version, you can carry a lot more content.
The Archos 5 Internet Tablet also has more media format support than the iPad, offering video support for MPEG-4 up to HD resolution, WMV, MKV, M-JPEG and optional support for MPEG-2, VOB and WMV HD. Music support is built in for MP3, WMA, AAC9, OGG and FLAC. The device even supports subtitle files for movies.
I also find the form factor better for travel - the iPad is a really big device, and watching a movie on it when flying just isn't all that practical. The 5" screen on the Archos is just right - nice and bright, and the kickstand makes it perfect for movie watching. I've used it on several flights, and actually enjoyed it more than using my iPad in its case.
As delivered, the Archos 5 Internet Tablet does not come with a dock or video output - so you'll need to invest in the Archos Mini Dock ($29.95). Ideally, this should have been included with the package as it seems like such an essential device.
The Archos 5 Internet Tablet is not perfect - it suffers from a fairly mediocre touch screen and the lack of Google apps (market, Gmail) are a bit of a disappointment. That said - there is a very easy way to load these apps onto the device without having to be too much of a hacker. Obviously, this is not an Archos endorsed method, but it really does improve the device.
Video, audio and photo support is just fantastic - with its long list of formats that work, you won't have to waste time encoding clips to work on the device.
The hardware is also very good - I love the kickstand on the back, and the general look and feel of the device shows a lot of effort went into designing it.
All in all I am quite surprised by the usability of the Archos 5 Internet tablet - so much in fact, that once I send this review unit back, I'm ordering one for myself. The unit is one of the only on the market that has so much video format support, and the option for a large hard drive. Of course, being a huge Android fan only helps my decision.
To make a great media player better, it also works very nicely for email, web and other applications - and you can even use the pre-installed navigation system to turn it into a GPS system.
When selecting an Archos 5 Internet Tablet, you'll want to order the largest you can afford - as delivered, more than half of the space on the 8GB version is occupied by apps and demonstration content.
You can learn more about this very competent little tablet at Archos.com.
Filed under: Gadling Gear Review