Update: CNET's full review of the Archos 5 is now available.
I've had my hands on the Archos 5 Android internet tablet for more than seven days now, and to be honest, I'm still not sure what to make of it. What's hanging up the review isn't the price (which starts at $249), or capacity (up to 500GB), or the impressive selection of features; it's the devices spotty performance. So far, some stuff just doesn't work as advertised.
If this were Apple or Microsoft, these performance glitches would probably have me spitting venom right now, but Archos is a relatively small company. Chalk it up to looking out for the little guy, but I'm going to give Archos the benefit of the doubt that many of the issues I'm experiencing will be fixed quickly with firmware updates and swept under the rug. In fact, a firmware update earlier this week (v1.1.01) already addressed a problem I had accessing content from microSD cards. In a perfect world, products wouldn't leave the warehouse half-baked--but every company is guilty of it to some degree.
My contact at Archos says there will be another firmware update available next week. Assuming this next round will iron out the kinks, I'm going to hold off on a formal review until then. Of course, I'm also advising that potential buyers wait until our rated review is up before investing in an Archos 5. Considering that Amazon recently froze sales of the 160GB model of the Archos 5, I think it's safe to assume that I'm not the only one having some issues.
Now, true to the title of this piece, my time with the Archos 5 has had its share of bright spots too. Most notably, its video player is one of the best I've used on any device. Unlike previous versions of Archos PVPs, the Archos 5 ships with all the critical video codecs installed, instead of requiring users to purchase codec plug-ins individually. My HD video podcasts, XviD torrents, AVIs, and WMVs all play flawlessly. Videos look great on it too, with the 4.8-inch 800x480-pixel resolution LCD that gives a rich and razor-sharp picture that holds up well, even in daylight. By extension, photos also look great on the Archos 5--although thumbnail previews and transitions aren't nearly as fast and fluid as on the iPod Touch.
If you ask me, the Archos 5's video player alone is worth the price of the whole device, assuming that digital video is really your cup of tea. Unfortunately, as a company, I think Archos is a little tired of being cast as a portable video player manufacturer. Looking at the packaging for the Archos 5, you'd hardly know the device played videos at all. According to the box, this is an "Internet tablet," a term Archos has whittled down from the "Internet media tablet" we saw last year. The choice of phrasing seems particularly odd considering that the device's media features are stronger than ever. I assume Archos wants people to understand in no uncertain terms that they are in the tablet business, in spite of seven years spent manufacturing media players. … Read more