Sony Walkman Z: Android never sounded sweeter

LAS VEGAS--Sony may be running out of letters, but they haven't run out of ideas.

Their latest creation, announced at CES 2012, is the Sony Walkman Z. You can think of it as Sony's answer to the Apple iPod Touch. The device runs Android 2.3 on a relatively spacious 4.3 inch touch screen, set at an 800x480 resolution.

Expected in the first half of 2012, the Walkman Z will come in just one color (black, with a purplish backing) and three capacities: 8GB ($249), 16GB ($279), and 32GB ($329).

The Walkman Z is a fully-licensed Google … Read more

Cowon V5 supports HDMI, DivX, and WTF?

The Cowon V5 is a portable video player with flexible audio and video format support, HD video output capabilities, and a pocket-size design that's roughly the same dimensions as an iPod Classic. Unfortunately, those are about the only good things we have to say about it.

Overpriced at $299 (16GB) and $369 (32GB), the Cowon V5 plays out like a case study in how not to design a touch-screen user interface. 

Some design elements are just goofy and harmless, such as the progress bar used on audio and video playback that features a lovelorn man running toward a … Read more

Archos tablets go bigger, dumber, cheaper

Do you like the idea of a coffee table tablet PC, but can't imagine shelling out $500 for an iPad? If so, perhaps you'd be interested in paying half as much for half the functionality at half the speed.

That seems to be the logic behind the latest announcement (Google Translate) from Archos, where details for a pair of "Home Tablets" were made public ahead of Cebit.

The Home Tablets are both based off Google's Android operating system, but skinned and augmented by Archos in a similar fashion as the Archos 5 Internet Tablet released near the end of last year.

The smaller of the two new tablets is the Archos 7, which sports a design similar to the Archos 5, but uses a larger 7-inch touch screen. Internally, the Archos 7 takes a big step back from the Archos 5, running its system on a basic 600MHz ARM 9 processor. You can connect over Wi-Fi to check e-mail and browse the Web, but Archos 5 features such as Bluetooth and GPS are a no-go.

The Archos 7 also includes a microSD memory slot, which is a good thing considering the device will only come in 2GB and 8GB capacities. Multimedia playback is mentioned in the press release (including Flash video), but no… Read more

Viewsonic puts 1080p in your pocket

Viewsonic isn't one of the first names that spring to mind when we think of portable media players, but that may change after its MovieBook VPD550T drops this April. Complete with a 5-inch LCD touch screen (800x480-pixel resolution), 8GB of internal memory, microSD expansion, and an HDMI output capable of 1080p resolution, Viewsonic is coming out with guns blazing on this one.

But the best feature by far is the $199 price tag. Well, the price is the best feature for me at least, since I'm a bit of a cheapskate. If you're a connoisseur of video … Read more

Archos 5 highs and lows

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

Archos 5 Android PMP officially for sale

After a streak of Wi-Fi portable media players this season, including the Sony X-Series Walkman, iPod Touch, and Zune HD, the Android-based Archos 5 Internet tablet is probably the last major portable media player we'll see before the year's end. It would make for a cute read if I said they've saved the best for last, but after a few days with the Archos 5, I'm still not exactly sure where it ranks among its peers.

Fortunately, now that Amazon has officially put the Archos 5 up for sale, there's nothing stopping you from ordering … Read more

FCC outs Archos Android media tablets

Just when you thought Zunes and iPods would have September all to themselves, the portable video player powerhouse known as Archos drops off two new devices for FCC approval.

The Archos A5S and A5H revealed in the FCC documents look very similar to last year's Archos 5 Internet media tablet, although the photos show a new white color for the A5S (shown above), and close-up shots of the A5H reveal what looks like a microSD slot and microUSB port. There's no mistaking the Archos 5's same gorgeous, 4.8-inch TFT display, though, which still gives us shivers (… Read more

Iriver B30 caught on video, in a closet

Iriver may not have the same brand recognition as iPod or Zune, but the Korea-based company has consistently cranked out portable media players with slick modern designs and impressive graphic interfaces.

The U.S. has been treated to a handful of Iriver products, including the Clix, Spinn, and P7, but some of the company's creations never make it to our shores. The Iriver B30 is one such product--a portable media player with a 2.8-inch screen, micro SD memory expansion, accelerometer control, and a suite of features that includes music, video, photo, games, and a text reader. Unfortunately, the … Read more

The MP3 Insiders' gift picks for dads and grads

Jasmine: "June has always been an action-packed month for me. I can't remember the last time I didn't know someone who was graduating from somewhere, and I have always spent the third Sunday of the month hanging out with my dad. As such, I have plenty of experience picking out apt gifts for the occasions, no matter what my budget at the time. In that spirit, I've rounded up a handful of gadgets that range from uberaffordable to ultralux."

Check out Jasmine's picks for dads and grads.

Donald: "College is a time when … Read more

Iriver P7 review: Pretty, boring

Iriver's latest portable video player, the P7, has plenty going for it: big screen, low price, and a stylish design. From the moment we pried its aluminum frame from the package, we were certain this thing was going to be a slam dunk. We were wrong.

While the P7's design feels like a million bucks, internally, the sluggish touch screen, jerky menus, and surprisingly limited video flexibility show the P7 for the $169 player that it is. We're also living at a time where there are a number of video-worthy options in the $200 PVP space, with … Read more