Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet review

4 out of 5
£279.99 (60GB), £319.99 (120GB), £359.99 (250GB)

For

Screen, features, menu interface

Against

Have to buy lots of dongles and software add-ons to get the most out of it

Archos' latest media player promises to be more than just a device that lets you listen to music and the odd music video on the go, so has it succeeded? We get watching to find out.

In the past Archos has never really paid attention to design. The portable media players the company has released have been clunky in looks and clunky in the interface, but finally someone at Archos has sat up and listened.

The new Archos 5 is, while large, stylish with smoothed curves, a gloss front and rubberised back. The slimmed-down device now measures only 12.5mm thick (depending on the model), so slips easily into a pocket or bag. Buttons are kept to a minimum and well placed, while sockets have also been kept to a minimum (there are just two).

Powered by an ARM Cortex-powered superscalar microprocessor, the interface is zippy and quick to load. Video, images and music can be stored on the 60GB, 120GB or 250GB hard drive. The only complaint here is that the device vibrated (rather off-putting) when the hard drive is in action. There is no memory card slot.

More impressive than that large humming hard drive, which is likely to come in handy when storing HD footage, is that the software interface has been drastically overhauled since the last PMP outing. The company has clearly now got a design department and for once it doesn't look like something that's been knocked up in 20 minutes in a shed somewhere by a couple of geeks.

While the Archos range has been traditionally been placed in the music section, the latest model doesn't really have music at its core anymore. It does so much more.

Branded as an Internet Media Tablet, the new model, which features a 5-inch (800 x 480) crystal clear screen and Wi-Fi connection as standard, lets you listen to music, but also watch video, view photos, play games as well as run Flash apps. If that wasn't enough with the help of an optional docking station you can connect it to your PVR or Sky box and schedule recordings to watch on the go.

On the internet front you can surf the web, access your email and store contacts while there is also access to Archos' Media Club, and that's before you start to contemplate all the additional adds-ons, both hardware and software, that Archos has now added. It seems everything from GPS dongles to Freeview to even the ability to add 3G connectivity so you can surf on the go are available.

Archos say that the optional Mini Dock also lets you transfer photos directly from a digital camera, USB key or USB hard drive to the ARCHOS to enjoy photos on the go.

So it's featured packed, but what's it like to use? Surprisingly easy in fact. The large touchscreen is incredibly responsive and the menu system easy to use with menus clearly labelled.

Flash 9 video capabilities via the Opera browser means you can watch Flash videos online (yes you can watch everything from YouPorn to YouTube) and videos play full screen with the media player taking over the duties rather than you having to zoom in.

Text is entered via a large landscape onscreen keyboard and scrolling around web pages is similar to any other touchscreen device out there.

Verdict

The Archos 5 is more than just a music or video player, but a fully featured Media Internet Device (MID) that once you've watched videos and listened to some music, lets you surf the web, get your emails and then if you've got the TV docking station record content from the TV.

The catch? To fully realise the potential of this device you will have to buy some software add-ons from Archos as well as the TV docking station, so it’s worth bearing that in mind when you think of a final price.

If you are willing to do that and want a device that offers a considerably more comprehensive offering than the iPod touch (certainly when it comes to video playback) then this is worth a closer look.