Archos has been making portable media players for a while and, as the likes of the Archos 5 showed, the company knows a thing or two about making a good one. Which is why despite being a touchscreen media player running a mobile OS initially designed for a mobile phone, and adapted for a PMP, the Archos 32 isn’t a direct competitor to the iPod touch.
Because anyone can see that it would be mad to compete directly with the iPod touch where its killer combination of beautifully crafted hardware and brilliant software – augmented by the huge range of apps in the App Store – puts it in an untouchable position, if you’ll forgive the pun. So although the 3.2in display where from the Archos 32 derives its name, makes it similar in form factor to an iPod touch, its £100 price tag puts it closer to the iPod nano.
Even though it’s made from plastic the Archos 32 feels solidly built; at 105mm x 55mm x 9mm and weighing only 72 grams it’s larger and heavier than an iPod nano but despite that we didn’t actually find it any less portable. You couldn’t use it as a watch, but the iPod nano as a watch isn’t exactly a paragon of brilliance either. In fact, we actually preferred the larger size of the Archos 32, as it makes one-handed operation a little easier; the iPod nano is a little fiddly to hold.
Particularly surprising to us is how responsive the screen is, given that it’s a resistive, as opposed to capacitive, touchscreen. We’re not so keen on the buttons below the screen; they’re impossible to see in the dark and the volume buttons are replicated as a hardware button on the left edge, just above the power button.
Obviously the lack of multi-touch is a let down, but for the most part it isn’t needed. The Archos 32 may be called an Internet tablet by its maker, but in reality it’s definitely a media player with pretensions to being an Internet tablet; it has a web browser and it can connect to the AppsLib applications library, but these features are not the devices raison d’etre to the extent that they are of the iPod touch. The small size, more than the interface, is what will put you off doing much Internet-ing with the Archos 32.