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Just when you think you're getting too old and sensible for gadget lust, something like the Archos 5 appears. There it is, with its whacking 4.8in screen and its curvy, gun-metal body, and suddenly you don't feel so old or sensible anymore. Archos likes to call it an Internet Media Tablet, but I'm not sure that does it justice. It's tech-temptation incarnate - you only have to see it, and you want it.
Still, I guess Archos' description wins on accuracy, the Archos 5 being a WiFi touchscreen tablet that connects to the Internet and plays nearly all your media (with a few caveats we'll come to later). It plays music and video, browses the Web, handles email, displays photos, plays simple Flash games and can stream media from a UPnP enabled media server. It also supports Internet radio and - if you cough up for the relevant accessory - Freeview digital TV. Other optional add-ons provide GPS, PVR and 3G modem features. It looks like Archos has world domination in its sights.
With a touchscreen GUI Archos has been able to keep the physical design elegant and simple, with two (annoyingly) proprietary connectors at the bottom, power and volume controls on the top, a headphone socket on the left-hand side and a rather tinny little built-in speaker on the right. The unit feels extremely solid but be warned: both case and screen are fingerprint magnets, even if the coatings minimise the impact of such marks on the latter.
The GUI is based on a Linux platform, but Archos has tailored the front end to focus solely on the device's Internet and Media capabilities. The Home screen breaks the functions down into Play, TV, Internet, Tools and Add-Ons, plus a shortcut to Archos's Media Club where you can, if you're minded to, purchase or rent and download a small selection of films and TV programmes directly to your Archos 5. Why you would want to spend £13 on Cloverfield when you can buy it on DVD for half that is beyond me, but I assume there are some suckers out there. Most of us will spend more of our time in the Play and Internet categories.
Music and Video files held on the Archos 5 can be browsed by folder or by tag, and you'll also find shortcuts to Media Servers and Web Radio/TV services in the same space. The lists are primarily text based, with small image thumbnails, but as a whole the interface is clutter-free and easy to use.
The same goes for the Internet services. The email client is simple but functional, and connected to my Gmail account with the bare minimum of fuss. I'd rather it hadn't tried to download all my several thousand messages by default, but really that's all I can complain about.
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