It’s the media functionality that really makes the Archos 5 Internet Tablet worth considering. That 4.8in screen makes this a fabulous device for watching video, whether that be catching up on your favourite TV shows, or watching a classic movie for the 100th time. I’ve never been totally sold on serious video watching on the move, but with the Archos 5 Internet Tablet you simply forget that you’re sitting on a train or plane. Over the past couple of months I’ve watched three seasons of The Wire while travelling into London and back each day, and the journeys just flew by as a result.
As is usually the case, codec support is simply brilliant. I’ve ripped my entire DVD collection to my NAS box, leaving them all as VOB files, and copying a few to the Archos 5 resulted in a superb movie experience. Not only is the image quality excellent, you can choose to leave the aspect ratio as it should be (the best choice), or adapt it to fit the screen. The Archos 5 had no problems playing back DivX or Xvid files either, while high definition MKV files also posed no problem to this hardcore handheld.
One thing I will say about watching HD content, is that with the screen’s 800 x 480 resolution, you can’t really see any image quality improvement over SD video. That said, you can purchase a TV out module for the Archos 5, which will then allow you to pump 1,280 x 720 HD content to your high definition TV, which could be quite handy if you don’t have a media streamer that supports MKV. While I’m on the subject of HD footage, the Archos 5 won’t playback h.264 files until you’ve registered the device. This is slightly annoying, but you only have to do this once.
You can buy a TV tuner module for the Archos 5. Not only will this allow you to watch TV on the move, but you can also turn the device into a PVR, thus recording programmes directly to the Archos 5 for viewing at a later date. You can also hook it up to a set-top box and record from that using the TV dock. You can stream video from a PC or NAS appliance on your network, using the built-in Wi-Fi adapter. This worked flawlessly in my house, streaming Xvid, VOB and even MKV files from my Netgear ReadyNAS NV+.
One interesting point about video playback is that according to the Archos website, this device won’t playback MPEG2 or VOB files without first installing the optional Cinema package, but I had no problem playing back both formats without installing anything.