Archos has been making portable media players for a long time. Long before the iPod touch was a twinkle in Steve Jobs' eye, Archos was producing big screen portable media players, with capacious storage and more features than you could shake a stick at. But now that the world and its dog are producing PMPs, can Archos still produce products that stand out from the crowd? If what I saw yesterday was anything to go by, the answer is a definite yes!
The new Archos 5 Internet Tablet is the first device to come out of the Archos stable running Google's Android platform. That means that the new Internet Tablet can run all of the apps that are available via the Android AppsLib Store (the Archos version of Android Market). As with the Apple app store, you'll find a mix of free and paid-for apps in the Android AppsLib Store, some genuinely useful, some pointless but cool, and some that will leave you scratching your head wondering why anyone coded them.
You get a selection of pre-loaded apps such as Deezer for music streaming, eBuddy for multi-platform instant messaging and ThinkFree Mobile for viewing Office documents. ThinkFree Mobile should also allow editing of documents before the end of the year.
As we've already seen on Android phones like the T-Mobile G1 and HTC Hero, the home screen is split into three pages. You can swipe between the pages and drag apps and shortcuts to any of them for quick access. But unlike Android phones, the Internet Tablet also has shortcuts to the traditional Archos PMP functionality along the bottom of the screen.
The device itself is surprisingly slim, but it's the 4.8in screen that really grabs your attention, while the 800 x 480 resolution means that you'll be making the most of that physical screen real estate too. There's also full Flash support, so you'll have no problem watching online video from pretty much any source. You'll also be able to play and download any Flash based games, if you're so inclined.
Obviously there's Wi-Fi built in, but you also get Bluetooth, complete with mobile phone tethering. So if you do need to get online and you can't find a Wi-Fi network, you can always use your mobile - just check your contract for data modem charges before you start downloading.
You also get built-in GPS, complete with custom mapping. However, you only get a seven day trial of the sat-nav functionality, after which you'll have to purchase it. There was no word on how much this will cost though.
Having got my hands on an early sample of the Internet Tablet at the launch, I can confirm that it's a very nicely designed and built device. It has a quality feel to it, and it definitely looks like a cutting edge piece of kit. In use it seemed pretty speedy - definitely faster than my iPhone 3G that's for sure - although it did take a while to render all the cover art when looking at the music library.
As usual with Archos, there will be a host of accessories for the Internet Tablet including a snap-on TV tuner and a dock for hooking it up to your main TV. Once docked the device can output video at a 1,280 x 720 HD standard, while also recording TV shows via any set-top box tuners you may have.
The Archos 5 Internet Table will ship in both solid state and hard disk formats. The solid state versions will come in 8GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities, costing £199.99, £274.99 and £369.99 respectively. All devices also have an SDHC slot for expanding the capacity. The hard disk versions start at 160GB and go up to a staggering 500GB! I'm awaiting confirmed pricing for the HDD versions.
Both versions of the Internet Tablet measure 143.2mm wide and 78.8mm high, while the solid state versions are 10.4mm thick, with the HDD versions more substantial at 20mm thick. The weight of the flash memory based models is 182g, while the HDD versions are, unsurprisingly heavier at 286g.
Finally, Archos also officially announced that it will be producing an Android based, touch-screen phone in the near future. The device looks set to compete directly with the iPhone and other Android handsets, packing a 1GHz ARM Cortex CPU and a 4.3in screen. That's about all the detail that Archos was willing to reveal, other than the fact that the device will be called the Archos Phone Tablet.