This sort of miserly behaviour remains a bugbear for the Archos 7. As with the Archos 5, you can play SD MPEG-4 and WMV files, but if you want to play HD H.264, MPEG-4 and WMV files then you’ll have to pay for a plug-in which – at the time of writing – isn’t actually available to download. This isn’t a disaster for anyone with some technical know-how a decent video format conversion package (a description that covers anyone who can rip a DVD to their PC anyway) but if you’ve already encoded your files for HD playback from a media centre or HDD-based playback device, you don’t really want to have to re-encode them for playback on a portable player. It’s not as if it’s a particularly speedy process, after all.
Other issues with the Archos 5 recur with the Archos 7. The good news is that the firmware seems much more stable this time, with only one crash or stall while I was using the player, but the touchscreen interface still seems less than ideal. The actual GUI isn’t bad at all; it’s easy to navigate to files or functions, browse media libraries and move forwards and backwards through the interface – all things that some of Archos’ Far Eastern rivals struggle to manage. Unfortunately, the touchscreen itself still isn’t that responsive or predictable in its activity. Sometimes it needs a good, hard prod, while at other times an unintentional finger movement sends you somewhere you don’t want to go. Basically, there are no guarantees.
Nowhere is this felt more than in what should be the Archos 7’s piece-de-resistance, Web browsing. The browser is based on Opera and is flash compliant, and that large, relatively high-resolution screen is ideal for a little light surfing. However, I just found it too difficult to accurately click on links or use the onscreen keyboard. For every time the Archos 7 did what I wanted it to, there was a time where it zoomed the screen in or out or navigated to another page instead. Use improves with practice, but it really shouldn’t be this hit and miss.