The past couple of weeks have been exciting for Android fans. Last week Motorola announced its entry into the Android game with the Cliq, the first phone to run the company's Motoblur user interface. Hot on Motorola's heels, LG announced its first Android phone, the LG-GW620. But the latest Android device isn't a smartphone--the Archos 5 is a full-featured Internet media tablet.
This slick device does just about everything, from speedy Web browsing to HD video support. I got some hands-on time with one of the flash-drive models, and its slim size and light weight impressed me. It sports a fairly minimalist look, with a 4.8-inch 800-by-400-pixel display dominating its face and power and volume buttons at the top edge.
Oddly, the 3.5mm headphone jack is on the side of the tablet, rather than the top or the bottom. This makes the player awkward to hold, since the headphone plug jabs into your palm if you're holding the device. The first player we reviewed in the Archos 5 tablet family, which ran Linux, also had this design flaw; it's unfortunate that the company didn't fix this.
The Archos 5 Internet tablet supports a wide range of media files, including HD video. Right now, it is the only Android device that supports video formats in HD, which opens up some interesting possibilities for Android app developers who want to explore high-def territory. In my tests, video looked smooth, with bright and accurate colors, when played on the device and on an HDTV.
The browser on the Archos 5 supports Adobe Flash 9, and will be compatible with Flash 10 when that becomes available. Multimedia-rich pages such as those at NewYorkTimes.com loaded quickly and looked great on the large screen. One nice thing about viewing Web pages on tablets rather than on smartphones is that you can see their full width rather than having to shrink the pages down or scroll them.
Preloaded on the tablet is a suite of Android applications such as eBuddy for instant messaging, Twidroid for using Twitter, Deezer for streaming music, and Tinksfree for viewing Microsoft Office files. You can, of course, download more apps from the Android Market or from Archos's own AppsLib store for the Archos 5 and future Android tablets to come.
One of the most intriguing apps is the TeleAtlas application. The software has not only the usual GPS features (such as turn-by-turn directions and voice assistance) but also a 3D Photo Realistic mode. In that mode the maps use multiple angles and zoom levels to show landmarks and streets as accurately as possible. You get a free 7-day trial of TeleAtlas; afterward, unlocking the software will cost $50. Each 3D Photo Realistic map of a city will cost $5 when the option becomes available in the United States in the first quarter of 2010.
The Archos 5 is available today from Amazon.com and from the Archos Web site in two models: The flash 8GB model (expandable up to 32GB with a microSD card) costs $250, while the hard-drive 160GB model costs $430. The tablet will ship with earphones, a DVR station adapter, and a standard USB cable.
This story, "First Look: Archos 5 -- a full-featured Android Internet tablet" was originally published by PCWorld.