updated 03:05 pm EDT, Tue September 15, 2009
Archos 5 with Android official
As promised, Archos today launched its first-ever device to use a smartphone-class OS. The Archos 5 Internet Tablet still uses Archos' own more developed interface for media playback but takes advantage of Google's platform for more advanced web browsing, e-mail, and true third-party apps. Speeding this along is a new app portal known as AppsLib that carries Android apps written with the Archos 5 in mind or reformatted for its input, such as Deezer for Internet radio or ThinkFree Office for Microsoft Office document viewing (and later editing).
The Archos 5 is simultaneously one of Archos' most powerful tablets to date and uses an ARM Cortex-A8 processor, much like that in the iPhone 3GS, to fully power 720p video decoding either on the portable's 5-inch, 800x480 touchscreen or at full resolution through an optional HDMI dock. An updated DVR Station lets users record conventional sources while outputting to HDMI.
Format support is typical but includes modern standards like AAC audio and H.264 video. Archos has also written its own support for protected Windows Media Audio and Video, neither of which are officially supported in Android.
As a networked device, the tablet is mainly limited to Internet access over Wi-Fi (albeit faster 802.11n) but has a Bluetooth link that supports data tethering to a smartphone with 3G or a similar cellular link. It has its own GPS onboard and a dedicated GPS app with 3D views of buildings as well as satellite overlays; an FM transmitter routs audio from the directions or from the music player through to a car's stereo. In a first for Archos, it supports pedestrian navigation and not just driving.
Keeping in sync with Archos' usual release strategy, the company has both flash-based and hard drive-based versions of the 5 that vary not only in capacity but in size. The flash-based versions are meant to be more pocketable and measure just 0.4 inches thick in 8GB, 16GB and 32GB capacities that cost $250, $300 and $380 respectively. Those willing to trade size for storage have the option of a $330 160GB model and a $430 version with 500GB of drive space.
All of the models should be available for order today.
The introduction renews Archos' competition in the touchscreen media device space, where it has had no answer to the iPod touch since it gained support for third-party apps and may risk competition from a future Apple tablet. Archos has been a veteran of the category, operating in the field for years, but has until now relied solely on an in-house Linux variant that doesn't support outside software. It moreover represents one of the first instances of a mainstream hardware maker producing a non-phone Android device, which has been touted as a platform for mobile computing but until now has largely been confined to smartphones.