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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Archos 5 Internet Tablet

Following up on my previous post about how Apple iPods are low-quality devices which do not last very long, I would like to mention my new device, and talk about its strengths and weaknesses.

The world had moved on considerably since the time I bought my second iPod, and I now wanted a device which did more, specifically a device which would have a web browser. I searched the internet all of one night and settled on the Archos 5 Internet Tablet. (Note: a couple days after I bought my A5, Archos released the Archos 4.3 Internet Tablet, which is the new generation of the device. So if you are going to buy one, the 4.3 is the one to get.)

The A5 has many good points and also many bad points. The good:
  • It runs Android, which is a very good and very usable operating system for portable information devices. Having this operating system means it is has a broad feature set and can run most standard Android apps.
  • The size is nice. It's bigger than most Android phones, yet still fits in a pocket.
  • The touch screen is responsive. Some people complain that it isn't capacitive, but I have had no problem. It's nice.
  • The screen is plenty bright. When I turn the brightness up, it's very bright; and I can also turn the brightness down, and it goes pretty dim.
  • It has wifi and bluetooth and gps.
  • There are lots of accessories for it.
The bad:
  • The version of Android for the A5 is 1.6, which is ancient. This leads to compatibility problems when newer software won't run on the device.
  • The A5 comes with some kind of fake, stupid market which has very few and very bad apps.
  • The GPS signal strength is poor. I get reception outdoors but not indoors usually.
  • The battery life is disappointing. My iPod could go a few days without charging because it was smart with regulating its power use, but the A5 is not so smart. I have to charge it every night.
Some of the bad things about the A5 can be mitigated, and I suggest any owner do so:
  • The full, regular Android Market can be added to the A5 by following these instructions. Do that to enjoy most of the apps enjoyed by other Android users. Some apps won't work because the Archos does not support the full feature set of typical Android devices.
  • Somebody somewhere is working on an up-to-date version of Android (v2.2 or "froyo") which will run on the A5, and someday they will release it, and when they do, that will be really nice.
  • Turn the screen brightness down to minimum to save power. Also, set your screen timeout to the shortest period you can handle.
  • Install a widget which will toggle wifi off and on. Keep it off when you don't need it in order to save power. This is much more convenient than going into the system settings all the time.
  • Install a widget which will toggle bluetooth off and on, if you use bluetooth, to save power.

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