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Archos 5 internet-enabled PMP

Our new favourite mobile video device?

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The same money again will get you the “Video podcast” plug-in, supporting H.264 – which really should come pre-loaded - and AAC audio. A soon-to-arrive "Hi-Def" plug-in will let you view 720p WMV and MPEG 4 files. In due course, you'll be able to get all three plug-ins together for £25.

Twenty-five notes, but still no FLAC or Ogg support? That's taking le grande pipi. If Archos were just passing on licence fees then fair enough, but quite clearly it's charging way, way more. Its position seems to be 'why charge people for codecs they don't want?' Well, we never play WMA files on our devices, so can we have a few quid off? No? Thought not. The player also supports PDF, JPEG, BMP, PNG and GIF files.

On the upside, at least the web browser comes free with the 5 - Archos is still charging £20 for the same plug-in for the 605 Wi-Fi!

Archos 5 internet media tablet

A 3.5mm headphones jack resides on the left hand side

The touchscreen places the on-screen volume control to the right and a play bar at bottom. For the 5, Archos has tightened the whole thing up, made it a little more intuitive than before and stuck to a simple, clear and attractive white-on-silver-and-black colour scheme. It's also added some some nice touches, such as the option to put shortcuts to regularly opened folders on the main screen.

The video fast-forward and rewind controls are worth highlighting. Dragging the play bar back and forth enables you to move through feature films at lightning pace, while pressing the fast-forward or rewind arrows ramps the speed up smoothly and progressively. We haven't come across a media player that enables the user to navigate through long videos in a more usable or reliable manner.

Audio quality has sometimes been a bit of an Archos Achilles' heel but the 5 is quite the best sounding player it has produced to date, though it's a shame that the supplied earphones are so cheap and nasty.

Using our usual test Griffin Tunebud earbuds and Sennheiser HD 25-SP headphones we were thoroughly impressed by the composure and quality of the sound across a range of styles and genres stretching from Beethoven's Op. 131 string quartet, through some Mylene Farmer dance re-mixes, to Virginia Astley's achingly sublime 1986 Sakamoto-produced album Hope in a Darkened Heart.

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