Archos 7 internet-enabled PMP
Two inches can go a long way
Review So, how much difference does two inches make? This is what you must ask yourself when deciding if the Archos 7 is worth the extra cash over and above its 5in-screened sibling, the Archos 5 .
While the 7 is a big chunk-of-a-device, it doesn't feel the unholy monster that the Archos 705  does. Size-wise it measures 190 x 110 x 16mm and weighs 640g, which makes it about two-thirds again as big and twice as heavy as the 5. It most certainly is not pocket portable, but it should slip into the average backpack or manbag without causing too much grief and it maintains the 5's solid metal case and sleek, minimalist styling.
Archos 7: not exactly pocket portable
The 7's screen is actually 6.8in corner to corner, but Archos 6.8 would be a silly name for a device. Size apart, it's the same as the screen in the 5 with a resolution of 800 x 480 and a 16m colour palette.
The extra acreage means that video files of a given resolution do not look quite as crisp as they do on the 5 or Cowon A3 , though you would have to put them side by side to notice the difference.
On the other hand you can comfortably watch the 7 from a greater distance than the 5, and the extra screen size means 2.4:1 widescreen DVD rips can be watched for longer with far less eye strain.
Without banging on again about Archos's habit of charging more for certain audio and video codecs, let's just say that out of the box the 7 supports Flac, Ogg, MP3, WMA and WAV audio along with WMV and MPEG4 AVI – divX and Xvid – video and that those will probably satisfy the majority of purchasers. The 7 will also display JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF and PDF files.
It's a shame that the 7's screen can't be changed from landscape to portrait while viewing PDF files as it can when viewing JPEGS - if it could the 7 would make a decent little impromptu PDF eBook reader.
Two speakers significantly improve the sound quality
Turning from one page to the next is a simple matter of making an up-swipe on the screen. Of course a future firmware update may address this - Archos has already released three updates for its internet media tablets since October 13.
Physically the 7 has a couple of clear design improvements over the 5. Firstly it has two very respectable speakers, one on each side of the screen. While the single speaker on the 5 was frankly a waste of space, the stereo set on the 7 produce a more than capable sound and churn out a decent volume.
Set it up on your desk and you can quite comfortably watch video without headphones, though as you would expect everything is a bit too bass-light for serious music enjoyment.
Secondly it has a power jack on the lower right hand side so you can charge it through the supplied mains adapter while you are using it. This however is rather a case of Archos giving with one hand and taking with the other as the 7, unlike the 5, cannot be charged with a USB cable.
In the vast majority of respects using the 7 is really no different from using the 5, the underlying Linux operating system, performance, capabilities and touch screen user interface being identical. When browsing the web the extra screen size really does pay dividends though, the layout and appearance feeling for more akin to an 8.9in netbook screen than a standard PMP.
The power jack is on the right-hand side, but it can't be charged with a USB cable
Tapping hyperlinks was never an issue on the 5, but on the 7 it's just that bit easier to touch the right link without having to double tap the screen to zoom in. The virtual keyboard, being larger, is even easier to use than on the 5.
Before we get deluged with yet more comments about Archos PMP's going titsup and crashing every other five minutes, it's worth stating clearly that in the week we had our 7 it didn't need resetting once.
We looked at the 5 before the arrival of the firmware update that added Ogg and Flac file support, so focussed our 7 listening tests on the new codecs. Adding Flac file support to music players is not straightforward as one might expect - some players that generate a perfectly decent sound from MP3 or AAC files can sound harsh and edgy – or “too digital” as someone in the office once complained - when playing Flac files. Not so with the 7, a Flac encoded version of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon sounding both warm and natural.
Or rather it sounded warm and natural when we plugged in a decent pair of earphones. The 7, like the 5, comes with a pretty unimpressive pair of buds that really are inexcusable at the price.
Archos say the 7's battery is good for 39 hours of audio or 10 of video, both numbers considerably higher than those quoted for the 5 and suggesting that the 7 has a far more hefty battery stuck up its behind. Our tests came out at 32 and 8 respectively which were far, far closer to the manufacturers claims than were our results with the 5.
Volume and power controls are situated at the top - much like the 5
Of course that video duration is for playback of files stored on the 7's hard drive. Start playing video that is being streamed over a UPnP network and the Wi-Fi radio's power draw will cut that number in half. The audio playback time is also conditional on the screen being switched off for the majority of the time – a 7in LCD sucks up a fair amount of juice.
The 160GB 7 will set you back £352 which compares well with the £313 price tag on the 120GB Archos 5. The 320GB model comes in at an eye-watering £430 as compared to the £352 that a 250GB 5 will set you back. Expensive, but then you do getting a very nice bit of kit for your hard earned and a bigger hard drive than the majority of laptops. We were a little shocked that Archos don't see fit to supply the 7 with any sort of case or cover, though.
The Archos 7 is an expensive box of tricks, no doubt about it, but on the other hand it comes with a huge – or in the case of the 320GB model a vast – hard drive and is very competent. Worth the extra over the 5? On balance, yes - assuming that absolutely portability is not an issue.
More Media Players...