Yes, Virginia, the screen really is that big. Almost too big to call it portable…but not quite. At 7 inches, this is by far the largest screen I have ever used on a portable device. But while size matters, largest does not always mean best. A few weeks ago, I reviewed the Archos 7’s younger sibling, the Archos 5, and found it to be nice, but less than perfect. So,how will the Archos 7 stand up to the scrutiny of this review? Will the larger screen and firmware upgrades give it the boost it needs to rise to the top of this crowded field? Let’s take a look.
The first thing I want to mention is that much of this device is identical to the Archos 5, which I reviewed not long ago. So, consider this an update to that review. Rather than rehash everything I already said, just go read that review. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
OK, good. now that we are all caught up, what I want to talk about here are the things that are different or improved on the Archos 7.
Obviously, the most noticeable difference between the Archos 5 and Archos 7 is the massive screen. I really did not think those two inches would make a big difference, but the truth is that those two inches took this device from a mediocre video player in the Archos 5 to the Archos 7 which blew my mind.
I will admit that this seven inch screen was probably as large as it could have been without encroaching upon the netbook category. And I was a little afraid that the screen would be too large to really remain portable. But I thought Archos did a great job here. They designed a device which is slim and relatively light, and really utilizes all seven inches of the screen. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that until Apple releases their much rumored 7 inch iPod Touch, this is my new favorite device for watching videos.
And while we are on the subject of the iPod Touch, just for kicks, giggles, and comparison, here is a picture of the Archos and iPod Touch side by side. I paused both at the same point in the movie Transformers. It is difficult to compare the resolution in these photos, but you can clearly see how much bigger this screen is. making it the ideal device for someone like me who is not interested in watching videos on a tiny screen, but loves the idea of taking an entire video collection everywhere I go.
Here is another shot to show you just how much larger this screen is than the ipod Touch.
In addition to the large screen, however, the second draw of the Archos Internet Media Tablet is the Internet accessibility. Eventually, there will be a 3G version, but for now you can only connect to the Internet via Wifi. When I reviewed the Archos 5, I was frustrated by its inability to recognize and consistently connect to my Wifi network. a new firmware upgrade, however, has resolved this issue once and for all. The Archos 7 was able to find and connect with my home network with no trouble, even with the most advanced security enabled.
The other thing I noticed was the onscreen keyboard. On the five inch screen, this keyboard felt cramped and did not fit well with my thumbs. On the seven inch screen, this keyboard became nice, large buttons which allowed easy and quick text entry.
And while we are on the subject of bigger and better, take a look at this hard drive. I thought the Archos 5 included a nice sized hard drive, but this Archos 7 features 160 GB of storage. that is simply incredible. To put this into perspective, I was able to store all of my videos, all of my photos, and all of my music on this hard drive. and I still had well over half of it to go. Barring a significant format change in how videos are stored, I would not expect to run out of storage on this one. And this was the smaller version, if you can believe it. Just in case this is not enough, watch out for the 320 GB model.
But the news is not all good. There were still two glaring problems I had with the Archos 7. The first was the relatively limited number of video codecs. I was disappointed, for example, to find that videos formatted to play on my iPod Touch would not work here. This is a pretty big problem, considering that many of the users purchasing this may be upgrading from an iPod. Above, you can see what happened when I tried to play videos formatted for my iPod. Hopefully, this problem may be fixed in a future firmware upgrade.
The second problem I had here was the price. The 160 GB model costs $449.99 while the upgraded 320 GB model costs a whopping $549.99. This really posed a problem. With the price of netbooks which do all this and more steadily dropping, it is difficult to justify spending $450-$550 on the Archos 7 rather than potentially significantly less on a 10 inch MSI Wind. Archos is going to have to find a way to secure a better price point, preferably sub $400 in order for these to fit into the expected niche.
When I reviewed the Archos 5, I was a bit less than impressed. It really did not live up to my expectations, and the five inch screen was not significantly larger than the iPod Touch. All of that change with the Archos 7. Those extra two inches took this from being a mediocre video player to a best in class media tablet. Not only did it significantly improve my experience watching video, but (coupled with the firmware improvements), I also found that surfing the Internet was a much better experience here. Almost all of the doubts I voiced with the Archos 5 were answered in full with the Archos 7. If you are looking for a portable video player, which will allow you to store, transport, and view every video in your library, then your search can start and end with the Archos 7 Internet Media Tablet.
What I liked:
- Enormous 7 inch screen
- Onscreen keyboard works great
- Firmware upgrades now allow for access to all encryption keys on your network
What Needs Improvement:
- Video codecs are too limited
Where to Purchase: Archos
Price: $449 and up