It was just a shame the system refuses to play any DivX HD, Xvid HD or H.264 HD, or any MKV files. Cowon's latest O2 PMP does, and it's clearly going to be a huge selling point. We also had a problem with HD WMV, though we suspect this was a problem with our unit as Archos claims this format is supported.
The completely overhauled interface mentioned earlier is an admirable bonus. You're presented with a gorgeous glossy black interface when the system boots, and although deeper menus and file listings are somewhat clunky-looking with their overly large fonts, they're clear and easy to use.
In fact that the whole system's easy to use once you get accustomed to pressing quite hard on the touchscreen, which isn't as sensitive or responsive as the iPhone or iPod touch.
Neither is the Web browser, sadly. Being able to browse the full Web with Flash is great, and in exactly half of our tests over Wi-Fi, the Archos 5 loaded large Web pages faster than the iPhone. But scrolling, zooming and navigating pages isn't as smooth or enjoyable.
Despite that, it's still one of the best portable Web browsers on the market, but will be a distinct second to the iPhone or iPod touch. Possibly the biggest advantage is being able to watch streaming Flash videos. We streamed loads of CNET UK videos in full-screen, but trying to watch BBC iPlayer Flash videos was almost impossible, thanks to slow load times and low choppy video playback.
The email app seemed to work okay for us, but it only offers IMAP and POP support, and only plain text emails. We set up our personal Gmail account within seconds and managed to send and receive emails. Since Archos took the time to add email functioning to this product, we think Microsoft Exchange would've been a compelling addition, along with HTML email.
Archos likes to call this an 'Internet Media Tablet', but we disagree with the choice of name. We think it's an outstanding portable video player, with excellent Web browsing as a bonus. We hate the expensive codec plugins, and if you don't want any Internet functions at all we'd recommend checking out the Cowon A3.
But if you can afford it and want the best combination of Web access and outstanding video performance, this is one of the only players in the world you need to consider.
The Archos 5 is available now from Advanced MP3 Players.
Edited by Marian Smith