Saturday, August 8, 2009

Archos 7 Review...

Hello guys and gals.

So finally, after a few weeks of major use of the so called "Internet Media Tablet", the Archos 7, I can say without question that this is indeed definitely the PMP to have! We will get into the pros and cons in a bit but let me talk to you about my experiences.



Do you need the Archos 7?

The Archos 7 is the 6th generation of PMP players from Archos and definitely one-ups the previous iterations. The design is bolder and beautiful (both the Archos 5 and 7) than their previous counterparts the Archos 605 and 705, battery life has been improved, the internet browser plug-in is now free once you register your player and internet navigation is faster. Now if you are questioning, why the heck did you buy the Archos 7? Well, that's easy! I'm already the proud owner of an Archos 605 WiFi 30GB unit and I believe it is indeed one of the finest, if not the finest, portable media player out there. Yes it is kind of bulky and not so pretty but it does its job and it does it well! Since I'm a movie buff, I wanted a player with a bigger screen but most important, those "measly" 30GB from the 605 were already coming to an end... I needed something with more capacity and that's where the Archos 7 came in! So the answer to this first question, do you need the Archos 7, it will really depend on what PMP you have right now and your needs! If you use your PMPs for music as the main use, then you can get the 5 or another lighter and smaller player. If you are into movies, then you will know my answer! ;-)



The box contains the following:

1) USB Transfer cable (Proprietary!)
2) Cheapo In-ear Headphones (Plastic and uncomfortable!)
3) Charger (with multiple plugs for the different regions of the world!)
4) Plastic thingie for the Docking Station if you decide to buy one
5) Cleaning Cloth
6) Quick Start Guide, promotional stuff and Legal and Safety Notice documentation





Is it really that big?

Ohhhh yes it is! lol
Is not only big, it's heavy as hell! ;-)
The dimension for this is, according to their web page, Approx. 190 x 110 x 16 mm ; 7.48" x 4.33" x 0.629". The weight is Approx. 640 gr.; 23oz.. definitely greater than my trusty 605. But maybe some pics will give you a better indication of what am talking about... and just forget those numbers above! hehehehe







(and yes, that's a Swiffer in the corner! -- which I don't use often! hehehehe)

Internet Media Tablet?

Archos is selling the Archos 5 and 7 as Internet Media Tablets and well, they are kind of stretching it for a bit. Why? When your browser doesn't even include a FULL version of Flash (they have Flash Lite), you cannot reaaaaally call your unit an Internet Media Tablet so I will refer to them as PMPs with great WIFI capabilities! :-p Internet access via WiFi has definitely improved over the previous version (at least it is way faster than my 605!). The touchscreen is definitely more responsive and thanks to the big screen, the software keyboard is more convenient and responds quite well to either your thumbs or nails! The unit also found my Media Server quite fast and I was listening to the music in my PC in seconds! I don't have any complaints regarding the Wifi use on this thing (great to use while in the crapper and you want to see your email! hehehehe)... Speaking of E-mail, they include an application where you can configure the email directly from there (provided you have the POP settings).

Also, they have included a "WebTV and Web Radio" application but I'm not really into that kind of thing though. It works, but.. meeehhhhh I guess Iif I buy a PMP I will load it with the music and movies I want to watch with the quality I expect so I don't have much use for this app.




How is it as a music player?

First I have to say that the best improvement over the 605 or even the Archos 5 is the battery life!!!! Rated by the company as 39 hours running time, I could get 31 hours easily just listening to music (no videos, no internet or wifi use, headphones at almost Max and LCD brightness at Medium!). Music reproduction is comparable to the 605 and the Equalizer settings are extremely similar, if not the same, to the 605. The Archos 7 provides support for stereo MP3 decoding @ 30-320 Kbits/s CBR & VBR. It also supports WMA, Protected WMA, WMA pro 5.1 and WAV (PCM/ADPCM). Finally it can read FLAC and OGG Vorbis (via FIRMWARE UPDATE!) and AC3 stereo audio and 5.1 sound files (via SPDIF output of DVR Station -- which I did not buy since I have the 605 for that now... more of that in a bit!) Archos has plug-ins to support more formats (AAC3 and AAC+)

There's one bug though... if the album art is embedded on the MP3, the sound usually skips at the start of the track... It's a bit annoying but I can live with that.




How is this big thing as a Movie Player?

One word: AWESOME
I have to say though, the screen COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER!
For a 7-incher, it sports the same resolution as the Archos 5 (800 x 480) and it is NOT a glossy screen (such as the 5 -- but Archos is also making matte screens for the 5). I don't mind it at all because it looks GREAT! Battery life for Video Playback is rated at an astonishing 10 hours... for me it lasted 6 hours with Max Volume using headphones and Medium brightness (they probably tested with Low brightness). What formats does it supports?

MPEG-42 (ASP@L5 AVI, up to DVD resolution)
WMV (MP@ML, up to DVD resolution) including WMV protected files
M-JPEG (Motion JPEG Video) in QVGA resolution
Flash videos

With optional plug-in:
HD support: MPEG-4 (ASP 720p) & WMV HD (MP 720p)
H.264 up to DVD resolution with AAC
MPEG-2 MP@ML up to 10 Mbps (up to DVD resolution) and AC3 stereo sound (5.1)

So all of my Divx and Xvid, Digital Copy files, etc. are playable and they look great. HD content plays great but be aware, there's a SIZE restriction, so those MKVs you download you'll probably have to convert them (I did convert them to WMV HD and it looks A-OK!!!!) Also, I have experienced crashes while watching videos and it's sporadic... (it's as if the Hard Disk unmounts itself and you have to power-off and power-on the unit! :-( )




Anything else?!?

Well, as everyone that follows the PMP scene should know, Archos likes, no scratch that, LOVES to milk their units! They SELL what should come with these expensive units for free. For music and videos you would need to buy some plug-ins in order to play everything if you don't want to convert stuff. If you would like to record shows from the TV, then you will need to buy the 6th generation DVR Station (yes guys/gals, the old one doesn't work!), etc. In order to output to my TV, I had to buy the Mini Dock (it's on the First picture here!) and it works Ok!

Also, the Archos units supports some Widgets and Games... it's Ok but this is not really an iPod Touch killer here!


Should I go for this? Or just get a netbook?

This is an INTERESTING QUESTION!
With a netbook you can do most of what you can with the Archos 7 but a bit better (i.e. Full Internet access, real keyboard, etc.) Also, there are CHEAPER netbooks out there and they also play music, videos, etc. So... what's my take? If you plan to do a bit of work in the internet (i.e. a lot of typing involved) and don't mind carrying a bigger unit (most of the netbooks sport a 10 inch display) then you can spend your $350 or $400 on a netbook... I'm thinking of buying one just for the heck of it... but BE AWARE, Battery life will be lower unless you get one with a 6-cell battery... and that would probably defeat the portability of the netbook but again, the Archos 7 is NOT that portable anyway... ;-)
So in the end it will be your choice.

Or just buy BOTH! :-p

(Following pictures are from a Samsung NC-10 and Toshiba Mini 205)





Other Alternatives?

For video?!?
Forget about it!
Not Apple, Creative, Cowon, etc. have a unit as great as the Archos 7, PERIOD!!!

For music,
you could do a lot better (Cowon S9, Walkman X-Series, etc.)

For the complete package, well, the iPod Touch.
(note that all of the SDD units will lack a lot of disk space!)

Cowon S9 Reviews


Cowon S9 Review 1
TestFreaks site


Conclusion, Pros and Cons

All in all, I love the Archos even though I spend a few bucks for:

The Mini Dock
A JavoEdge Case
Plug-ins (via E-Bay of course it's WAY CHEAPER!)
etc.

There's a few annoyances such as the mentioned MP3 and album art issue, freezes while playing videos, etc. but I can live with those. Hopefully this unit will last me a ton and keep me entertained for a while.

Pros:

1) Best capacity (Hard disk space - 160GB or 320GB) for the money out there out of any competing player
2) Good screen (although it's a matte screen, not glossy and the res. could have been better!)
3) Great Battery life for music and video (I got 32 hours of music and 6:12 of video at medium back-light and full volume using headphones)
4) Battery is REMOVABLE!
5) Fast Internet Browsing
6) Touch support has been updated from previous players (very responsive!)
7) Soft-keyboard is great (mostly due to the big screen!)
8) Supports Flash (note: The OS includes Flash Lite and not a full flash version, hence some internet sites such as HULU are not viewable!)

Cons:

1) Random freezes when playing videos (I thought it was a specific codec combination but it seems to just happen randomly)
2) These units are billed as INTERNET MEDIA TABLETS and yet they don't offer FULL Flash support? Wow!
3) The need of PLUG-INS to unlock the FULL capability of the unit!
4) If album art are embedded on MP3s, the beginning of the tracks skip for a bit.
5) Total lack of support from Archos! (i.e. THEY ARE NOT PLANNING ON RELEASING MORE FIRMWARE UPDATES FOR THE ARCHOS 5 and ARCHOS 7!!!!)
6) The casing is a fingerprint magnet (bought a case just to avoid this! ;-)

Any suggestions, comments or questions, write it up! :-p

Thanks.
Have a great weekend!

5 comments:

Puer Aeternus said...

Great review. I think Archos needs to address some of the cons as they are cons that users are getting savvy to and looking to other products to buy. If archos improved their customer support and "LISTENED" what their customers want from Archos then they would sell even more units.
I am the proud owner of a 504/605/705. Minor complaints aside, I love my Archos! But getting a net book over a Archos 7....im seriously thinking about the netbook!

Angel Melendez said...

I definitely hear you!
If you want a BETTER internet experience, DEFINITELY get a GOOD netbook. The Toshiba Mini I mentioned has an estimated 8 to 9 hours life! That's a WHOLE lot of browsing ;-) I would only advice people of getting an Archos 7 if they are planning on using it for movies (as it is indeed a bit more portable than a netbook). But then again, it randomly freezes... so this is why I really did not suggest getting this unit or not. I wish I had these facts before I bought it. I like it, but like you, now I want a netbook also ;-)

We'll see...

Thanks for reading up man!

alliwantis said...

Hey dude!
Great review I have to say. Good to read a review from someone that actually uses and have used several of the Archos products earlier.
I have the 604 Wifi and it is slowly grinding to a halt. I am wondering about the browsing (internet) and the streaming of files through my home wlan. Any idea if the Archos 7 does this better than my 604 Wifi?
I have also read that it reads .vob-files. How bout .iso-files?

Christian

Angel Melendez said...

Hello alliwantis.

Thanks for reading.

Internet on the Archos 7 is WAY BETTER than on my 605, so I'm pretty sure it will be better than the 604, I can assure that. Pages loaded faster on the 7 and pages were processed correctly (I event went to intensive sites like Myspace and they loaded ok.. except for some of the Flash animations...) And yes, the Archos 7 reads .vob files but you NEED to buy one of the Plug-ins that allow you to play these... so that's the way of Archos to nickle and dime everyone, but you know how it is as an Archos owner ;-). Regarding ISOs, I haven't tried any but I doubt they will be read as that is an extra container ...

Thanks.!

Anonymous said...

Excellent review of archos 7 !
1)please let me know - how durable this unit is ?
as this is so slim with a huge screen - what abt the HDD [320 GB]
gernerally the archos HDD do they crash frequently despite the unit being handled cautiously and professionally..

2)How to replace the battery of archos 7 320 GB if you have tried give us some screens of steps followed - as i want to purchase the additional battery also but do not know how to do the replacement ?