I was certain that it was the Barnes and Noble Nook Color that I would buy using the $500 flexi-benefit provided by my employer. After converting the USD 249 price and shipping charges (vPost), it would cost me about S$350 thereabouts.
Then I met the Archos one day while walking around Funan Digitamall. One of the salesperson in Farle was patient in explaining the device to a noob like me and since I was assured of local technical support, I changed my mind and decided on the Archos 70 Internet tablet.
Unfortunately when I returned to buy the product, I couldn’t remember the shop with the helpful assistant so ended up purchasing it from Memory World, which is also the official distributor of Archos products in Singapore.
I am no techno geek so this review really is how I feel about the tablet since I bought it on 27th December. If you want the technical specifications, you are better off at another site.
There are 2 versions of the Archos 70 IT, a 8GB flash drive model going a S$449 and a 250GB hard disk model going at S$499. Since the price differential isn’t that great for that extra space, I decided on the 250GB model. However this meant a barely noticeable thicker frame plus about 100grams additional weight.
Some reviews I read mentioned the wait to load programs as the processor is reading from the hard disk which is true as well as the heat which is not a bother for me. As for the weight, I find no issues holding on to it for reading or playing games for up to an hour. (Haven’t tried longer because my train/bus rides aren’t longer than that.)
The Archos can be held comfortably vertically in one palm and horizontally with two. The 7″ screen size is ideal for reading ebooks and gladly there is no eye strain for me as well. I usually lower the screen brightness for this. Afterall my main purpose for the Archos is to read ebooks. More on that later.
After unboxing the product, the first thing I did was to set up the Wifi within my home. No problems there though I noticed that in some parts of my house the signal can be rather weak. This is surprising as my laptop has no issues. I can only surmise that the wireless adapter may not be as sensitive.
Next I had to update my firmware to version 2.2.071 from the 2.2.054 that it was shipped with. The update is supposed to enable support for Flash player 10.1. However I found out from Memory World that the Archos server was down due to influx of traffic during the Christmas period and there was no update or access to Appslib (Archos version of Google’s Marketplace) available.
I had to wait a full day before it was functional again. No issues with the update but I have been experiencing intermittent force closure of Appslib when I am searching for applications or in the midst of downloading them. This can be really irritating. In terms of variety of applications, I am rather pleased though I believe if I root this Android device, I can gain access to Marketplace. However I see no need for that now.
Next I tried to enable the cell phone tethering between the Archos and my BlackBerry Curve 8520. While I am able to pair the device, whenever I tried to connect to the Internet using my phone’s data plan, I got the ‘Unable to connect’ prompt. I called M1 and they informed me my data plan allows it. Then I called Memory World and they told me that according to the Archosfan forum, Archos has yet to resolve an issue tethering using BlackBerry. What?!
Then there is also the issue of Archos accessories. Memory World does not sell them (?!) and after combing the whole of Funan I was pretty sure no other shop carries accessories for it either. What a bummer. Nonetheless I bought a Creative Ziio screen protector for $15 and cut it to fit and a leather pouch from a HP supplies shop on the 3rd level for $16. Coincidentally this shop also sells the Kindle and Nook Color. The Nook is going for $469! Honestly if I were not such a DIY person, I would have been quite put off by the whole product by now.
Now on the applications which really is the soul of the whole product, otherwise why not get a plain vanilla ebook reader like Kindle?
1. Much as I was led to believe, there is no Flash player 10.1 app on Appslib. However I managed to find the apk file on www.droid-life.com and installed it on the Archos. It works perfectly fine for me. I used it mainly to read the flash based children books available on NLB’s eResources.
2. The Archos comes with a native ebook reader application called Aldiko. Through it you can download a lot of public source books (hence The Invisible Man). However I was disappointed to find out that it doesn’t read Adobe DRM ePUB format! I buy my books from Kobo and they only come in that.
So I downloaded the Kobo app and faced further frustration when it was unable to open the books I have previously bought too. Anyway the Kobo app doesn’t even allow bookmarking. My only consolation is that Aldiko is going to release a version 2.0 soon (??) that reads the DRM format. An alternative would be to purchase a DRM remover for USD 29.90.
At times like this I am glad I still have my BlackBerry. So what is the Archos good for then?
3. Well for one, there are many games available on the Android and one of my husband’s favorite is Angry Birds. I played for awhile but got stumped early on so gave up on it. The men seem to get it… not me. Then I found a ROM emulator app that allows me to download and play practically any and all of my old favorite games on Sega, Nintendo, Gameboy… Ok I am old school.
4. The video playback is also good on the Archos and it is able to read many different file formats. I loaded some of my video files on it and was instantly wowed by the thought of watching all those episodes of The Vampire Diaries to and from work. I also installed this YouTube downloader app which essentially downloads videos from YouTube onto the Archos so I can watch it even without Internet connection. Useful tool to get children videos.
5. Lastly there are the range of productivity apps from calculators, dictionaries, money management tools, organisers and even a compatible Excel. As typing on a touch screen isn’t the most enjoyable experience, I didn’t think an office suite would be necessary but having Excel for computation would be great.
So my final thoughts on the Archos 70? It looks great, is very portable and didn’t burn a hole in my pocket. I can think of many potential uses for it. Once I can get the cell phone tethering to work and Aldiko releases its 2.0, it would be a great device to port around.
But for now, it satisfies as a stress relief device as I launch those angry birds and smash the heads of those silly green pigs while imagining them to be the faces of my insufferable colleagues.