Image: Hugh Threlfall; Allstar Collection/Paramount.
December 11 2009
This compact new beauty from Archos, our ever-quirky French friends at Rue Ampère, Igny, is practically the perfect gadget for the business traveller in need of R and R between bouts of mastering the universe. It’s called the Archos 5 Internet Tablet, and its capacious 500Gb version comfortably accommodates a massive music collection plus 400-500 films. The Archos 5 is not just a pocket-sized software wardrobe, either. It displays videos on the best screen in the business. Plus the Archos 5 doesn’t need to be hand-held. It has a portable stand that folds out to make watching a film on an aircraft table perfectly do-able. The stand is a pretty basic metallic stalk but it’s OK if treated with respect.
Now, you will notice that the Archos 5 Internet Tablet – not to be confused with the earlier Archos 5 Media Tablet – is not a phone. It has Apps, like an iPhone; Google Android Apps, in the Archos’s case. But you can’t make calls. It’s really a larger-screened, fatter iPod Touch, but with a few extras, such as satnav – and that ability to stand on its own stalk. (If you want an iPhone to do this, go to the Apple Store and buy the £25 Incase Slider Case – it has a brilliant bent plastic bit that acts as a leg.)
But why, when you can have the iPhone and others that are “convergence” devices, would anyone want an Archos 5, or, indeed, an iPod Touch? Well, I’m tentatively becoming a bit of a fan of what I’m calling “divergence”. Love converged iPhones and stuff as I do for their Swiss Army Knife-ness, a little bit of me has been wondering what a telephone is doing messing up my entertainment centre. Revolutionary? Luddite? Well, I would hate my TV to double as an intercom or my home phone to play audiobooks, so might it not be nice to revert to separate functions for phone and portable amusement machine? Speaking into a flat multimedia smartphone, though not as daft-looking as once it was, is still a bit awkward. Plus I am increasingly convinced that normal phones work better as phones than iPhones and their like. There’s still no App, as people keep saying, to make the audio quality received by people you call better.
Think divergence for 2010, then. And since the iPod Touch stops at 64Gb, why not a tryst with a little French model, aka the 500Gb Archos 5?
There are some reasons not to. Archos is an irritating company. As a fan of Citroën cars, I’m used to the level of perverse Frenchery, and Archos is not dissimilar. That standing-up stalk on the Archos 5 is classic 2CV engineering. Its products are innovative, like Citroën’s, but things like those confusing product names and Archos’s insistence that you buy odd bits of extra software to enable its products to do quite run-of-the-mill things do get one’s chèvre.
Most annoyingly of all, Archos players are not Mac compatible, which, for a luxury technology brand, is bizarre. In fact, they can be made to talk to Macs, but it’s an arcane and tricky procedure.
Strange coves, then, Archos. But still very, very seductive products for the newly divergent gadgetiste. And a great last-minute “to self” Christmas present, too.