Decent multimedia player hampered by poor screen and Android limitations
The Archos 43 Internet Tablet is part of the French PMP-maker’s recent slew of new slates. However, it’s a stretch to call this sleek media player a tablet, seeing as it has a 4.3-inch screen and is essentially a specced up, Android-packing iPod Touch alternative. Archos’ somewhat bizarre naming conventions aside though, how does the Archos 43 stack up?
As with all of Archos’ recent PMPs, Android is at the core of the 43 Internet Tablet. It’s here in its 2.2 FroYo version, rather than the very latest 2.3 Gingerbread iteration, although as this isn’t a smartphone, that’s nothing to get too distraught over. The excellent tips widget sits up front as soon as you fire the device up, giving you pointers on how to maximise the OS, from using the additional homescreens to binning add-ons you no longer want.
FroYo’s smarts are also in evidence in the gallery, with picture stacks and a refined and easy-to-use UI that makes taking pics, sharing them via Picasa, Facebook and Twitter and tweaking colour tones and white balance, a complete doddle. It’s just a shame that the two megapixel camera isn’t up to snuff. This is offset somewhat by the nifty, fixed focus 720p HD camcorder, which gives the Archos 43 a ‘Flip-with-benefits’ feel. The only place the Google OS really falls down is through the lack of Android Market, replaced here by Archos’ somewhat poorly stocked AppsLib store.
Archos 43 Internet Tablet: Video and music playback
The 4.3-inch screen really comes into its own when it comes to video playback. The 480x854 resolution serves up crisp and detailed images, playing back MPEG 4 and H.264 720p video at 30fps. The results are largely impressive, although we noticed some occasional judder when we stuck our favourite Seagal action flicks on board. And while codec support is wide, with AVI, MP4, MKV, MOV, WMV and FLV all given Archos’ backing, the screen just doesn’t measure up to Apple’s peerless Retina Display. That said, the HDMI out feature is a breeze to use, with a dedicated ‘Switch to TV’ button on the homescreen letting you watch flicks on your HDTV.
Audio quality is excellent, as you’d expect from Archos. Format support is vast and the sound quality is exceptional, with a deep, clean, bassy sound dominating proceedings. The only issue here is the bundled buds, which should be ditched immediately for something less uncomfortable and more in keeping with the device’s sonic abilities.
Archos 43 Internet Tablet: Touchscreen
In terms of watching back video and rendering icons, the Archos 43 Internet Tablet’s screen is largely excellent. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for touch interface, which is frankly archaic. A resistive effort, it requires calibration on set up and is a nightmare to use compared to other Android devices. The usually excellent Android keyboard is impossible to use without littering emails with errors and swipes feel sluggish, making the PMP unresponsive and lacking well behind its Apple rival. Throw in an accelerometer which seems to have a mind of its own, by turns taking an age to rotate, or switching orientation with the merest movement, and you’re looking at a failing which makes the Archos 43 Internet Tablet hard to recommend.
This is really a PMP for those who are desperate not to hand their hard-earned to Apple. That’s fair enough, but the iPod touch bests the Archos 43 in many respects. It’s screen might be bigger, but it’s let down massively by a touchscreen that feels positively ancient. Fans of Android would do well to look for a smartphone running the newer Gingerbread OS too.
Archos 43 Internet Tablet launch date: Out now, link Archos
Archos 43 Internet Tablet price: £160-230