The Archos 32 Internet Tablet: Small and beautiful
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We have earlier reported about the availability of the Archos 32 Internet Tablet, which was the first one to go on sale amongst the five recently unveiled Android-based ultraportables. Just recently, Liliputing got a chance to review the device in depth and also put up some pics detailing the device.
By the looks of it
The Archos 32 has a small form-factor and a thick body which has a plastic casing. It measures 4.1-inch x 2.1-inch x 0.3-inch and weighs just 2.5 ounces. Looking at the images posted by the reviewer, the device seems nifty to hold and fits your palm perfectly; add to that a curved bottom finish. A 3.2-inch, 400 x 240 pixel resistive touchscreen display does duty on the device and is said to be pretty responsive. Mind you, the touchscreen is not capacitive, and so typing on the tablet takes getting used to as you have to tap harder to input letters. Inputting text is convenient in both landscape and portrait mode and it has been observed that the screen feels soft, thanks to the plastic material used. Moreover, the screen has a glossy finish and that may prove to really be a problem as it would reflect glare under heavy lighting conditions or in the outdoors, under the sun. Color quality is also good with images, videos and websites fairly displayed. Fingerprint marks are also an issue with the display but isn’t as bad as other similar devices in the market. The display is also side-lit rather than being backlit, although one need not worry as it’s not evident when looking at the tablet straight on. Below the display are soft buttons for some usual Android controls like Back, Settings, Home, Search, volume up and volume down, although the buttons are not backlit which is a letdown. The most significant limitation in this device, however, is the absence of an inbuilt speaker.
Three physical buttons reside on the left side of the device- two for volume and a power button which you can use to turn the display on or off and long press to turn off the device, although some multimedia-capable buttons such as play, pause, previous or next would surely have been welcome. A headphone jack, built in mic, and a mini-USB port (which also aids in charging the device) are standard. Imaging capabilities are handled by an under-average VGA camera, which is just appropriate for basic photography in conditions where you don’t have anything else in hand, and does not feature flash or auto-focus.
What you do not see from outside
When it comes to what goes under the hood of the Archos 32, the tablet is powered by an 800MHz ARM Cortex A8 CPU bundled with a capable graphics processor, 8GB of storage, 802.11b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1. You also have an option of using your phone’s 3G internet connection on the tablet by connecting both using a USB cable or Bluetooth. A Lithium Polymer user non-replaceable battery provides power back-up to the tablet and the makers claim 24 hours of audio playback, 6 hours of video playback, or 8 hours of web surfing, which Liliputing says might very well be true considering their test results.
As a media player, the Archos 32 tablet scores extremely well with support for almost all of the commonly used audio and video formats. The device is well capable of playing HD videos and doesn’t compromise in smoothness while playing. The tablet is bundled with Archos’ own feature-rich audio and video players which can play additional media formats that the default Android media player apps can’t. Additionally, you can switch between internal and external storage, thus enabling you to stream video from a shared network drive on your home network or an UPnP device. The Archos video player, on tapping the screen, displays on-screen controls for a timeline, forward, reverse and pause buttons, with the clock, battery, Wi-Fi and video title status appearing for a moment after you tap. The audio player features advanced controls like bass, treble, 3D, and balance that are not available in the default Android media player apps. Although, one thing with the Archos 32 is its screen size which is insufficient for watching movies, majorly due to its aspect ratio -which is not 16:9- which causes black bars on the sides of the screen and thus cuts down on a lot of the actual display space.
You also get home screen widgets for the music and video players that help you with the usual media controls without having to open the actual player from the apps menu. The widgets for both media players also have the necessary controls like play or pause and enable you to jump to recently added and recently played media. Archos also has on the cards a cable to connect the Archos 32 to a TV and thus letting you use the tablet on a larger display and enjoy playing games or watching movies.
Apart from the excellent multimedia player apps, the only other software included are the Android web browser, contact manager, email app, eBuddy, Touiteur and photo gallery. The absence of the official Gmail app, Google Calendar, or Google Maps surely hurts here. Also noteworthy here is the pre-installed AppsLib Market which replaces the Google Android Market which is home to about 5000 apps, which is a far cry from the Android Market’s over 80,000 apps. Although, the absence of the Android market on the device can be attributed to Google’s strict requirements when it comes to devices that want the Android Market pre-installed, i.e. devices that have 3G and/or phone capabilities. The built-in web browser also does a good job but doesn’t support multitouch, needing you to double-click to zoom in and out, or use the on-screen zoom buttons. A very useful utility is the System Monitor app that lets you stop currently running apps from a list and also helps you see memory usage on your device.
All in all, the Archos 32 Internet Tablet is purely intended for web browsing; but then it serves the purpose of a media player very well too. However, what prevents us from it being called a pure media player device is the absence of good multimedia controls on the hardware and a built-in speaker. Also, with the likes of the Apple iPod Touch in the same category, which has a larger screen size and better features, the Archos 32 falls short even after a price advantage of $80. But if you want an Android-based tablet for this cheap a price, which can play almost all the media files that you want it to, has the basic functionalities of a handheld tablet and gives you a decent web-browsing experience, this one is surely for you to own. Though, be prepared for the absence of the Google Android Market as it will take away from you some of the very useful and wanted apps for an Android device. Priced at $150, the Archos 32 is currently available with the Android 2.1 OS. However, the device will ship with Android 2.2 from October this year.