The Archos 5's high-gloss screen and body are in stark contrast to previous Archos products typically made from aluminum and antiglare plastic. The result is a product that looks like a million bucks for about a minute, until it's covered in smudges.
The latest generation of the Archos DVR Station (sold separately) allows you to rip television content directly to the Archos 5, as well as play back any content from the Archos 5 to your TV. A remote control included with the DVR Station allows you to navigate all of the Archos 5's features from your couch and includes a full QWERTY keyboard for entering text and Web site URLs.
The Archos 5 (center) uses a 5-inch screen that dominates over the Apple iPod Touch (left) and even bests its predecessor, the Archos 605 Wi-Fi (right). However, the glass screen of the iPod Touch is likely to be more scratch resistant than the all-plastic Archos 5, and the 605 Wi-Fi's antiglare screen is less reflective and less prone to fingerprints.
Unlike the Archos 605 Wi-Fi, the right side of the Archos 5 doesn't include navigation controls. The lack of redundant navigation buttons allows more room for the Archos 5's luxuriously large screen. A small built-in speaker, found on the front of the Archos 605 Wi-Fi, is now the only feature gracing the right edge of the Archos 5.
The bottom edge of the Archos 5 includes a new type of dock connector not found on any previous Archos products. An included cable transforms the connection into a standard USB plug for connecting the Archos 5 to your computer. Unfortunately, the new dock connection means that all previous Archos hardware accessories (excluding the GPS Cradle) are incompatible.
The back of the updated Archos DVR Station (sold separately) now includes component, composite, and S-video input and output, as well as HDMI output and standard USB hosting jacks. Unfortunately, the updated DVR Station is not backwards compatible with previous Archos products, such as the 605 Wi-Fi.
By relying entirely on its touch screen for navigation, the Archos 5 is able to maximize its screen real estate without becoming too large to fit in your pocket or too heavy to hold for long periods of time. Unlike some touch-screen wannabes, the Archos 5 on-screen navigation is responsive and relatively intuitive given the wide range of options at your disposal. We do miss the hardware button hold switch, however.
Say what you will about Archos' new reflective and glossy look--the Archos 5 looks quite stylish. In a pinch, you could always use its mirrored finish to fix your lipstick or pick your lunch out of your teeth.
The headphone jack found on the left edge of the Archos 5 is located about a half-inch higher than on the 605 Wi-Fi. It may seem insignificant, but that half-inch difference makes the device a little more awkward to hold. While holding the Archos 5 with both hands, we found that the headphone cable now runs awkwardly between our fingers instead of below our hand. Fortunately, Archos still includes a built-in fold-out kickstand for hands-free viewing.
The top edge of the Archos 5 includes the only buttons on the whole device: a volume rocker switch (middle), and a power button (right). Noticeably absent is a hardware hold switch to prevent touch-screen control from accidentally activating. The Archos 5 does include a hold function, but it requires a few clicks through the on-screen interface to activate.