Archos didn't just tease us with its forthcoming Android-based phone last night. It also gave us some hands-on time with its latest flagship media player -- the Archos 5 Internet Tablet -- which is the first PMP we've seen that runs on Google's Android OS.
In many ways it's like the previous version, and in terms of raw specs it's a monster. It's packing a 122mm (4.8-inch) touchscreen, up to 500GB of storage, GPS navigation, 802.11n Wi-Fi and stereo Bluetooth. Out of the box it'll play MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC and OGG audio, and 720p video in H.264, MPEG-4 and WMV formats. You can also buy a docking station that turns it into a fully fledged PVR with a programme guide and TV recording.
And then you get into the Android stuff. With its own app store -- the Archos AppsLib -- you can extend the device with downloadable applications and games, much like on the iPhone. On paper, all very promising.
The problems arise when you use it, which we did last night. This is a powerful, customisable piece of portable computing technology, but we're fraught -- that's right, fraught! -- with concern over its schizophrenic, overly complicated user interface.
When you spend years using and reviewing every device known to man, it's an extremely bad sign when you have to keep asking, "Sorry, how do I activate that?", "where's that feature kept?" and "can you show me how I do such and such?" And we had to. A lot.
It's not necessarily a complete turn-off, but man, is this thing unneccesarily confusing. Here's an example: there are two separate picture galleries -- the standard Archos one, and Android's own gallery as well. They look totally different and both work in their own way. Why would you do this?
We really need to see the system in-house and get used to it before writing anything else. It's an impressively capable piece of kit and no doubt one of the most powerful portable media machines we've seen. But while both Android and Archos user interfaces are great on their own, combining them is like forcing a horse to procreate with a chimp -- its kids are going to look very, very weird, and no-one will want one in their flat.
Have a squiz at our hands-on photos over the page and check back in a few weeks for our review. The device goes on sale later this month, with prices starting at £200 for an 8GB model, up to £350 for the 500GB.
Here's part of the music interface. After clicking the Music icon (glowing down at the bottom), you're given a choice of actions: listen from the internal hard drive, stream from a networked computer, listen to FM radio. The album covers at the top can be used as shortcuts to favourite songs, but we couldn't figure out how to change that.