Thursday, January 13, 2011

Archos A70...

I've had my A70 for over a week now.

I absolutely love it. It's everything that I was hoping that it would be. Here is the review I wrote for it on Amazon, which pretty much sums up my feelings about it:

"Let me start by saying that I love gadgets. Things with touch screens that are thin and connect to the internet are right up my alley.

I own a laptop computer and an iPod Touch 4G. I have been using the laptop quite a bit recently while watching the bowl games and NFL games on TV. I only used the laptop for a quick second here and there, so it was a bit of a hassle to get it up and running when I knew I was going to only use it for a second or two. So I started using the iPod Touch in place of it for checking the web in quick spurts, but I wanted something with a bit larger screen and maybe a more full featured web browser than the iPod had. So basically, I wanted something larger than the iPod Touch but smaller and more convenient than my laptop. I also wasn't really interested in an iPad because I already had an iOS device. I started looking for Android Tablets.

I had originally settled on the Samsung Galaxy Pad, but to be honest it's price scared me away. That, and I really have no use for the 3G cellular service that is so integral to the Galaxy Tab. I came to Amazon and did a quick search for "Android Tablet" and the Archos A70 Internet Tablet was the first thing that popped up.

I checked it out, and it hit all of the points I was looking for:
7" screen is larger than my iPod...check.
Android Operating system...check.
Thin and light...check.
Capacitive Touchscreen instead of resistive...check (for those that don't know, capacitive is the same technology that the iPhone/iPod Touch uses...I find it much nicer than the stylus based resistive screens)
Fair price...check.

Basically, the Archos looked like it was hitting on all cylinders. It was even getting good reviews on Amazon. I found only one thing that had me a bit worried, and that's the fact that Archos isn't part of some Android co-operative thing, so the device does NOT have the Google Android Marketplace installed on it when you get it. It has a substitute, called AppsLib, which is good, but it's not quite the Google Marketplace. However, more on that in a moment.

I ordered the device and it shipped quickly. It arrived in a couple of days, as is par for the course for Amazon. I quickly opened it and started checking it out.

Upon opening the box I was surprised at how great the device looked. I have read that some people think it looks cheap. I disagree. I think it looks very nice and the flat finish does a great job of hiding finger prints. After pulling it out of the box, I was even more surprised. Archos includes a power adapter that actually has several other adapters packaged with it so that you can use it in foreign countries. I don't do a ton of travelling, and when I do it's generally domestic. But it's nice to know that if I ever go to another country, Archos has already included the correct power plugs for me to use. The package also includes some run of the mill headphones and a USB cable to connect the device to a computer.

The device goes through a Setup Wizard when you first turn it on that sets the unit up. I found this easy to follow and quick to do. I would recommend NOT installing the included Archos apps, for only one reason...after you set up the device you can instantly update it to the lastest version of Android, and when you do that it resets itself and you must then install those included apps again. So save yourself the time the first time around and just do it after you update.

Once I got the device up and running I was able to actually start playing with it. Android is definitely different from anything else that I've used. It's a cool operating system, but seems to be a bit more unpolished than the iOS on the iPod devices that I have used. With that said, I am impressed with the operating system. It really does have some neat features. I particularly enjoy the animated wallpapers. They are very cool to look at, but they are a bit of a memory hog, so once I had looked at them for a bit I turned them off and went with a static wallpaper.

Connecting the device to the WiFi in my home was as simple as can be. It didn't hesitate to connect and as soon as it was on I was able to instantly set it up for my G-Mail accounts and synced my e-mails. I then started browsing the web. I was impressed with the speed with which it loaded pages and the ease with which the browser was used. I also was extremely happy that it actually had a FULLY FUNCTIONAL BROWSER!!! None of that "mobile web" stuff. Sure, you can go to the mobile web pages if you want to, but who wants to do that when you can actually enjoy the web the way it was meant to be enjoyed??

After browsing the web for a bit, I decided to play with the AppsLib app that you can use to download software. I found some nifty games and other little trinkets to download in that store for free, and I enjoy them. The store is supposedly designed to be used with Tablets more than phones, so it's possible that in the future it will have more apps that are designed to go on the larger screens of tablets instead of the smaller screens of phones.

Now, let me get to a couple of things that are interesting about the Android Operating System. I read once that you can compare Apple's iOS to a well policed city and Android to the Wild West. Well, what does that mean?? It means that with Android, pretty much anything goes. It means that even a device like the A70 that does NOT come with the Google Marketplace and isn't supposed to be able to use the Google Marketplace CAN in fact have it installed on it. I did some searching on the web (I won't say the name of the site because I'm not sure that Amazon will allow it in the review, but let's just say if you search for "Archos Fan Forums" you should easily find it) and quickly found an easy .ask to install on the device that gets the Archos A70 access to the Google Marketplace. It's not complete, there are some missing apps, but there's another fix for that which you can easily find on that same site where you found the instructions to install the Marketplace.

So, now I have an A70 that runs apps from AppsLib AND from the Google Android Marketplace. That means that I have an endless array of places to get apps from, and I have downloaded quite a few of them. I haven't found any that do not work with the device, and I have found some that are really great. I'll leave those up to you to find, though.

I only have one small coplaint about the A70, and that is this: sometimes the device just kind of freezes, or other little bugs pop up, like icons changing from what they are supposed to be to some random generic Android icon. I would like to say that this is caused by the installation of the Google Marketplace on the device, because I did NOT have these issues before installing it. However, they are easily rectified with a quick reboot. To be honest, I have found that rebooting the device every now and again is a great idea because for whatever reason Android likes to keep things running in it's background long after you have finished using them. Rebooting is a great way to clear all of those programs out of the memory. Not a huge deal, really, but I wanted to throw it out there.

After having the A70 for a couple of days now, I am happy to report that I am thrilled with the purchase. It's everything that I was hoping for and it hits every point that I was shopping for. It's thin and light, the screen is beautiful, the touchscreen works fantastically, and it's nice and convenient to use. Now, instead of dragging my laptop out and waiting for Windows 7 to boot up when I want to check the box score of a game, I just grab the A70, hit the power button, wait one second then I'm on the web and checking.

Overall, I highly recommend the device."

The ONLY issue I've had with the device is the case I ordered for it. I ordered a case from a seller on Amazon the same day that I ordered the A70, December 30th. The A70 came on Monday the 3rd, the case still hasn't come yet. Yesterday I went to Best Buy and found a case that fits it...I'm not sure what I'll do with the other case when it shows up.

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