Archos 5 Internet Tablet Hands On: Android Power, But Where's the Flash?

The new Archos 5 Internet Tablet is indeed powered by Android, and improves all around over its predecessor, with more storage and a better interface. But something's still missing.

The Archos 5 improves on some of the complaints we had about the previous Archos 5. Archos has upped the storage with loads of options—it now comes with flash (8GB or 32GB) or an HDD (160GB to 500GB). The flash version's way thinner, at .4-inches. The metal backing felt nice in my hand.

But the real changes are to the operating system: It's using Android, with Archos' customer interface built on top, like the Super Widget, a series of multimedia shortcuts on the main Android screen. Beyond that you'll find the usual Android drawer full of applications, since Archos is throwing in a few preloaded.

Multimedia is the Archos 5 Internet Tablet's bread and butter. Its Texas Instruments ARM Cortex A8 plays back 720p video smoothly and you can buy a dock to output it to a larger display. It is a sweet device for storing video, photos and music. Archos has always been able to do that really well. It also has a 3D map software program for GPS navigation.

Too bad it falls down on actually being an internet tablet: It runs on Wi-Fi using Android's built-in browser, but it won't automatically load full web pages—it defaults to mobile versions. Yes, you can go to Flash websites like NYTimes.com and others but you have to make adjustments to the browser, just like you have to on a Android phone. The tablet does not support full Flash yet (only Flash Lite), which means no streaming video. (Even though HTC managed to build Flash support into the Hero.) Archos is instead waiting until there is Flash 10 support from Adobe.

It might sound spoiled, but on a device that is meant for the internet I want to be able to get streaming video and full Flash websites. I don't want the broken internet on a standalone device. What Archos does do is throw in a bunch of Android apps (including some paid apps). Apps are great, but sometimes you want to just visit a site and not have to page around or adjust the settings. To its credit, Archos says they will be updating soon when Flash 10 is available for download. (Which they tell us will be in December, not than the predicted October). If you are buying the tablet for internet I'd wait until then or at least plan to upgrade, however as a PMP Archos is still more than solid. [Archos]