A year after releasing the 605 WiFi portable video player (a CNET Editors' Choice), Archos is announcing plans to release three new devices in the following months: the Archos 5, Archos 7, and Archos 5G.
Archos is quick to point out that these new "Internet media tablets" are not to be confused with the company's line of portable video players (such as the Archos 605 WiFi), which will continue to be manufactured and offered alongside the new tablets. That said, the new offerings clearly draw on many of their predecessor's features. Like the 605 WiFi and 705 WiFi, the Archos 5, Archos 7, and Archos 5G include video and music playback (MPEG4, AVI, WMV, MPEG2, h.264, MJPEG, DIVX, MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV), a photo viewer, touch-screen navigation, a Flash-enabled Web browser (Opera), DVR capabilities, games, and Mac/PC compatibility. Familiar hardware features such as a fold-out kickstand, integrated speaker, and 3.5mm headphone jack are also included on the new Archos tablets.
Despite covering some familiar territory, there are major distinctions between the new Archos Internet media tablets and last year's line of portable video players. The Archos 5 includes a revamped, thinner design with fewer buttons, a larger screen (4.8 inches), higher capacity, a considerably faster processor (ARM Cortex), and support for 3G and 3.5G (HSDPA) cellular data connections.
You heard right: the new portable media players out of Archos can browse the Web over both Wi-Fi and 3G cellular connections, provided that you have existing 3G cellular service established. To get the Archos 5 and Archos 7 up and running over 3G, you'll need to acquire a 3G USB modem from your carrier, however, the Archos 5G model includes a built-in slot for your existing SIM card. If you prefer your Internet tablets dongle-free, the Archos 5G is the way to go.
Bear in mind that Archos doesn't include a built-in microphone on any of the new media tablets, so the possibility of leveraging the 3G capabilities to place VoIP calls seems unlikely (but not impossible). No texting apps come bundled with the Archos 5, 5G, or 7, but with a full Web browser and large touch-screen keyboard at your disposal, it should be easy enough to maintain your presence on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
Because of a redesigned dock connection, many of the accessories currently made for the Archos 605 WiFi will need to be be revised to work with the new Archos 5/5G and Archos 7 tablets, including the helmet cam, extended battery dock, and a DVR station which now offers HDMI output and composite video input. The recently reviewed GPS cradle is one of the only accessories made by Archos compatible with both the 605 WiFi and the new line of tablets.
On the software side, a new HiDef video software plug-in is now available ($20) that lets you playback 720p video resolution at 24 fps MPEG4 and WMV formats, which is ideal if you ever plan on connecting your player to a high-definition TV. After registering your Archos media tablet, two plug-ins will activate free of charge, including the Flash 9-enabled Opera Web browser, and a Web TV/Radio plug-in. Just like the iPhone and iPod Touch, Archos plug-ins can be downloaded and installed directly over Wi-Fi or 3G, without requiring a computer as an intermediary.
Archos will release the Archos 5 in September in 60GB, 120GB, and 250GB capacities, priced at $350, $400, and $450, respectively. The supersize Archos 7 will make its debut in October, priced at $450 (160GB) and $550 (320GB). Finally, the Archos 5G, with its built-in SIM card slot, will become available in December with a premium price tag of $550 (30GB).