The Archos 32 Android tablet is just like the Archos 28: the only difference is it’s a bit larger and pricier – and sadly no more usable because of it.
We’ve been mildly impressed by all of Archos’ recent wave of 3G-free Android devices we’ve tested recently. Each has had a certain charm about them: the Archos 101 is sturdy and slim, the Archos 43 is impressively powerful for its size, and the Archos 28 is the cheapest way yet to listen to Spotify on the go.
Sadly, the Archos 32 Android tablet doesn’t do a lot different. As you’d expect for a device that’s just 0.4 inches bigger than the £79 Archos 28, it struggles to stand out in Archos’ line up.
Design and build
This should come as no surprise by now. The Archos 32 Android tablet looks exactly like the Archos 28, and the Archos 3 Vision media player before it, from the capacitive buttons below the screen to the 3.5mm audio slot on the bottom and the power button on the right hand side. It’s smooth and solid, but sucks in fingerprints like dust to a Dyson.
On the other hand, it is at least thin, and Archos has finally seen fit to address our biggest problem with its designs of late, and actually returned a volume rocker to the side of the device. With the 28, you had to turn on the screen every time, but the Archos 32 Android tablet will let you adjust volume while it plays in your pocket – as it should. As such, we’re a little surprised to see volume buttons on the front of it too – you will never, ever use them.
There’s also one other addition: the Archos 32 Android tablet supports TV-out, though this is through the 3.5mm port rather than mini HDMI as on the Archos 43. We would actually consider using it on a regular basis, given its media playback chops – more on that later.
Like the rest of the French company’s Android media player line, the Archos 32 Android tablet runs Android 2.1 out of the box, and is quickly and readily upgraded to Android 2.2. We’d recommend doing so since the process takes five minutes, and gives you a jazzed up homescreen that switches out the tray for the Froyo dock instead – plus support for more apps.
Finding those apps however is a chore: as ever, Google hasn’t blessed the Archos 32 Android tablet with its core Google apps, so you can’t get Android Market access without hacking it. That’s easily done if you know where to look, but the point is most people don’t – and it severely diminishes the Android experience. But Archos has an ace up its sleeve.
Video and music skills
While we criticised the Archos 28 for its ability to play almost nothing, Archos is very much back on track with the Archos 32 Android tablet. This. Plays. Everything. We lobbed high def movie clips at it, lossless audio files, and it handled it all with aplomb, even rendering subtitles in MKV video files.
Our only complaint is that it lacks the Wi-Fi video streaming skills of the Archos 43 and 101, but really, Archos deserves heaps of praise for what it’s done to Android. Google, Samsung, HTC and others really should take note: the Archos 32 Android tablet plays HD video on a piddly processor without breaking a sweat. What are they doing wrong?
Combined with the TV-out, it could easily make for a handy, tiny device for frequent travellers to plug into hotel TVs (Of course, since the screen itself isn’t HD, so don’t expect things to look deep pan, crisp and even). Also do be aware that the Archos 32 Android tablet has no loudspeaker (though it does have a mic for recording), so all sound has to come through headphones.
The problem with having such stunning media skills in such a little device is that there isn’t a fitting screen to show them off on. The Archos 32 Android tablet’s 3.2-inch, 400×240 screen looks grainy and dark.
On resolution alone, it’s well behind the times, but to make things worse, the touchscreen itself is resistive – a cheap, irritating technology which requires precise inputs. You’ll find yourself having to use your fingernail rather than fingertip to press anything, and trying to type into the web browser is a laborious process as a result – we doubt many UK customers will be using a phone that doesn’t offer a better web-surfing experience than this, Wi-Fi or no.
Archos has released so many slight iterations of the same device now that the Archos 32 Android tablet really struggles to stand out.
It’s older brother, the Archos 43, was very nearly better than the iPod touch, save for its irksome resistive touchscreen. For this same reason alone, we can’t endorse the Archos 32 Android tablet over the iPod nano, this generation or last.
It’s a pity, because Archos’ this is an incredibly powerful device for its size otherwise. One for hardened stylus fans only, raised on Windows Mobile.