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Saturday, May 03, 2008
  Archos 705 WiFi - Love the device, but major firmware issues

If you have read earlier posts, you know I love the Archos 605 WiFi, and consider the 605 a much better device for my needs than the iPod touch. My older Archos products, the AV500 & AV700, were great devices as well. Since I enjoyed the 605's so much, I also purchased an Archos 705 WiFi 160GB for home use. The Archos 705 has the same features as the 605's with a bigger 7" screen, and a remote control. The screen resolution of the 705 is the same as the 605, so the same video looks sharper on the 605. Please don't take that as a negative. The video still looks fine on the 705, it just looks better on the 605. Videos on similar resolution screens always look sharper on the physically smaller screen.

I do miss the buttons on the right side of the device, unfortunately the buttons which I use frequently on the 605's are not included on the 705. Also, the touch screen is not as sensitive on the 705 as on the 605. I can navigate the touch screen on the 605 with my finger, but a stylus is required for the 705. The 705 does have an IR port, and a remote is included. The remote works flawlessly with the 705, and is probably the reason the 705 does not have any buttons, and a less sensitive touch screen. However, I prefer to navigate the device directly, and would prefer a more sensitive touch screen, and physical buttons.

Videos, and photos look great on the nice 7" screen, and I am definitely satisfied with the overall ability of the device to display both video, and photos. Prior to recent firmware updates, I was able to stream videos from my NAS devices directly to the 705.

The web browsing experience is better on the 705 due to the large physical screen vs. the 605. Old single column web pages, which sometimes require horizontal scrolling to read each line when zoomed to a readable text level on the 605, and iPod touch, are very readable on the 705 without zooming due to the large physical screen size. Fortunately, I have not encountered any old single column pages which required me to zoom the 705 to a level which required horizontal scrolling to read the page. I am not a fan of viewing the full web on mobile devices; I definitely prefer the mobile web on small screen devices. The full web on most mobile devices requires too much panning when viewing, and panning is just a fancy name for the dreaded horizontal scrolling. The Archos 705 is the first mobile device that I can honestly say I prefer using the full web rather than the mobile web. Physical screen size does indeed matter. A 7" screen is the sweet spot for full internet viewing on a mobile device, at least for my needs. With the latest firmware update (2.0.x), Flash video support has been updated from version 7 to 9. You can actually watch the video on the front page of the NY Times. That being said, don't expect 30 fps. What I have experienced is full audio with an estimated 2 to 8 fps which is fine for a NY Times video because most do not include many fast motion scenes.

Now the bad news - When I first purchased the 705, all the features of the device worked fine with minor glitches. Most of the time I use the device, I need network access. When I upgraded the firmware from version 1.7.x to 1.8.x, the major problems started. You are lucky if you can get one minute of network access before the 705 freezes, and has to be rebooted to use again. To say I am frustrated, and disappointed by this major problem is an understatement. I called Archos tech support, and was told an update to fix the network problems caused by the 1.8.x update was being worked on. Two months later, Archos released firmware update version 2.0.x which tech support promised would fix the network related problems associated with the 1.8.x update. I immediately downloaded the update with high hopes that I could finally use my 705 again for my preferred network access functions. Unfortunately, the 2.0.x update did not correct the problem, and I am very disappointed since I have waited two months for the fix, and the fix was not a fix.

Archos tech support is probably tired of hearing from me, and quite frankly, I am tired of having to call them with device problems. Fix the issues with the device, and I will not call again, I promise. If you call later in the evening, expect at least a half hour hold before talking to a technician. Fortunately, the call is toll free. As far as my opinion of Archos's tech support - just let's say they have been consistently polite. Unfortunately, my problems have not been resolved, and some support personnel seemed distant/not interested in the problems I was having with my device. Let me leave it at that.

Although I strongly recommend the 605 without reservations, I cannot recommend the 705 device because of the major firmware issues I have experienced, and the lack of a reliable fix from Archos. Not all 705's have been broken by the firmware update, but I have seen other posts on the net from users with similar issues. You may purchase the 705, and it may work fine with your network setup, or you may encounter the same frustrating problems I have. The same firmware version updates on the 605's have worked fine, the issues are just with some 705's. The only reason I know how well Flash 9 videos display is from using the new firmware on the 605's; the 705 has not been stable enough with network access to fully load the NY times home page. When, and if Archos actually releases an update that fixes the network access problems, I would change from not recommended to strongly recomended without reservations.

Please Archos, fix the network access problem with the 705. You make some of the finest portable video devices, but you risk loosing some loyal customers with your lack of a quick response to this major firmware update problem with the 705. Palm was too slow in releasing a software update for the Tungsten T5 problems which resulted in my switching to Windows Mobile devices permanently. I hope Archos does not make the same mistake which could result in my switching to a different portable video brand, and selling (eBay) my Archos devices.
I was a Palm OS champion for years, but switched to the Windows Mobile platform in 2005. My experiences using my Windows Mobile devices, and other electronic devices will be detailed in this blog. The posts reflect what I like, and do not like about a device, or application. Your needs, and opinion may be different.

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