Nick Peers
03/01/2012 17:24 | By Nick Peers, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Archos 35 Home Connect review

This is a good stab at a 21st century alarm clock radio, but it's let down by a high price tag and underwhelming screen


Archos 35 Home Connect (© Archos)

What is it?
Android-based clock radio, with music, video, internet radio, app support and web access

What's great
Speakers deliver good sound for their small size; alarm clock functions work well; lightweight and unobtrusive

What's not
Resistive touchscreen is clunky and imprecise; price tag too high; chunky design won't win any awards

The bottom line
A good stab at a 21st century alarm clock radio, let down by its high price tag and underwhelming screen

Review
Archos describes its 35 Home Connect as an "advanced webradio powered by Android", which gives a good idea of the market it's aimed at.

It's designed to replace the clock radio in your bedroom or the portable radio in your kitchen but, as the "powered by Android" comment hints, it's capable of so much more, with music and video playing capabilities built-in.

It's a good job the 35 Home Connect's capabilities aren't limited to that of clock radio. While the bundled TuneIn Radio Pro provides you with access to tens of thousands of radio stations from around the world, you'll need to be connected to the internet to access them, which means leaving your wi-fi on all night if you want to wake up to the radio. There's no DAB or FM tuner to fall back on here, which is a shame.

Thankfully, the Archos 35 Home Connect is actually a capable media player too, with its built-in music player capable of playing most formats (including DRM-free AAC, something not mentioned in the specs) while video plays back smoothly and doesn't look too shabby on its 3.5-inch screen. However, the latter is not something you're likely to use that often, even though catch-up TV is available through the web browser.

Shop for deals on the Archos 35 Home Connect

In terms of looks, the 35 Home Connect won't win any design awards, looking like something of a throwback to the late 80s. That does it a slight disservice, as it's clearly designed to be sat on a flat surface rather than carried around in your pocket. And while it's not particularly slim, it's still incredibly light and the extra bulk is put to good effect, giving the twin speakers more room to breathe in.

The speakers are surprisingly good too, delivering a large sound for such a small device, balancing a rich, warm bass with punchy mid- and high-range frequencies. The only downside is that the built-in options for tweaking the audio sound are restricted to the headphones only (a 3.5mm socket is provided).

The 35 Home Connect is powered by Android 2.2 (Froyo), which means it's also capable of running apps and games, although access is restricted to Archos' own AppLib library.

While a welcome bonus, allowing you to have local weather, traffic and news updates scrolling across the screen as you wake up in the morning, it's not something you'll want to spend too much time fiddling with due to the disappointing screen.

The size is fine, but the resolution isn't great and the resistive touchscreen makes it quite fiddly navigating the unit - you'll end up wanting to spend as little time as possible setting it up, never mind playing games, browsing the web or using the frankly superfluous camera.

The amount of storage provided is a little disappointing too, but at least there's a microSD card slot. Despite the official specs, we were able to use our type 10 32GB microSD card with no problems. Universal Plug and Play (uPnP) support is also built-in, so you can stream media from other sources over your network.

The 35 Home Connect comes with its own built-in battery for true portability, which is adequate if not spectacular in terms of battery life. As this isn't a device for carrying in your pocket, it's not a major issue.

The Archos 35 Home Connect has definitely spotted a niche in the media player market and made a reasonable play for it. As a functional alarm clock with media player support, it does a decent enough job, but the outdated touchscreen and relatively high price tag weigh quite heavily against it.

Archos 35 Home Connect is rated three-and-a-half stars out of five by MSN Tech & Gadgets

Essential info
Price: £120
Capacity: 4GB
Expansion: microSD slot, up to 16GB
Screen (size, type, resolution): 3.5-inch TFT resistive touchscreen, resolution not specified
Audio formats supported: MP3, FLAC, OGG, WAV
Video formats supported: MPEG-4 AVI and "most other common formats"
Other features: twin high-definition speakers, front-facing VGA camera (video and still) and mic, alarm clock, weather forecast, TuneIn web radio, Android 2.2 (Froyo)
Stated battery life: not specified
Dimensions: 92mm x 163.6mm x 52mm, 245g

Other players offering radio
iPod touch: internet radio accessible via third-party apps
Sandisk Sansa Clip Zip: FM radio, music player only

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