Many of the hottest mobile devices of 2010 run some variation of Google's Android OS. Unfortunately, getting your hands on an Android device that isn't wrapped up in carrier contracts and monthly bills is nearly impossible.
The Archos 32 aims to remedy this tragic gadget dilemma, delivering some of the best features of Android 2.2 (aka Froyo) in a pocket-size design priced at an affordable $149. And though we don't believe it has anything on Apple's latest iPod Touch, it certainly has plenty to brag about considering it is priced nearly $100 less.
Built from a combination of anodized aluminum and plastic, the Archos 32's construction quality feels reassuringly solid. It measures 2 inches wide by 4 inches tall by a mere 0.25 inch thick, and weighs a barely there 2.5 ounces.
With the exception of a volume rocker switch and sleep button on the left edge, the Archos 32 is controlled entirely using the touch screen and a series of dedicated touch controls on the front. As with most Android-based smartphones, the dedicated controls include a back arrow, menu list, home, and search. Touch-sensitive controls for volume are also included on the front of the device, which seems silly considering the hardware volume switch located nearby, but doesn't detract from the experience in any meaningful way.
On the bottom edge of the Archos 32 you'll find a headphone jack, pinhole microphone, battery indicator, and a Micro-USB port. We're glad to see that Archos opted for a universal port instead of the proprietary dock used on many of its larger tablets, though it does mean that accessories such as the Archos DVR Station are not compatible. That said, an AV cable accessory (sold separately) will allow you to output all onscreen content to a TV over a composite connection.
The back of the Archos 32 includes one of its most tempting features: a video camera. It can't shoot 720p HD video footage like the iPod Touch can, but its VGA resolution recordings aren't too shabby and can be adjusted between a number of bit rates. The camera is also capable of capturing still photographs, though it lacks a flash or any kind of sophisticated options for focus or white balance. A gallery of still images captured by the Archos 32 can be found in this slideshow.
The Archos 32 has plenty to brag about. Concealed behind the 3.2-inch touch screen is an impressive array of components, including an 800MHz Arm Cortex A8 processor, an accelerometer sensor that controls screen orientation and works as a gaming control, an OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics processor, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, and 8GB of flash storage.
That's a lot of tech for a device priced at less than $150. Still, if you're looking for an Android smartphone without the "phone," you'll be disappointed to know that the Archos 32 doesn't offer memory expansion, GPS, digital compass, a front-facing camera, multitouch, gyroscope, haptic feedback, or SIM card support. As a compromise on that last item, Archos does allow you to tether to a phone's data connection over Bluetooth or USB. Of course, once you've reached that level of kludged-together mobile device, you may as well just upgrade to a full Android smartphone.