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Review

An Android alarm clock to help you dream of electric sheep Add to ...

Archos’ new 35 Home Connect is a Google Android 2.2.1-powered device that desperately wants to be more than what it really is: An alarm clock with web radio.

It’s surprisingly light and about the size of a woman’s wallet, sporting a plastic body with a glossy silver sheen. It also seems fairly durable – it showed no sign of cosmetic mutilation or technical malfunction after taking as spill from a high table onto a hardwood floor – and travels well should you need to throw it in a bag and take it to the cottage.

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When away from an outlet, it holds a charge for about a day of intermittent usage, which suggests you might be able to use it as a web radio on the porch or in the backyard. However, its speakers probably aren’t up to the challenge. They’re clear and pleasant-sounding – personalities on CBC Radio 1 came through warm and natural, and music plays without too many tinny artifacts – but maximum volume isn’t much more than that of a loud conversation, and there’s a distinct lack of bottom-end punch.

It comes with four gigabytes of storage for your own music, which can be expanded via memory cards up to 16 GB in size. It also comes preloaded with TuneIn Radio, a basic web radio app that integrates with Archos’ custom alarm system. It’s easy to find local and international stations and select those you’d like to have tease you awake each morning, as well as set up weather and traffic updates to help you better prepare for your day before rolling out of the sack.

It makes for an adequate – though, at $150, expensive – little bed-side device. The problems come in the other things it wants to be, most of which rely on its thoroughly lacklustre 3.5-inch multi-touch screen.

The display is a little smaller than that of an iPhone, its viewing angles aren’t great, and you can expect problems with reflections in bright environments. It’s also not nearly as responsive or precise as other touch screens you’re likely accustomed to using, and is uncomfortably mushy (it gives a little with each tap, which makes you want to press harder and risk sending the light device scooting across the nightstand).

So while its full-fledged (albeit dated) Android OS means you can play videos, browse photos, stream media across your home network, check e-mail, manage social networks, record sounds, surf the web, play games (the ubiquitous Angry Birds comes pre-loaded) and download thousands of additional apps, I can’t see why anyone would. The phones and tablets that many of us already own have quicker, smoother operating systems, much better screens and interfaces, and are generally kept close to hand, even when sleeping.

And if by chance you don’t happen to have a modern mobile device, you should probably buy one instead of this luxury clock radio. (Note that my use of the term “luxury” has more to do with price than class; Archos’ device fails to cultivate the impression of high-end performance and opulence that we normally expect from luxury products.)

Instead of this odd duck of a device, opt for one of the many clock/dock solutions available from the likes of iHome, Xtreme Mac, and Stem designed to support various phones and tablets. They’re generally a fair bit cheaper (under $100), allow you to use your existing device’s high quality screen to interact with a variety of great alarm and radio apps and offer the added bonus of ensuring you wake up next to a fully charged phone or slate on your nightstand.

Archos 35 Home Connect ($149.99; www.newegg.ca )

 

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