Archos has always "over-hyped" their products as "breakthroughs in innovation" but in reality the functionality is never quite as robust as you expected and the implementation is rather crude, almost as if it was "forced" or cobbled together.
My first device was a 604 wifi, and I could "see" where they were going with it, and I thought if I hung around long enough they would get to where we all want to go, but that wasn't the case.
The 5/7 was rolled out as a modular device, and there was Archos-generated buzz about a USB 3g dongle plugin, and Archos gave the impression that the 5/7 was their new hardware platform that was going to stick for a while. That's the deceptive part.
In summary, the 5/7 turned out to be more of the same, and they just sexied up the hardware. They're been selling basically the same unit over all the generations, and they they just dribble out some stuff in the new lineup that should have been in last years lineup, so the product is never really innovative in the sense that they're offering something cutting edge.
No doubt Archos made decent PMP's, the 7 is ahead of its time in terms of screen real estate and hard drive size, although Magellan has just come out with a 7" GPS for under $200, but they should have at least implemented H.264 720p on the 7.
Since you brought up the point of how cheap the hardware is now, I find it somewhat saddening to see how much they were at launch, and then you calculate what the "early adopters" fee is for the devices.