Bearing in mind that I've only been able to play Armada 2526 rather sporadically the last few days since I got it, I'm already comfortable giving at least a tentative recommendation for it. Further playing til dawn playtesting will tell, but thus far I'm honestly quite pleased with my experience.
The game is fairly easy to learn (thanks in no small part because of the decent tutorial and the "pop-up" feature) yet hard to master, which for me is the perfect combo. Colony & ship management is pretty straightforward, the different races actually feel like they've got a bit of personality, and diplomacy is -- believe it or not -- worth engaging in. Best of all (IMO), the AI is probably among the best I've seen in a strategy game, at least on the strategic side; it's pretty good at knowing when to declare war, play nice, where/how to expand, it will know when it's losing a war and sue for peace accordingly, etc.
The battles are admittedly somewhat underwhelming, but I wouldn't say they're horrible. Personally, I'd say my biggest gripe with combat so far is the 3:30 time limit; I really want to be able to mod that so I can have longer battles.
I'll try to post more about the game (good and bad) tomorrow, but for now, I've really got to get to bed here. (So tired....)
Probably not. Matrix Games releases demos only seldomly, and they've specifically stated they don't plan a demo for Armada at this time. (I think this is unfortunate myself, but then I don't run a game company. ) That could still change, of course; but for the time being, the answer to your question is "no".