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ARCHOS Generation 5 Portable Media Players (6/2007)
by Douglas Dixon
ARCHOS has just announced its new Generation 5 line of Portable Media Players (PMP), with prices ranging from $170 to $500, for devices featuring 2 to 160 GB of storage (www.archos.com).
The new line will be available at retail beginning in September. This overview is based on preliminary announcements and brief demos, and therefore is incomplete...
The new products look very familiar from the previous Gen 4 players. If you liked the Archos 704-WiFi you get the same basic case design and user interface -- just with new bonus of thinner and lighter and less expensive -- plus adding interesting upgrades like fun Widget applications and streaming Flash video over WiFi (yes, you can watch YouTube).
The top of the line, the ARCHOS 705 WiFi and 605 WiFi, have 800 x 480 widescreen displays with touch screen interfaces, and, obviously, the WiFi wireless networking.
ARCHOS 605 WiFi with kickstand
Then ARCHOS is offering two additional flash-based players, without WiFi.
Look up the Archos 704 WiFi on Amazon.com.
The ARCHOS players are designed to support all forms of digital media, and in many formats (see details below). They play music and photos, including slide shows with transition effects. And they play video, including movies and recorded TV shows.
Like the Gen 4 products, the full-size players (all but the 105) support an optional DVR Station Gen 5 accessory ($99) that plugs into to add video output, for displaying all your media on a television. And the DVR Station supports capture, so you can set it up on a schedule to record TV shows using the integrated program guide. There's also a DVR Travel Adapter ($69)
ARCHOS 605 WiFi with TV program guide
ARCHOS is also offering a new remote control -- a tiny device, but with a full keypad handy for Web surfing.
With the WiFi players, you can stream and watch videos stored on your local PC network -- either by browsing your Windows network neighborhood as before, or now also by accessing your media devices and content through the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) interface supported on consumer electronics devices (and computers).
If you want to surf the Web and access Internet media, ARCHOS has lowered the base price of the units by unbundling the Opera browser into a separate plug-in ($30), and also offers an Internet Radio plug-in ($20).
The Opera browser works well for Web surfing, displaying most sites in full width on the 800 x 480 displays, though you'll want a stylus to accurately tap small links.
The Opera browser also can stream videos in Flash video format (i.e., from YouTube). You can't stream videos in other formats over the Web (only over the local network), although you can download them to play back from local storage.
To provide access to additional downloadable content, there's the new ARCHOS Content Portal, offering movies and music, both free and for purchase. ARCHOS also is working with content partners such as CinemaNow for movies, TV shows and music videos, and BurnLounge for major label music. Since the player hardware can identify itself to the Content Portal, once you register your purchasing information once, you can purchase and download new content immediately, without needing to login or enter credit card information each time.
Put all these capabilities together, and an ARCHOS Portable Media Player becomes a quite powerful set-top box to play back right on the TV -- with the ability to display stored music, photos, and videos; schedule recordings of TV shows; stream content directly from networked PCs and other devices; and download and play premium content purchased online.
It almost makes you feel guilty when you un-dock the player to take it on the road as a portable device -- now you can't record more shows, and the TV is no longer connected to all that alternate content. You could buy another player to stay with the TV, but instead ARCHOS is offering a new product -- the ARCHOS TV Plus -- basically all the functionality of the ARCHOS PMPs with DVD Station, but in a small set-top box (roughly 1 foot wide) -- designed to display on a TV and be controlled with the ARCHOS remote control.
The TV Plus acts as a stand-alone DVR with hard drive storage, and supports both analog and HDMI outputs for viewing on a TV. And it has built-in WiFi and Ethernet connections for playing networked content and Web surfing on TV. Plus there's a USB connection to synch content including recorded TV shows with an ARCHOS PMP.
1.8'' OLED color screen, 160 x 128, 262,000 colors.
3.5'' TFT LCD, 320 x 240 (QVGA. 4:3)
ARCHOS 605 WiFi
4.3'' TFT LCD, Touch screen, 800x480 pixels (WVGA, 16:9 widescreen), 16
ARCHOS 705 WiFi
7-inch TFT, Touch screen, 800x480 pixels (WVGA, 16:9 widescreen), 260,000
MPEG-4 (ASP@L5 AVI, up to DVD resolution)
Optional software plug-ins:
Stereo MP3 decoding @ 30-320 Kbits/s CBR & VBR,
JPEG, BMP, PNG.
Reads PDF documents. May not implement all PDF features.
Via optional DVR Station GEN 5 or DVR Travel Adapter:
Via optional DVR Station GEN 5 or DVR Travel Adapter:
USB 2.0 High-Speed Device (compatible USB 1.1):