Couple days ago I became happy owner of Archos 605. Here is a short review of this wonderful/horrible device and explanation why most people won’t like it.
The main problem with Archos is its hidden price. Archos 605 is the worst ka-ching I ever had. You buy this relatively expensive gadget and it appears that the only thing you can do with it is playing files saved on its hard drive on a small 4.3″ screen. The only purpose it serves is taking couple of videos in a trip and watching just one of them. Why just one? That’s because smart marketing people from Archos did not include charger into the package. So the only option to charge the device is via USB port and it takes about one day to rise the battery bar from 1 to 5 lines. This is just incredible – the device alone definitely doesn’t worth buying at all! So you need to buy couple accessories to improve its connectivity and reduce charging time to something appropriate.
Probably the best accessory for Archos is DVR station (kaching!). It provides relatively quick charging and TV connectivity. You also get a very nice remote with the DVR and possibility to schedule recording using TV Guide. However the free TV Guide subscription is available only for one year (kaching!). Also you can’t just plug the cable to the DVR station as it doesn’t have TV tuner. It requires composite or component input from your set-top box or VCR or DVD Recorder (regular DVD players don’t have necessary connectors).
Now let’s talk about playing files from a remote computer. 605 is very different from other PMPs available on the market because it has WiFi. In theory this means that you can play almost any file from your network. Unfortunately reality is pretty far from theory. For instance you can open a file from you server on Archos, but the video in most cases will be freezing from time to time. I don’t know exactly why this happens, but my guess is that poor embedded antenna doesn’t provide good WiFi bandwidth, so you can’t play video on-the-fly. Instead, you should copy the file to the device first. Archos also provides possibility to play streamed video, but you need to buy a software plugin for this (kaching). At the same time streaming video from a sever is the best option to access your media collection at home. So, the plugin definitely worth it, especially if you are an experienced computer user.
The other possibility is web browsing using Archos. Actually just browsing actually is not very interesting feature. Just think how comfortable browsing on a 4.3″ low-res screen could be. But in combination with the above mentioned plugin you can also watch youtube and that is fun. You can also play simple Flash games as the web browser (modded Opera) supports Flash unlike you-know-what. Just don’t expect too much from flash on Archos – the CPU is too slow and the device doesn’t have fully-functional keyboard or mouse emulation to play most games. So the web plugin worth buying too (ka-ching!)
Can’t play certain media files on Archos? Welcome to buying one more plugin (kaching!) that provides support for MPEG2 and couple other codecs. It also gives you DVD-quality video and 5.1 sound on your TV via DVR SPDIF. The plugins listed above are actually not everything available, there is more. But all other plugins (like web TV&Radio) are real plugins because you can live without them. The plugins listed above are just essential for this kind of device.
The next thing is playing videos while you’re in a hotel or in the car. Some car DVD players support external video source so you can play video from your Archos on such a player. The problem here is that Archos 605, unlike its many predecessors, doesn’t have video out. So you have to buy one more accessory for it (kaching!). And if you want to record video you’ll need another one (kaching!).
So being overall interesting device Archos 605 is just way too expensive. Here is a quick list of purchases you need to make in order to make Archos work as you probably were dreaming about while reading 605 specs:
- Archos 605 PMP 30Gb – $280
- DVR Station – $83
- Web Browser plugin – $30
- Video Podcast plugin – $20
- Cinema Plugin – $20
- Minidock (small adapter for outputting video to TV) – $29
- Travel DVR (to record video on-the-go) – $56
Total of $518 which is a price of a laptop these days. I mean a simple laptop that includes WiFi, at least 10″ screen and hopefully TVOut. You can also buy a simple piece of hardware capable of recording video for these money too.
I’ve been Archos fan for many years and loved their GMini and AV-Series. Unfortunately the Generation 4 and 5 of ARchos devices simply do not worth the money you pay.
So I might look like a very unhappy person with this box of strings attached. Well, I’m not. I’ve got my Archos used and paid for the resulting combination of plugins and accessories about $200 less then retail price. I just think $300-350 should be the real price for this device to keep customers happy.
Unfortunately the market doesn’t provide anything even close to the functionality of Archos in the same form-factor (Yes, I know about Cowon, Zen and iTouch, but Archos is still superior). So if you need something like 605 right now you have no choice but to buy it now for the current price. But if I can I’d wait for another year till tons of competitors will knock the prices for Recording WiFi-enabled PMPs to the ground.
This post is published in Hardware.