Monday and Friday of last week was like Christmas. On Monday I received a HD video camera. On Friday I received the Archos 605 WiFi portable media player. I bought it for a couple of reasons. First, my wife was feeling like a second class citizen because she doesn't have one. And second, because I wanted to.
The Screen, Size and Feel
The Archos 605 I purchased is the 80GB, 4.3" widescreen model. It's slightly thinner than my Zen Vision W. I took some pictures of it next to some of my other players for comparison.
The 4.3" screen is a touch screen. As a result, the screen does not have a glossy finish like the Zen, PSP or iPod. The screen itself seems rather rigid. I hope that means it's going to last a long time. So far I haven't found a big need to touch the screen much. You can do nearly everything with the menu button and directional keys. Because the screen is big, the unit isn't small. The native resolution for the screen is 800x480 pixels with 16 million colors. That's about twice the resolution of most of my other players and a bunch of colors although I haven't counted them all.
The actual size of the unit is 4.8'' long x 3.2'' wide x 0.75'' thick. It weighs 9 ounces which is twice what my 80GB iPod Video weighs. If you look at the pictures at http://www.archos.com/products/gen_5/archos_605wifi/download.html?country=us&lang=en, you'll notice the unit looks gray metallic (beaded in the close ups) with gray keys. Those pictures must have been an early prototype because my unit is slightly different. The keys on mine are white and the unit itself doesn't have the polished stainless steel finish like you see in flash animation on the main page. That's fine with me because I like the finish my unit has. It doesn't show fingerprints and it is easy to hold.
Video Playback and Battery Life
Out of the box it plays most if not all of the Windows Media Video and AVI files I have. I haven't tried any WMV HD. There are some optional plugins to add support for H.264 or MPEG-2 with AAC and AC3 respectively. I doubt I'll purchase those plugins. I'm ripping everything I have to DivX AVI or WMV and it plays them great.
I'm getting 5 hours of continuous video playback with default brightness and contrast settings. That's also with 2500k bit rate video. I'm wondering if I produce different video bit rates if I can reduce I/O to the hard drive and thus extend the battery life more. I don't think it's a big deal so I'll probably just continue doing what I'm doing. The last time I went to Hawaii, two movies was plenty so this should be sufficient.
The Archos 605 I have has the 80GB hard disk. To give you an idea, I already have 35 movies on it and the hard drive isn't even half full. To bring this into perspective, I can load the complete Harry Potter movie set, all of the Star Wars movies, the extended Lord of the Rings set, all of the Matrix movies, all of the Indiana Jones movies, all of the Aliens movies, and about 30 other movies. I'm in the process of doing that right now. Impressive eh? Let's see the 16GB Apple iPod Touch do that. No possible way.
In case you were wondering, the typical two hour movie is ripping to about a 1GB disk file. So I'll end up having about sixty to seventy movies on the disk when I'm done. The Creative Zen Vision W I have will hold a little less. Basically either of the devices will hold a killer collection of pictures, music and video.
The Archos 605 comes with an assortment of other features. Some of those features are uninteresting to me, but might come in handy for other people. For instance, the 605 has a DVR Station option that allows you to record television programming. I already have HDTV recordings via my TiVo and Media Center PC so I don't really need yet another source of programming.
My player comes with WiFi and several networking options. For instance, I could purchase Opera and load it on the 605 and turn it into a cute little coffee shop surfing device. This is mildly interesting to me, but since I don't have a nationwide hotspot plan, I don't have a big need for this.
It appears the Archos 605 is running Samba or something to allow network browsing of shares on my homelan. According to the docs and features, it's also supposed to have streaming capabilities. Again, all of this stuff is kewl and all, but I'm using my 605 as a standalone portable media player.
The Archos 605 WiFi is a solid player and lives up to its billing so far. I purchased mine through Amazon.com when they went on sale (10% off). I also had a $35 gift card and got free shipping. I've only been playing with it a few days and so far I only dislike one thing which I plan to fix. The supplied charge cord sucks. The cord I'm talking about is the USB cord that allows syncing, charging or both. It charges extremely slow via USB. I need to find a quicker charging method.
The screen is fabulous and will work in "torch mode". In other words, you can really crank up the brightness and contrast. If you do, you'll knock some of the battery life off. For instance, I turned it up and it knocked the video playback time down to four hours fifteen minutes. If I buy an extra battery or quick charge method, I'll probably run the brightness somewhere less than torch, but something higher than default.
And in case you were wondering about my honey, she's getting the Zen Vision W. So I'm loading it with all of the mushy chick flicks and some of her dance videos. Shhhhhh, keep that a secret. It's a surprise.
You'll notice no comparison and only this brief mention of Zune. My Zune is Microsoft owned and I gave it to Bryan Von Axelson. He promised he was going to put it to good use. I'm waiting for the next generation Zune to show up.
[UPDATE] I spoke with Archos Technical Support about the charge times I'm seeing with this unit. It takes about eight hours to charge (when fully drained) if using the USB cord plugged into my laptop or desktop machines. That is apparently the norm. That doesn't really surprise me because USB doesn't supply that much power. So I ordered the battery dock pictured here at right. This little mini dock serves several functions. First, it does a quick charge of the battery in the unit. It also has a built-in battery which extends the video playback by another 4 hours (or so I'm told). I should know if any of that is true by this time next week. If so, it looks like I'm ready for a trip to an exotic location. Tahiti anyone?
[FINAL UPDATE] I received my Archos mini dock battery charger. bhphotovideo.com sells them for $39. It adds 4 hours to the playback time of the unit. Nine hours of nonstop video playback is pretty killer. Charging now takes less than four hours. I have forty movies on my Archos 605 WiFi player, so far. I think I am travel ready now. Grin.
FYI, I had to correct the link just above because apparently my source sold my battery doc for the wrong price then corrected the online catalog.