Archos 604 media player

Entering a range of portable solutions for video playback in the digital age is the Archos 604, part of their new multimedia player series and offering the home user a range of interesting features.

Primarily the 604 is a portable player, you’ll find an MP3 player built-in along with a suite of extras like a PDF reader, sound recorder and photo album. Of course its main purpose is to play back video, and the 604 includes support for a range of standards including .avi and .WMV, with additional format support available through plug-ins from the Archos site.

It’s pleasing to say that quality is excellent across the board, audio and video are of a high standard due in no small part to the sharp and vibrant 4.3” widescreen display. An innovative menu structure and a host of options for controlling every aspect of this feature-packed device make it a joy to use, but it’s the optional extras that really caught our eye.

As a basic player you’re not given a lot in the box other than a USB charger cable and carry-sac to protect from scratches. However, Archos has a wide range of accessories available for the new multimedia player series, most innovative of which is the DVR Station.

This neat little box sits in between your TV and signal receiver (Sky box, VCR, Freeview box, etc.) initially acting as a pass-through device so your A/V setup works as per normal until you plug in the 604.

At this point you’ll see whatever is currently showing on your TV mirrored on the screen of the player, and from here you can use the supplied remote control or the controls on the player itself to record the programme to the 604’s 30GB hard drive. A range of options are available to adjust quality, so whether you’re recording to watch on the move or simply to play back later on your TV the picture quality is excellent.

Supplied with the DVR Station is a cable with Scart at one end and composite and component connections on the other, but you’ll also find S-video and SPDIF connections on the box as well. In addition to basic record and playback functions is a programme scheduler, which allows you set a time, date and channel for the 604 to record. It’s a great way to primarily get content onto the device to watch later but also to avoid missing your favourite programmes.

When compared to more conventional DVRs the DV Station does fall down in a couple of areas. If something is recording that you’re currently watching, you can’t spin back and forth through the recorded session like you can with Sky+ for example, neither can you pause live TV, so this is more a digital VCR than a full-blown DVR. You’re also lacking the convenience of a proper programme schedule to browse through, so it’s not a straight replacement to something like Sky+ but rather a convenient alternative that skips some of the features.

At this stage it’s worth noting that subsequent to its original release, the 604 is now also available with built-in Wi-Fi, something no other manufacturer has managed on this type of portable player.

The Wi-Fi version incorporates a touchscreen LCD and connects directly to the Internet via Wi-Fi hotspots or to a home network to download media from a PC.

You can also send and receive email from web-based accounts and there’s support for internet radio and podcasts. The Wi-Fi version is available now but will set you back around £100 more than the basic player.

Verdict

The drawbacks to the DVR Station when compared to conventional DVRs shouldn’t detract from the capabilities device as a whole.

As a portable multimedia player it truly is excellent, and with the DV Station you have a great way to both record video to the device and watch encoded movies on your TV.

If you’re in the market to buy an MP3 or portable video player you’re unlikely to find one as svelte and stylish as this, or, with the optional accessories on offer, as versatile in its capabilities.