Epson’s P4000 viewer is a compact high-capacity storage and multimedia viewer device that seems to offer a great combination of screen quality, memory card compatibility, and durability.

The P4000 has an aluminum body shell with signature plastic fascias that feel rock solid and very tactile to boot. The large 3.8-inch screen uses Epson’s Photo Fine technology and has a 640x480-pixel (RGB) resolution that really makes the most of the images displayed.

Controls are placed in a vertical strip to the right of the screen and provide a direct print option via any Epson USB Direct Print compatible printer. A menu button activates the P4000 menu system there’s a large "OK" button with a surrounding ring of four-way directional controls used for scrolling images or menus and activating/selecting choices within menus.

A Home button quickly jumps you back to the viewer’s main screen options and a Display button provides you with display options depending on the function in use: movies it will display the rewind, volume and fast forward controls for example.

The P4000 has a high capacity 80GB hard disc (though over 6GB are utilised by system software) making it capable of storing thousands of images, boat loads of movies in MPEG4, AVI and .MOV file types with DV, Motion JPG, Cinepac, MPEG1, MPEG2 and MPEG4 codecs supported. You can save and play audio as well with MP3 and AAC file types supported making it compatible with iTunes and the like.

Still image file support includes JPEG and RAW for most makes of digital camera. Whatever the type of data (movies, still images or audio) it can all be stored within "albums" and selected for playback either on the P4000’s screen and speaker (or you can use stereo headphones via a 3.5mm headphone jack) or on a TV by plugging the device into a TV with an optional (not supplied) AV lead.

You can play images as slide shows or browse individually while a Music folder houses your audio ready for playback. Movies can be stored in a similar way as well (there’s a dedicated Movie folder too) or you can create new albums for your data as you see fit.

External storage is well catered to with CompactFlash Type I/II, Microdrive, SD/MMC cards (up to 1GB capacity) with other card types supported via a CF card adapter, though such an adapter is not included.

I have a couple of quibbles, as this is billed as a multimedia viewer it is a shame the otherwise lovely screen is not a widescreen format display and while the menus are all easy to understand, there’s a lot of them with much tooing a froing needed for, say, creating a Home page short cut to an album.

However, once the data is where you want it on the P4000 be it brought into the P4000’s 2.5-inch 80GB disc from a memory card or from PC via the USB2.0 connection, it becomes much more straightforward to use.

Battery life of around 3.5 hours for slide shows or image playback and 4.5 hours for music only playback, there’s a respectable amount of power reserve for most uses, even playing a MPEG4 movie from the P4000 through your TV.

Price when reviewed:

While £499 seems a lot of money for what is basically a 80GB external hard disc drive, when you bear in mind its flexibility, the quality of that Photo Fine screen and its other neat functions such as direct printing, it becomes a different proposition.

It is a portable multimedia centre or a store for a vast amount of data or a way to quickly review stored images from your memory cards, which all makes it truly versatile photo accessory one ideal for enthusiast or pro snappers (and any gadget freaks) alike.