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Linux-based PMP flexes codecs

Nov 20, 2007 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

The Archos 604 offers the best video codec support in the portable media player (PMP) market, says a recent review. OSNews editor Eugenia Loli-Queru recommends the Linux-based device for video playback, but not before knocking its clunky rocker-buttons and slow USB charging.

Loli-Queru evaluated the $175, 30GB version of the Archos 604, which sports a 4.3-inch, 480×272 display. The 5.1 x 3 x 0.65-inch, 9.05-ounce player provides TV out, USB 2.0 connectivity, MP3 audio playback via a mono speaker or stereo headphones, and audio recording. A full list of features is available in LinuxDevices' original coverage, here.

Archos 604
(Click to enlarge)

With the Archos 604, writes Loli-Queru, it's all about the video. The device played almost every video format she tried, including every DivX/XViD file, and with high quality, too. She concludes, “…as long as the resolution of the file is up to 720×576, the Archos 604 is able to playback without dropping frames 95 percent of the user-oriented formats out there, and that's quite an accomplishment.”

The reviewer notes, however, that she used a version equipped with two extra-cost plug-ins selling for $20 apiece: one for h.264 (a videoconferencing codec), and the other for MPEG1/MPEG2. The device also plays MPEG-4, WMV9/ASF, and other formats.

The Archos 604 offers a full complement of playback controls, notes Loli-Queru, including 30-second fast/back forward, different playback speeds, full A/V adjustments, and the ability to save a screenshot from a frozen frame. She especially likes the choice of playback modes, especially a full-screen mode similar to Sharp's “smart stretch” feature, which both zooms in and crops.

The Archos 604's main drawback for video - and the biggest flaw in general - is the slow, five-hour, USB-based charger. The only wall charger available is built into the extra-cost DVR Station peripheral, which records MPEG-4 video.

Loli-Queru also notes that her review unit lasted only three hours in video playback mode, not the touted five hours, sixteen minutes.

Archos 604 connected to DVR Station
(Click to enlarge)

Although the device was seen to be generally well designed, Loli-Queru found the five rocker buttons on the side of the device to be confusing. The buttons have different functions depending on which way you rock them and which application you're in. “I personally find the interface experience … inferior to the iPod's, or the Zune's,” writes Loli-Queru.

Beyond video playback, the reviewer found the firmware to be mediocre. “The picture viewing application is basic but impressive, but the audio one doesn't hold a candle compared to the iPod,” she writes. In addition, the PDF viewer was “slow,” and the file browser “cumbersome.”

In the end, Loli-Queru gave the unit a score of seven out of ten. “As long as you are willing to pay the extra $40 for the codecs, and you don't mind the lack of a wall charger, this is a very worthy video device,” she writes. “Screen quality is good, and screen size is bigger than any other as-portable device out there.”

Her full review, which includes plenty of photos, can be found here. Archos also sells a 704 model with a whopping 7-inch screen and a WiFi-enabled model, among other models.

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