Archos Mobile DVR

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The french company Archos is producer of several series of MP3 and mobile video players. For people interested in reading digital content the 704 and 705 are possibly the most interesting products. Next to their media player features they are capable of viewing (unprotected) PDFs, allow browsing the web via a WiFi connection and come with a reasonable large display of 7" and a resolution of 800 x 480. They also have a smaller 4.3" screen called the 604/605 with the same specifications. The 705 is the newer model but an Internet browser is now an option while it was standard in the older version.

This is an out of date model. See Archos 7 for the current version.

The main purpose of this device is to be a mobile media player that becomes a video recorder when plugged into an additional base station.


[edit] Specifications

  • Dimensions: 182 x 128 x 20mm (7.05" x 4.96" x 0.78")
  • Display: 7" 800x480 16 million colors TFT with resistive touchscreen.
  • WiFi: 802.11g
  • Other interfaces: USB 2.0 (device and host), headphone, TV-out
  • Disc drives: 40 GB or 80 GB hard drive
  • Expansion slots: none
  • Battery: Li-Polymer
    • Life: 5.5 h (movie playback)
    • 25 h (music playback)
  • weight: 630g (22oz)
  • Price: 300€ (704 / 40GB),
    • 400€ (704 / 80GB),
    • 500€ (705 / 160 GB)

[edit] Review of the Archos 704 WiFi

This is a individual review of a reader who has unfortunately forgotten to write down his name ;)
Possibly it makes sense to put this chapter into a new article.

The first thought when holding the 704 WiFi in the hand is "heavier than it looks". But that is unproblematic as long as you are sitting. Then you'll either lay the archos on your legs or place it upstanding on a table using its built in stand or holding it in the hand. However when you are lying in the bed or somewhere else, the most comfortable reading position would be to hold it somehow diagonal. In this case the weight becomes uncomfortable during longer use. At the time I learned to love and hate the Archos at the same time.

  • Love it because it makes much more sense to me than a notebook or PC operating system based handheld. In especially it is lighter, has a good operating time and less complex than a universal computer system.
  • Hate it because it has several insufficiencies as listed below.

[edit] Pros

  • A well thought touch screen based user interface.
    All items are large enough to be pointed by fingernail. When hold in the hand the most common actions can be done with the thumbs. Holding it in the hand becomes therefore very comfortable. Next to that there is a nice dragging mechanism to scroll pages. It works like the hand tool in computer applications (i.e. Acrobat Reader). It works quite fast and is very comfortable. When reading documents mostly just vertical scrolling is required. That is easily done with one thumb.
  • PDF viewer
  • Opera web browser
  • 40 GB or 80 GB hard drive
  • allows to browse files (useful when used as data storage)
  • connects as USB mass storage device to a computer
  • USB stick or camera can be connected (works as image tank)
  • display light is well (3 levels which should fit all needs
  • plays several audio and video formats
  • can be laid on a soft surface
    Some notebook computers overheat when ventilation slots on the bottom are covered. I.e. when their own weight lets them sink into the bed mattress.

[edit] Cons

Although the 704 WiFi is capable of playing videos this is obviously realized by a special signal processor. The general processing speed is kind of slow or is not used good enough. Next to this, the OS could be optimized to better integrate the several features it provides.

  • too many hard drive accesses (to few HD cache or bad caching strategy)
  • rendering a pdf page takes typically 2 - 10 seconds
    The rendering time of pdf pages would be no problem, if the succeeding page would already be rendered in background. Unfortunately this does not happen.
  • rendering web pages is also kind of slow
  • Opera starts up after a WiFi connection has been established - not in parallel
  • to view a PDF from the internet the document has to be saved, the browser must be closed, the pdf must be located and opened.
  • Opera crashes after browsing a couple of complex structured web sites.
  • Opera comes without add blocker
    The adds don't leave much space for the real content on a small device like that.

Edit: While there is no automated Ad-Blocker like FF's Adblock Plus, you can always right-click on a page and choose "Block content" - and it remembers the blocked addresses for then on (also works with wildcard (*) character so you can block anything from any site you want, e.g. "*")

  • adjusting the display light requires to leave the current application
  • the on screen keyboard uses 2 levels for input of special characters
    This behaviour is not intuitive. Since there is enough place for a further line of letters, this could be easily avoided.
  • locally stored .txt and .html files can not be displayed

[edit] Possible further enhancements

  • play mp3s in background when browsing/reading PDFs
  • mp3 clock feature
  • store web content for offline read
  • support protected e-book formats
  • invert colors (for better reading in dark environments)
  • flip pages in pdf viewer and web browser
  • offer a replacement USB cable set (mini-A cables are hard to find)
  • automatic time synchronization using NTP

[edit] Features not reviewed

I can not say anything about the following features as I did not use them:

  • playing protected WMA
  • browsing the local network
  • use as DVR

[edit] Conclusion

The Archos product family traditionally supports audio and video playback as well as the usage as image tank and external data storage.

In contrast, the web browsing and pdf reading are newly introduced features. In my opinion these where not yet implemented in an optimal way. Therefore I think that the Archos 704 is not the very best choice for people mainly interested in these two cases of use.

Although the hardware is limited, it should be sufficient for a good browsing and pdf reading experience. Since the successor 705 was introduced in the meantime, I wonder if Archos will further improve the 704 series. As both are optically very similar, I do not give up to hope.

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