The French manufacturer makes a sensible start with the Archos TV+ by mimicking the sleek design of the Apple TV and many of the features that it offers. Content can be wirelessly streamed from your PC so that JPEGs, MP3s and DiVX can be accessed on your television.
There’s a web browser, too, so that you can surf the internet from the comfort of the sofa. Media can be shared between the TV+ and Archos’ portable players and there’s even an on-demand video service that ‘rents’ films for £3. So far, pretty standard.
A PVR with all the trimmings
But, where the TV+ goes one better than its rivals is its ability to record TV. Recordings can be done manually or set up in advance using the seven-day EPG. The 250GB drive can store up to 480hrs, which should be more than enough for even the most avid TV viewer.
Annoyingly, though, you have to register your deck online before the EPG becomes accessible, and the site ominously informs you that it is ‘free for the first year’ suggesting that you’ll have to pay for it thereafter.
Archos confirmed that this is indeed the case and admitted that it will be an extra £14.90. Disappointingly, this isn’t the only hidden cost.
You have to invest a further £50 to activate all of the features that the TV+ is capable of (and these include compatibility with MPEG2, Quicktime and AAC audio to name but a few).
Though there’s an onscreen guide that talks you through setup, we encountered a number of problems.
The Archos is supposed to control the set-top box via an IR emitter on the front panel. This means the TV+ has to face it for the signal to work and so stupidly, it can’t sit in the same stand.
We were unable to get it to configure with our Sky HD receiver, making programmed recordings impossible and the awkward setup process for the EPG, wi-fi and plugins would test the patience of a saint.
Good quality recording from Archos
Although the TV+ has HDMI output, pictures are only output at 576i, meaning that they’re never going to come close to the brilliance of HD. Connection to the set-top box, meanwhile, is via Scart or composite video, which again limits the quality we can expect.
That said, recordings remain, for the most part, identical to live broadcasts. When connected to Sky Digital they reveal strongly saturated colours, tightly contained edges and assured handling of motion, while detail levels rival the best from the PVR world.
Switching to Freeview, there is a drop in quality as grain becomes more noticeable, noise appears in darker areas and movement can cause sporadic judders.
Less impressive still is the audio, which is listless and flat, with feeble trebles and a lack of any genuine bass. This is surprising considering that playback of MP3 files had a bright, breezy quality that that seemed almost to belong to another box entirely.
A flexible media streamer
This is a flexible media streamer, even if one or two extra costs are needed for it to realise its full potential. Setup is a painful process and we failed to get it to do a lot of the things it was supposed to.
The positioning of the IR emitter is ridiculous and there are other options on the market that do the same job just as well, if not better. What’s supposed to mark the Archos TV+ out from its rivals is its ability to record and, unfortunately, this just isn’t good enough.
Let’s hope that the next generation Archos TV+ irons out these issues and will be able to handle HD material and offer upscaling.