The Archis is definitely a great investment for anyone who likes something to do on a long commute
Great storage capacity
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Archos' 504 is the world's first large-screen portable media player with a 160GB hard drive. It'll allow you to store an impressive 450 movies, which should be more than enough to keep even the most avid film enthusiast quiet.
But that's not all it is capable of - that 160GB can also store 1.6 million photos, 80,000 MP3s or enough hours to dictate the entire contents of the Lord of the Rings to the audio recorder, should you feel that way inclined. Alternatively, you can use the 504 to transfer large files, or an entire PC drive to your home or business computer, thanks to the high-speed USB 2.0 port.
When it comes to recording video, however, the news isn't quite so good. While the 504 can record from your TV in the MPEG4 format, it can only do so in combination with the optional DVR station, which will set you back an additional £70. This is, however, an investment we believe is worth making, as it practically doubles the functionality of the device.
Not only will it allow you to record Match of the Day, so that you watch it later under the bed clothes while your wife snoozes, but it will also output those illicit AVI files you've got of Lost to your TV so you can watch them on the big screen.
Video is viewed on the crisp 16:9 screen, which boasts some 16 million colours. Positioned down the side of the screen are well-sized buttons, which provide an intuitive way of navigating the 504's array of features. There's a built-in speaker in the bottom right-hand corner of the player and a 3.5mm headphone socket towards the top.
Operation really couldn't be simpler. The onscreen menu is split into video, music, photo, audiocorder and recording folders, which makes finding a particular snap, movie or tune very easy. The 504 connects to a PC or Mac via a USB port and works like any external hard drive - by simply dragging and dropping the required file where you want it stored.
Video wise, the 504 can handle pretty much any format albeit MPEG4, AVI, DiVX or Windows Movies (WMV9). Likewise, with audio and stills, with MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA, JPEG, BMP, PNG and PDF all catered for. Picture quality varies depending on the codec used, but we found that the 504 performed impeccably.
Watching AVI versions of US drama Heroes, we were impressed by the colour and high levels of detail on show. Blacks were dark and deep, subtle tones superbly reproduced and close-up detail, such as hairs or wrinkles, was displayed with total clarity. On the downside, we did have some trouble with juddery motion when playing back an XviD episode of Lost, but re-encoding the file on our PC sorted the problem.
Audio doesn't quite match the pictures for sheer, jaw-dropping detail. Listening via headphones is undoubtedly the way forward, since the built-in speaker doesn't go loud enough to drown out the ambient noise on a train or in a car, but should be good enough for viewing in the quieter environment of the bath or bedroom.
It's reassuring to know that not only is the 504 a record breaker, thanks to its sizeable capacity, but that it's a winner when it comes to the all-important business of playing back video. Suddenly that long train journey to work won't be quite so tedious.
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