Having been introduced to Archos when I bought their 20gb Jukebox recorder I was already impressed with their sturdy design and quality.
My only gripe had been the startup speed, which was something I was looking for when upgrading to the AV320.
Luckilly there is simply no comparisson. The AV300 range is a huge upgrade, with a vastly superior operatig system and of course far more functionality.
My initial reason for upgrading was simply the added video facility on the new range, but as it turns out this little device can do so much more.
The standard MP3 functionality is just as good as you'd expect, though it does have a much improved playlist editor which is very easy to use. Of course the free musicmatch software provided enables you to effortlessly convert your CDs to MP3 and transfer them to your player (no drivers needed).
Photos are also transferred in the same way via USB2.0.
Video though is where the AV300 really excels.
Connect the AVR100 decoder to the side of your AV300 and you have an instant hard drive video recorder and player with remote control. When you attatch the AVR100 he recorder icon becomes accessible from the main screen, and as long as you have the device connected to a video source such as a DVD/video player, satelite/cable box, or video camera you will receive the image on the AV300 and can record at the click of a button.
Using the same cables plugged into the input connector of yuour TV/video will allow you to view your entire device on your tv, from photos, music, and video.
As the device encodes video in MP4 format the quality is very high and the quality is comparible to dvd though not quite so good.
Encoding dvds on your pc and transferring to your AV300 has been the main concern for most potential users, though I have found that using the ImToo dvd converter this can be done quickly and painlessly.
The included video editor is very easy to use and excellent for cutting out unwanted adverts and the trailing edges of tv recordings. Add to this the recording timer and you've amost made your old VCR redundant.
My only complaints with the AV300 would have to be that the battery lasts a mere 3 hours on video, a major issue if you are travelling. Note that official travel chargers are available though they are expensive. The unit doesn't come with a case, which I find slightly annoying as this is essential if you want to avoid marking the screen.
The only other strange thing I have found is that as the unit has no stand you have to either hold it or lean it against something in irder to view a movie. With the charger socket on the underside this means you cannot rest it against anything while charging. Also the sheer number of cables required to connect the thing can be a little daunting at first.
On the positive side this is one sturdy machine. I'm sure you could kick it around the office for hours and it would still play fine, thanks to the padded elevated corners. Finally the remote control is an excellent addition, allowing full functionality from the comfort of your sofa.
Archos are a little know company, specialising in portable multimedia products, and in the Video AV300 range, they have produced a unique gem. Available in sizes of 20, 40, and 80 Gigabytes, the range is one of the first to offer a portable hard drive based video playback unit. I'm sure that you will be aware of the Apple i-Pod, and some of you may have looked into the Creative Zen Jukebox, but the Archos surpasses both of these products. Whilst both Apple and Creative are offering simple MP3 players, Archos have loaded the AV300 range with a host of new trickery; MP4 video playback (in AVI format), BMP and JPEG viewing capabilities (excepting progressive JPEG's), MP3 audio playback, and the facility to use the unit as a portable hard drive. Comparing these features to the offerings of Apple and Creative, you can see that the AV300 series is a serious piece of kit. However, this comes at a serious price, with the range starting at around £325 for the 20Gb version. I personally own the AV380 (80Gb), which I purchased for £400 on Ebay; I have had mixed experiences with the unit. However, before I go into my thoughts on the device, I will give you the features and specifications for the device (as quoted on the Archos website - please visit www.archos.com for more details): Dimensions: 112mm x 82mm x 31mm, 350 grammes Display: 3.8" LCD (QVGA, max resolution 320 x 240), or TV Power: Internal rechargeable Li-Ion batteries (will playback 10 hours of MP3 or 3.5 hours of video on a full charge, charge time 4 hours), external AC adapter. Interface: USB 2.0, compatible with USB 1.1 (PC & Mac format) Connections: Stereo analogue line-in, Digital SPDIF Line in/out, Composite Video, Earphone, Line Out, Built-in Microphone. I could continue, but I do not feel that there is much more that would be of interest to the layman in the facts and figures. As you can see, it offers quite a lot o
n paper - although the above specs do not even scratch the surface of the units capabilites; the AV300 unit as supplied as standard with the Archos JBM DVR100 unit, which allows the user to connect any SCART or composite video source to the device and record video down to it. In addition to this, there are a range of accesories available to further increase the capabilities; from the CompactFlash and SmartMedia card readers that allow quick and easy transferring of digital camera pictures, to the AVCam 300 (a 3.3 MegaPixel digital camera add-on), there are a wealth of options available for the AV300 range. Whilst the AV300 has this extensive range of features, it is the compatibility of the software that has caused me the most difficulty; I maintain an extensive media collection on my laptop, and I have found that there has been requirement for a lot of conversion of my video files. On average a 90 minute film in high resolution MPEG format will take anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the specification of your system. I have found that there are no such problems with either the MP3 capabilities or the image viewer. However, I feel that the use of MPEG-4 Simple Profile is not a bad choice, as there are a range of video convertors available that will allow users to reduce problems in conversion. Alternatively, the unit will also play Xvid 4.0 and DivX 5.0 movie files. The use of USB 2.0 is an odd choice for a unit of this price, and I would expect to see the use of FireWire connectivity as well as a USB option on subsequent models that will replce the AV300 range. Additionally, the range of cabling required to connect the AV300 to a PC and a TV is extensive, and I feel that the use of a cradle which contains the cabling and charger facilities would be beneficial. This however is supplied as standard on the more expensive AV400 range; I feel that this is an oversight for a device of this price, regardless of the range of features.
Additionally, the lack of a remote on the headphones (which, I must admit, are surprisingly good for a portable device) is a shortfall on the device. The only other key failings of the AV300 range are small and can be worked around; the first of this is the lack of a keylock, meaning that it can be quite easy to skip through tracks in the MP3 mode inadvertently, secondly is the lack of covering for the LCD screen, which can be quite easy to scratch (thankfully I have not done this yet). Archos do manufacture a carry case for the AV300 series which is available through their website at the price of 30 Euros (roughly £20) I feel that this should have been supplied as standard though, due to the unit's cost. In summary, the Archos AV300 series does offer some serious Audio Visual capabilities in a compact portable device; the price is high for a portable device, but the range of functions and the ability to expand upon this with add-on devices place the Archos in a unique market. However, for the majority of users, this may not be suitable; if you are looking for solely an MP3 player, I would recommend the Apple i-Pod (or i-Pod mini for those with smaller budgets) or the Creative Zen Jukebox. If you are looking for a full-blown multimedia device, I would recommend the larger capacity devices in the AV300 series, or waiting for the higher capacity AV400 devices. However, as the AV300 can be upgraded with software available freely from teh Archos website, I suspect that there is more to this box of tricks than meets the eye...
There are 3 choices of mp4 player in the Archos Av300 series, each with different storage space, av320 = 20gb, av340 = 40gb, av380 = 80gb. However this is not what you get once the drives have been formatted. Read on to find out actual space allowances: What it can do: Play Audio (mp3,wav), Record Audio (mp3) using intenal mic, or external mic socket Display Photos/Images (bmp, jpeg, (but not progressive Jpeg) Take Photos (jpeg of different qualities), with Camera Module (usually sold separatly around £180) Play Video (avi only) comes with mpeg ->avi software converter Record Video (as avi) using DVR module (usually comes with it, BUT CHECK) Record Video (as avi using Camera Module (usually sold separatly around (£180) Can play all media out to a Television with cables included Modules & Add-Ons: Firmware/Software - regular updates available from Archos website, easy to install Camera Module - allows mp4 player to act as a digital camera (3.3 megapixel) and digital cam-corder (avi format) DVR Module - allows recording of incoming video signals, eg TV, Video, DVD, Satellite, etc. Flash Card Reader - allows quick transfer of images between digital camera cards to the unit Specifications: The player/recorder is basically a minature computer, it has a laptop hard drive and a slimline internal rechargable battery inside. Hard Drive - As I said before you don't get teh amount of space archos says you get, (eg. av320 should be 20 gb, but once formatted, which it needs to be, is around 18gb) Basically to work out the amount of space you get, take the overall drive size and take off 10%. So 20 = 18, 40 = 36, 80 = 72. Roughly. Battery - The unit has an internal rechargeable battery, comes with recharger, but has nowhere to attach an exterior battery if the units going to be away from the power supply for a long time. Battery life depends on what you
are doing - Video - 3 Hours, MP3 - 10 Hours Roughly. A full charge on a dead battery takes around 4 Hours. You can use the machine while it is charging. Screen - LCD Screen 3.2 Inches with brightness control for different weather conditions and battery condidions. Screen can SCRATCH EASILY. Acrhos sell a protective pouch for around 20 Euros from their website which could save you money in the long run as replacement screens would cost just as much as a new unit! I simply wrap my mp4 player in cling film and replace it whenever it gets dirty which is a way cheaper idea and makes me feel more comfortable about taking it out the house. If you want any more info/pics etc. Just email me - firstname.lastname@example.org