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Archos AV420 20 GB

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      11.10.2005 16:10
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      Advantages

      Disadvantages

      Excellent product if you can get to grips with it.

      What is the Archos Av 420?
      It is a state of the art Mp4 player designed to play music and video, record TV automatically, records sound and music, transfer and view photos and acts as a portable hard drive. It's a wonder it doesn't dance!


      Looks
      The Archos is 125mm by 80mm by 20mm and is about three quarters of a kilogram heavy. Much of the face of the Archos is made up of a high resolution LCD screen which will display the contents of the device with the clarity you expect for such technology. The right hand side of the face is taken up with the various buttons that associate with various commands when you have turned the device on, including select, back, volume, navigation and file options.
      There are also two lights in the top right hand corner which reflect if the device is turned on and if the hard drive is working. There Is also a charging indicator which makes it absolutely clear if you are running it off mains power. There is an inbuilt speaker in the bottom left corner which enables you to play your media with decent sound quality without the use of head phones. Which is one of the devices most useful aspects, and you will be using in the most bizarre and common circumstances! Ever tried recording your mates and playing it down the phone to them! Lol!


      Music
      The Archos Av 420 has a 20gb memory capacity! That's enough to hold over 5000songs. Or listen to a new song every day for the next 13.7years!
      The music is synchronised direct to your device, using windows media player and takes on average less than a second a song using the high speed Usb connection. However files from the Internet may not be in the correct file format and so require converting. The converting process takes around 8seconds a song, but depends on the file format. I put over 600tracks on mine on just under 10mins! Using windows media player you can convert most file types, and you can always download plugins of you need to convert uncommon file types.


      Video recording
      The Archos comes with a storage cradle that allows you to stand it up at a secure location, and view what you are recording on the lcd screen. The cradle has attached to it all the cables that allow you to record from the TV. Firstly there is a power cable which is a decent length (for a change!), next there is the infra red cable which you stick on your TV remote control receiver on your TV. This allows the Archos to change the channel and even switch off your TV!! The next cable is named "TV out" and connects to the AV socket at the back of the TV. The final cable is named "TV in" and connects to the three coloured sockets which are used for sound and picture inputs (usually on most large TV's) there is also a spare socket, which when you refer to the manual, says it is for a key board, indicating that a keyboard may be developed in the future by the company.

      The TV cradle plugs in to the Archos using one plug, so there s no mass connecting of cables!

      In order to record television programs you will need to connect the "TV in" cable to a spare AV socket. You can then configure in settings the type of TV you have (if you want to use the infra red controller) you can also change the quality and preferred playback options in the menu. You can record as many programs as you like but any files going over 2 hours are split into two files in order to prevent a loss in
      performance, but these files can be easily merged using "dvd Santa" or similar video editing software.
      One of the best things about the Archos is that you can choose the programs you want to record using Yahoo calendar and then download this to the device, which will then turn your tv on and record the programs before turning off! You can do this any ware as it is a mobile device, and I have recorded off a normal TV and a skybox with out any hiccups.


      Voice recording
      The Archos has a built in microphone which can be used to record audio from both another digital source and an external source. The microphone will pick up a normal voice in a busy street from 5m away and has amazing quality. It is most useful for recording lectures and phone calls, but you can also use it to record radio and Internet music, played out of your speakers.


      Images
      You can store images on the Archos in most recognised formats, such as .jpg, .gif and bit map. However I recommend .jpg as there is no delay on viewing photos as in other formats. You can view pictures one at a time or in sets and is great for showing your mates your latest pictures at digital camera quality, without having to print them off first.

      In the left hand face of the AV420 there is a compact flash card reader, which allows you to transfer your images off any compact flash cards and view them on your Archos. This frees up space on your camera and means you don't have to purchase new memory cards! Also you can view your pictures on a larger scale with the zoom function so can show off your pictures where ever you are. Furthermore this feature is great for backing up important files you don't want to loose.

      If you don't have a camera that uses compact flash cards. You can buy a 4in1 card reader which lets you use smart media, multi media, scan disk and memory sticks in the compact flash slot. I have a multitude of cameras, none of which use compact flash. I decided to buy one of these so I could take loads of picks on my trip to America! And I never regret it. I still use it now when I go on trips to show my friends picks of the weekend, and how drunk they got! They never fail to amuse! You can pick a 4in1 adapter up for about £40 off the Internet, and although expensive, I would recommend it!


      Video Converting.
      I watch a lot of video on the device as a travel a lot and need the entertainment to whittle away the hours on the bus. I download movies or video clips (especially music videos) off the Internet (I don't recommend this of course :-), which are usually in the codec known as DIVX (www.divx.com) these films are usually fantastic quality for only 700mb.
      I then use the program virtual dub, which s provided with the software to convert the films to MPEG4 format (the only format that will play on the device). I then copy the films to my Archos and have a brand new film to watch next time I am on the bus!


      Virtual dub
      The program "Virtual Dub" is used to convert any video files you have, such as Internet media, or .avi recordings off your video camera.
      I am going to take you through the process, step by step as I have had loads of emails off confused mates asking me how to do this!
      · Firstly download and install the program from www.virtualdub.com
      · Open the .avi file you wish to convert, if successful a preview should be shown in the main window.
      · Click on the "video" menu and then "filters" click on "add filter" and chose "resize" from the options. Then click "configure" and make sure it is 320 by 240, as these are the dimensions of the lcd screen on the Av420. however if the video is in wide screen format you will have to adjust the dimensions by trial and error so you don't get any distortion of the picture when played. I suggest somewhere around 340 by 180.
      · Then click on the "compression" tab under the "video" menu, and select the codec named "DivX 5.21" as this will give you optimum performance.
      · Then go the "audio" menu and select "full stream processing"
      · Now click on the "compression" tab under the audio menu, and select both "MPEG Layer 3" and "56kbs" as this will give you optimum sound quality.
      · Finally "save as avi" and the process of converting will begin.
      · It usually takes around 20mins to convert video's of 700mb, but times vary with the power of your computer.
      Phew that was a lot of technical stuff that most of you wont need, but if you have the product you will appreciate it after you have converted hours of video as I have…..(evil laugh)


      Operating system

      Switching on the device you are greeted with the main screen, this is where you can access all the other folders such as music, video, system and photos, using the navigation buttons.
      The things you can do with the AV400 series are endless. You can have your favourite photos as a background on the main screen.
      You can also view the music files s as separate files or in headings such as genre and artist. These characteristics are edited using Windows Media Player before you synchronise to the device, and in most cases is updated automatically via the Internet, meaning you don't have to manually categorise them!
      When files are playing you will also see the album cover displayed on the screen, is there were any image files included in the music album folder on your computer! Something which no other players do, to my knowledge


      Points to consider

      Firmware
      The operating system of the Archos was originally full of bugs, as when you tried to update your play lists you would find a load of in-comprehendible computer gibber! However if you go to www.Archos.com you can download the latest software updates, which have solved all the available glitches found.

      Plugins.
      As I bought my Archos Av420 at Christmas, Windows Media 10 was non existent, and however, when t did come along I found that it was not recognising my device, meaning I couldn't synchronise files to it, I could only put them on manually. But on the Archos site you can now get a plug in for Media player, which means the device is recognised.

      Problems with the AV420
      · 20gb is more than enough for music playing, but when you are recording TV 20gb is no way near enough. For example you couldn't fit an entire series of friends on this thing! The solution to this is to buy the Archos AV4100, but at around £610 (from the Arcos website) which is 100gb, but this thing is costly!
      · The arcos is complicated at first but is well worth it if you stick with it.
      · There were problems with the operating system on some of the older models that haven't been updated.
      · The screen becomes easily scratched, which ruins the video playback.
      · It is quite large to use as a portable music player, but I have been taking it everywhere with me and it does fit in your pocket!


      Tips
      · When using the 4in1 card adapter, make sure the memory card is in the adapter and the adapter is in the compact flash slot, otherwise you will get an "invalid card" message flashing up on your screen.
      · When recording from TV, make sure you have the auto stop function switched off, otherwise you could miss the last half of Midsummer Murders!
      · The phone help line is expensive and although the Archos company has an extremely efficient customer service policy, the call costs can mount up! If you have any questions on the device, either leave me a message in my guest book, look on the Archos website, or look in forums on the Internet.


      Cost
      The Archos Av420 is £340 from the Archos website (not including p+p which is around £10!)
      But you can get second hand ones from ebay for around £250 as they are being superseded by the PMA400 (pda) and the new AV700 (like the Sony PSP)

      Hope I haven't bored you all to death! But this is such a fantastic product that everyone should have one!

      Ross :-)

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