* Prices may differ from that shown
Media players with great storage capacity and with the possibility of playing a variety of file formats is not new. Creatives Jukebox, Archos and Apple iPod have all done it before. Archos obviously decided to take it one step further, when developing the newest edition of their player, cause you can play DivX formatted movies on the Jukebox. DivX-movies can be found on a variety of file-sharing programs. The size of such a movie very often exceeds 600 MB. The player is a bit smaller than similar products from other producers. It weighs 303 grams, which is lighter than the similar product from Creative, which weighs 338 grams. The Jukebox has got a small screen that dominates the front of the display. Below the screen you can find all of the necessary buttons you need to control the meny and the actual playing of files. On the sides you can attach the USB-cable to the audio and picture port, as well as the line-in port. The player has also got a port where you can attach extra equipment, like a digital camera. The heart of Archos is a 20 GB harddrive. There you can save all kinds of files, and many of them can be played on the Jukebox. You can listen to MP3-music, look at pictures in JPG- or BMP-format, and play DivX-movies. You can also record sound, which is saved in MP3-format. Before using the Jukebox, you have to install the software that`s included. Especially if you are planning on playing movies, then you have to install a converter, which converts DivX ti MPEG4, which the player can read. The Jukebox pops up as a drive in Windows Explorer, and it is very easy to transfer files back and forth. The connection is limited to USB 1.1. You can buy extra modules that supports FireWire and USB 2.0, but it would be best if at least one of the technologies were built in. As mentioned, you have to convert DivX-movies to MPEG4, this is time demanding. If you`re planning on converting a whole library to take wi
th you on a trip, you have to spend some time in front of the computer. When you have transfered the files, you can just play them as you want. The music playing works great, and you can adjust the bass- and treble-level as you wish, including some other parameters. Unfortunately the headphones included with the Archos is not very good, and doesn`t let the player play to it`s full potential. You can watch your DivX-movies on the built in screen, which of course is very limiting quality-wise. In return it is very easy to connect the player to a TV, through the included cable. And with the push of a button, you have a full-screen DivX-movie on the TV. The picture quality varies from the quality of the file itself. Nonetheless - it is very amusing to watch downloaded movies on a real TV, and thanks to the huge harddrive, you can bring tens of movies when going away. This is a pretty good player, and I am at ease with the different possibilities you have. But there are some details which really drags down the impression. First and foremost, the menu system is irritating - it doesn`t give you a good overview of things, and it is hard to use. It`s tricky going back to the main menu after executing different functions, and the response is not always satisfying. Conclusion The Archos Jukebox 20 is without doubt a funny little gadget, which gives a whole bunch of opportunities. Playing of DivX-movies is a most welcome new feature, and I hope more producers use this in their new products. If it had been easier to use, this would be a superb player. As it is now, it is a very functional, but not really user friendly machine. The price is also nice! Considering what you get.
Introduction: The Archos Jukebox Multimedia 20 is a 20GB hard-drive based MP3 player, but it's also much more than that. Separate "modules" include card readers for SmartMedia and Compact Flash cards that turn the device into a near-perfect storage device for digital photographers. There is also a digital camera module available, but I have not included it in this review because I don't have one. Finally, it also has the ability to play movie files, although so far I have not really experimented with this. The sample files that come with the device look good, though. First, a small moan: this product was supposed to be released in "the first quarter of 2002", according to Archos's website in late 2001. This seemed ideal for me, as I was due to leave on a 6-month round-the-world trip in November 2002. Well, April came round and there was no sign of it, then May, then June... in the end it appeared around September, and I got my paws on one in early October, less than a month before I was due to leave. I would have preferred to get it earlier so that I could familiarise myself with it before I left, but in the end it performed almost flawlessly. I filled half the disk with music (around 150-200 CDs worth) and filled most of the rest with photos on my travels. I came back with about 8000 2-megapixel photos, around 9GB of data. The review: The JBMM is not much bigger than a pack of cards (or an iPod). While it's not as sleekly styled as the iPod, it does have a big advantage - a full-colour LCD screen. When you switch on the JBMM, you will see four folders entitled Music, Photos, Video and Recordings. The first three are self-explanatory (just drop your files into the appropriate folder); the fourth is where you can create MP3 files in real time from either the internal microphone or an external sound source (mic or other audio input). The JBMM is basically a USB hard disk. In theory
you can just plug it in to any Windows ME, 2000 or XP machine, or a Mac (OS8.6 or above) and it will mount on the desktop. (Windows 98SE requires the drivers supplied on CD). I say "in theory" because I had a few problems getting my Mac to recognise the Archos. In the end I had to reformat the JBMM's hard-disk, and then it worked fine. (Although, since I updated my Mac to OS X, the JBMM will only mount on the desktop in OS9. I think, however, that it is my Mac at fault, as I have tried it with other people's newer Macs and it works without a hitch. Hopefully when I get my new G4 it will be fine.) So, once you have the JBMM disk on your desktop, you simply drag and drop files to or from the device. It comes with a USB1.1 cable, which is all I have on my Mac, but you can upgrade this to USB2.0 or Firewire for a faster transfer speed. USB1.1 is not all that fast - as a rough guide, expect 1GB of data to take at least half an hour. Best make a cup of tea while you're copying across your music collection! Once you have your MP3s on the device, listening to them is easy. The interface isn't quite as slick as the iPod - no scroll wheel here, just a four-way directional pad and a center "play" button, with three function keys just below the screen. I recommend that you split up your MP3s into smaller directories - inside the Music folder I have sub folders entitled A-C, D-G, H-M etc. Obviously it depends how many files you have. It just makes finding the song you want that little bit quicker. The sound quality is excellent. The included headphones are not bad, but as always with portable audio devices you would do well to use your own phones that you know you like. The volume goes up good and lound, not like, say, the Creative Nomad Jukeboxes which are plagued with a low maximum volume. I generally don't have the volume above halfway, unless I'm in very noisy surroundings. While a song is playing, you c
an browse through the hard disk to find other songs, without interrupting playback. You can also create playlists, or choose random play, either of all the songs on the disk, or just those within the current directory. The screen shows the directory path of the file, or the ID3 tags if you have them, as well as a bars showing the sound level, and the time elapsed and remaining. So, that's music covered - what about photos? As I say, I took my JBMM on a trip round the world. I take a lot of photos, and memory cards were obviously not going to suffice for a 6-month trip. This is where the JBMM is such a great device. For about £40 extra, you get two memory card readers, one for SmartMedia and one for CompactFlash. You slot the one you want into the expansion port on the bottom of the unit (this is normally covered by a little rubber plug). Then, you slip your card in, the unit reads the files and you can copy the files over, either one at a time or in one big batch. What I did to organise my files was to create subdirectories in the Photos folder, one for each week, and name them, e.g. 2002-11-09, 2002-11-16, etc. Then I would copy the files into the appropriate folder as I went. This works great - a full 128MB memory card took maybe 4 minutes or so to copy. The best part is that unlike devices such as the Image Tank, the LCD screen means you can check that the files have copied. I should point out here that very occasionally - say one in every 300 files - I'd discover a glitch in one of the photos, usually taking the form of one half of the image being slightly displaced. So it's good to check the files. You can also connect the JBMM to a TV and use it to run a slideshow. One thing you can't do, sadly, is play music and look at photos at the same time. As I say, I haven't used the digital camera module. This plugs into the same expansion port, and takes photos at 1.3-megapixel resolution, or MP4 video. Another f
eature of the JBMM is its ability to play MP4 video files. With the right software, you can compress your DVDs down and carry them around with you! The technical data doesn't mean too much to me, but this is what the JBMM can handle: "MPEG-4 SP with MP3 stereo sound, near-DVD quality. Resolution CIF-352X288 @ 30f/s. AVI file format, reads XviD and DivX™ 4.0 & 5.0." Instructions for compressing video files can be found on Archos's website. I have only watched the sample files that came with the unit. I can say that they were very impressive in resolution - the subtitles on a French movie were clearly readable, for instance. Here, courtesy of Archos's website, are the technical specs: Capacity: 20GB Hard Disk Interface: USB 1.1 (PC & Mac). Optional interface : USB 2.0 (PC) or FireWire (PC & Mac) Video playback: MPEG-4 SP with MP3 stereo sound, near-DVD quality. Resolution CIF-352X288 @ 30f/s. AVI file format, reads XviD and DivX™ 4.0 & 5.0 Music playback: Stereo MP3 decoding @ 30-320 Kbits/s. CBR & VBR Music recording: Stereo MP3 encoding @ 30-160 Kbits/s. VBR Photo viewer: JPEG or BMP of any size Display: TV output or built-in color LCD (237x234) AV Connections: Stereo analog & digital Line In. Composite Video/ Earphone/ Line Out jack. Built-in microphone. Playback autonomy: Up to 7 hours (MP3) Scalability: Downloadable firmware updates from www.archos.com. Power Source: Internal: Rechargeable Li-Ion Batteries. External: AC charger / adapter. Dimensions & Weight: 110 x 79 x 29 mm (4.3" x 3.1" x 1.1"). 290g (10.23 oz) System Requirements: PC: Pentium II 266 MHz. Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, 64 MB RAM. Mac: 9.x or X iMac, G3 or higher. Package Includes: Jukebox Multimedia 20, USB cable, AC adapter, Li-Ion batteries (already installed), stereo headphones, AV cinch cable (SCART adapter for Europe), carrying pouc
h. CD with MusicMatch™, drivers and 5-language manual. Conclusions: The JBMM is a great unit. Tiny in size, it can play music, store photos, play videos and record MP3s. What more do you want? True, there are a couple of minor niggles - one I haven't mentioned being that the paint finish is very soft: the back of the device is covered with silver paint that is easily scratched off, making my one look a bit battered... but then it has been round the world! The soft carrying pouch supplied helps to protect it, and comes with a belt loop. Overall then, a highly recommended product from a highly innovative company. (Archos has also just brought out an updated version called the AV120. This has an optional module available that will record digital video direct from your TV!)