Bigger, but bouncier, than the iPod, the Archos Jukebox FM Recorder is also more of a mouthful, but it?s jammed with features that Apple should take heed of.
First of all it?s 20GB of MP3 music machine, multimedia player and FM radio all rolled into a pocket-size package. It?s also a data-storage device with a USB 2.0 interface ? so needs a USB 2.0 card for full data-transfer speeds ? and a fair-sized screen for navigating around.
OK, so far the iPod outstrips it on the speed side of things, and on the looks front too, but the Archos has an extra weapon ? its recording capability. This not only lets you record from the built-in radio, but via an analogue line in and from a discreet microphone built into the top of the unit. This is surprisingly sensitive, so is worth it alone if you need a portable MP3 recorder. Recording off the radio also benefits from a 30-second retro-capture buffer.
The controls are context-sensitive, and consist of raised buttons below the LCD panel. There are also three function buttons under the screen for choosing the applications to which you put the jukebox: Record, Radio or File.
Access to recorder functions is a case of simply selecting the input and pressing the Record button. Then you can adjust record levels with the fast forward/rewind buttons before pressing play to start. It mounts like a Mac volume in the normal way. Archos provides an iTunes plug-in. If you own a Power Mac, running OS X 10.2 with a USB 2.0 card, it?s an iPod alternative. Otherwise, its USB connection is far too slow.