704 WiFi Review

The Archos 704 WiFi portable media player incorporates a touchscreen interface to simplify navigation, and its huge screen gives it an edge over many of its rivals.

The display’s large size and widescreen dimensions make watching videos a treat: it’s like toting a portable TV set. In fact, the 80GB 704 WiFi is big enough that Archos included a remote control, although we found it of limited use while watching video on the player itself. Still, you’ll need the remote to operate the device if you hook it up to a TV to record shows (you’ll also need the optional DVR Station).

Seamless photo playback simplifies moving through photos by letting you drag the stylus across the touchscreen to summon the next picture. It’s just as easy to use your fingertip as the included stylus
– which is small and easily misplaced.

The Archos 704 WiFi plays MPEG4 and WMV video files, as well as DivX 3.11. It can also handle DivX4 and DivX5. Archos offers two plug-ins: one enables playback of H.264 video files and AAC audio files (the kind used in iTunes and the iPod); the other, VOB and MPEG4 video and AC3 audio playback. Each plug-in costs £10 via Archos’ website.

There are a few interesting extras. Our favourite accessory is the Helmet Camcorder, which comes with a headband. The device offers wireless internet access via 802.11g and the built-in Opera browser. Internet access worked well, although using the touchscreen keyboard to enter full URLs was cumbersome.

The Archos’ sound contained some distortion and at default settings it was flat and hollow. Tinkering with the equaliser to boost the bass and treble response yielded much better music quality – on a decent set of headphones, that is. The bundled earbuds weren’t much cop and the nub on the rubberised edge made them uncomfortable.

Navigating music is a cinch. The Archos’ touchscreen responded swiftly, and the ‘Music’ icon in its main menu brought up the library.

OUR VERDICT

This multimedia device is well suited to video lovers with big pockets – and a willingness to shell out again for the DVR Station, to hook up to and record from their television.

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