Archos AV420

Archos AV420
  • Archos AV420
  • Archos AV420
  • Archos AV420
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Easy to use, handy cradle, good-quality earbuds, excellent sound and video quality

Cons

  • Poor bottom viewing angle

Bottom Line

A handy unit with great stereo sound and visual quality, the AV420 is an excellent all-round device with a good feature set.

Would you buy this?

Like Creative Zen Portable Media Center, the Archos AV420 allows you to store and view photos and movies, listen to music and record from any video source (such as TV or VCR) straight to its built-in 20GB hard drive.

The AV420 is about the size of a PDA and weighs 280g. It features a 3.5" backlit colour LCD (320 x 240 pixels) with great side and top viewing angles, but a poor bottom viewing angle.

The custom operating system and right-hand side control buttons make it quite easy to navigate and use the AV420. Getting data onto the device is also easy--you connect the AV420 to your PC or Mac via USB 2.0 and treat it just like an external hard drive. The AV420 can also store non-media data like spreadsheets.

The AV420 has a directory structure for organising content. You place your JPEG or BMP images in the photo folder, your MP3, WAV or WMA (including protected) files in the music folder and your MPEG-4 video files in the video folder. Although XviD and DivX (4.0 and 5.0) video files should play back with little problem, you need to use the supplied converter software to transcode unsupported video files.

The convenient Archos AV cradle saves you the hassle of repeatedly setting up cables and is used to output the contents of the AV420 to a TV, and for video input and recording. When the cradle is connected (via composite or S-Video) to a video source, such as a VHS, and you enter recording mode, the AV420 automatically detects the video signal and allows you to record the input onto the hard drive in real time.

This is where the full-sized infrared remote control comes in handy. You can select high (up to 512 x 384) or low recording resolutions intended for playback on either a TV or the AV420's own display. You can also adjust a recording's bitrate to conserve space. The AV420 records video in MPEG-4 format.

Audio recording (in WAV format) is also available (there's even a built-in microphone). A mono speaker is integrated, but the supplied earbuds work better. Testing recording and playback using default settings, we found the stereo sound and visual quality to be excellent.

Archos claims the rechargeable 3.7V lithium-ion battery should last for about four hours of video and around 14 hours of music playback. That claim was backed up by our tests. The battery is removable and you can purchase extra batteries in anticipation of long trips.

A built-in CompactFlash slot allows you to copy pictures to the AV420's hard drive, and an optional four-in-one adapter accommodates other media cards. Other options include an FM radio/headphone remote, but there's no word on camera attachments like those designed for the AV300 series.

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