The 605 is Archos’ new fifth generation flagship PMP that crams nearly every feature one could want into a PMP. They have even offered a few different capacities including a flash version with expandable SDHC memory that can add up to 32GB of flash memory when those capacities become available. The 800×480 pixel screen with a 24bit (16.7 million colors) screen looks fantastic at any viewing angle.
It sounds like the 605 is the ultimate PMP. Well… almost. While the 605 has a thorough feature set and performs very well, the interface needs to be completely overhauled. Archos, fire your interface designers and start over, then I may be able to call the 605 the ultimate PMP.
Read on for the details…
- Quick Look
- Capacities: 4GB Flash + SDHC Slot, 30GB, 80GB, 160GB
- Size: 122 x 82 x 15 mm (4GB / 30GB), 122 x 82 x 20 mm (80GB / 160GB)
- Weight: 150gr (4GB), 190g (30GB), 260g (80GB / 160GB)
- Screen: 800×480 pixels, 4.3” TFT LCD, 16 million colors – Touch Screen
- Video Support: WMV, DivX, XviD, MPEG4, (H.264 +AAC*, MPEG-2 AC3 5.1*Optional Plugin)
- Audio Support: MP3, WMA, WAV (AAC*, AC3* Optional Plugin)
- Photo Support: JPEG, BMP, PNG
- Battery Life: 17 Hours Audio, 5.5 Hours Video
- Recording: Video (MPEG4 640×480 @ 30FPS), Audio (WAV)
- Transfer Protocol: MSC/MTP User Selectable
- Other Features: Wi-Fi (802.11g), Opera Browser (optional), PDF viewer
The 605 comes with just what you need to get started: the player, earbuds, two styli, a protective pouch, a proprietary USB cable, Wi-Fi connection software, and a quick start guide.
DVR Station ($100), Travel DVR Adapter ($70), Battery Docking Adapter ($50), Mini Docking Adapter ($30)
Archos has never been known for their designs; I am not even sure they have a design department. Substance over design is a one way to go about it and that has been Archos’ mantra since their conception, but it would be nice to have a little something better than “whatever they had lying around.”
The player is pretty heavy and feels like a solid brick
of electronics, but by the same note it feels almost fragile. Now there are some differences in the varios types. The flash memory version predictably feels lighter and more durable. However, when comparing the two, it is very evident that there is a hard drive in the hard drive version. You can feel and hear the hard drive spin up and down as it accesses data, giving it that more of a fragile feeling as previously explained. Compared to the previous 604 the build quality is a step down.
The buttons on the right side of the player are plastic and feel flimsy. It feels that if you press too hard they will snap. There is also lots of space under the buttons; you could easily catch a thread, corner of a table, a protective case on the edges of those buttons, possibly ripping them clear off.
The best way to describe the design’s look and feel is: clunky.
The interface is what really turns me off to the 605 and Archos products in general. There is great technology here and very thorough set of features, but the interface is cluttered and not very well thought out. It will take a good amount of time to get used to the interface and even after weeks of use you will still find yourself pressing the wrong buttons.
The buttons vertically aligned on the right are not very intuitive, being that we are used to having directional buttons clearly defined and laid out as up down, left and right in a “plus sign” pattern. How Archos lays the typical directional setup a non typical three rows or two. For those who are counting that’s two buttons too many. The two extra buttons further complicate the setup by adding a page up and page down to the mix. When every other device uses a standard directional setup, the Archos directional set will throw you off.
What would have been a better solution without changing the design is to add a 5 way directional “joystick” much like Cowon uses or Creative uses on the Zen V. Above it you could place a back button as well as a menu button. The volume buttons should be moved to the top right of the player opposite of the power on the same side.
The 605 has an awesome asset, the touch screen. Unfortunately it is not well used. Many functions can be easily executed with your fingers, but some functions are frustratingly hard to press such as the left menu buttons. This “Archos interface” was built years ago when touch screens were not available; now that a touch screen is part of their flagship PMP, they need to revisit and better integrate the touch screen into the user interface. A good way to approach this is to design the entire interface so that the touch screen will stand on its own, building function buttons large enough for your fingers, perhaps even getting rid of the side tactile buttons and going strictly touch screen.
The 800 x 480 pixel 16.7 million color screen looks fantastic. Colors are true and refresh rate is smooth. Viewing angle is not an issue since you can view it at more or less any angle. It is nice and bright for pretty much any indoor setting, but it will wash out in bright sunlight. That is expected with most PMPs. The screen really is great and there is nothing bad to say about it. However, if you wanted to get picky It could use some antiglare coating.
The player is rated with a battery time of 17 hours for music and 5.5 for video. As for real world tests battery times fell an hour or two under the manufacture stated times.
It is disappointing that Archos did not make the battery replaceable. It would have been nice to pop in a new battery on an overseas flight or long road trip. There is the next best thing: a battery dock that will set you back $50. Not the best solution but it works.
At first I thought that plugins were a good idea since you pay for only what you use. However, the plugins add up very quickly. To get the full use out of the 605 you will need to spend another $70 on the plugins below. If you do not purchase the web browser two of the icons on the home screen become completely useless.
Here are the current available plugins:
- Video Podcast – H.264, AAC ($20)
- Cinema Plug-in DVD, MPEG2, AC3 ($20)
- Web Browser ($30)
The Archos 605 browser works very well and renders nearly all of the sites the way they are supposed to. The screen scales nicely to fit the site on the screen, also allowing you to zoom in and out. When browsing sites with flash video such as YouTube, the browser will automatically force that video to full screen. It is a great feature and looks good at full screen. Multiple pages can be opened at once showing in tabs at the top of the screen.
The browser does exactly what it is intended to do and very well at that, but it is slow and is rather difficult to use with your fingers or the right buttons. Stylus works fine, but no place to store it on the go.
Widgets were not available at the time of testing the 605. A message pops up on the screen saying they will be available soon and only for those who have purchased the web browser. So again, you plan on spending another $30 for the use of widgets.
“The ARCHOS Widgets plug-in is planned for release in the fall of 2007. This free plug-in will give access to many great utilities (Calendar, weather, games, etc.) for those who have purchased the Web Browser plug-in.”
If you have used a TiVo, Windows Media Center, or any other DVR on the market you will be very disappointed by the 605’s DRV capacities. First off, you will need to spend $70 on a travel adapter or $100 for the dock in order to get this capability out of the 605. If you chose not to purchase either of these for DVR capabilities, one icon on your home screen becomes completely useless.
Configuring the dock with the cable box and the TV was a pain, but even once it was set up the interface was very difficult to use even with the given remote (only included with the $100 dock) on a big screen TV. The DRV dock has no tuner; this means that you will need a cable box in order to output video signal to the 605.
The dock has component output but only has composite and s-video input which is fine, though when you hook it up to your HDTV it will not pass though the signal from your cable box to the TV through the DVR station. It will only pass through if you are using composite to composite or s-video to s-video.
The bottom line is that the DVR capabilities are not even close to modern DVRs and is small step above a VCR. Don’t get me wrong, recording quality is great, but it is just difficult to use and difficult to set up.
Wireless streaming is one of the best features on the 605. Basically you have access to any and all or your video, audio, and photos over your wireless network. You can be anywhere in your house and browse your collection of media. You can also have the player hooked to your TV and stream large video files from your computer with ease.
Configuring wireless streaming was as easy as turning the player on. I took the player out of the box, turned it on, and Windows Vista immediately saw the device and asked if I wanted to give it access to my files. I clicked yes and it was ready to go. Windows XP was not as easy, but still as easy as installing a piece of connection software.
All the files on your computer show up just as they were on the device itself by selecting the networked computer that appears in your library. Wireless streaming is a fantastic feature to have and works especially well if you picked up the 4GB flash version of the 605.
The content portal allows you to download paid for content to 605. It also offers free content from various providers. The annoying aspect of the content portal is you have to register your player on Archos’ site to get it up and running. This meaning you must fill out all of your
contact information and jump though a few registration hoops. What is also a little troublesome is that it mentions that you are registering for a “free one year subscription.” So does this mean that after a year the content portal ceases to function unless you pay for another subscription? That is not clear, but not too unsettling since I’m already feeling squeezed by all the other plugins and accessories I’m being charged for.
The performance is not that great either. It is not so much as the download speeds, but the screen redraws lag as well. It’s a common theme throughout the player; it may just not have enough processing power to handle hi-res screen.
The file browser is not quite what you would find on your desktop but it is relatively simple with a slight learning curve. The file browser is fully featured, allowing you to move media, delete media, and even create new folders. This is a very welcome feature not found on many media players.
USB host is handy for transferring media or even pictures from a camera, but the problem is you need to purchase an adapter, setting you back at least $30. This feature worked just as expected. I was able to transfer files using the file browser back and forth from every MSC(UMS) device including flash drives, hard drives, and other MSC MP3 players.
The big hi-res 16.7 million color screen works very good for viewing pictures. Unlike many other MP3 and PMP with smaller, lower color screens; you would be proud to show off your pictures on the 605. It is not too far from showing them off on a laptop.
Much like a photo viewer you have on your desktop, photo viewing is probably the most extensive you would find on any PMP. Photos are organized in a very large matrix making it very easy to browse.
Just like the rest for the 605, the audio interface is cluttered and will take quite a bit of time to get used to. All of the features are there – they just feel as if are haphazardly laid out.
The 605 has really great playlist management support as well as bookmarking support. Playlist management will allow you to create an unlimited number of playlists as well as manipulate the track order all from the device itself. Bookmarking is handled by a simple single press of the press of an icon on the left menu.
The built-in speakers are nice for when you don’t want to plug in and when you are sharing with friends, but they sound weak by comparison to other players with built in speakers. Compared to the Zen WAV, Sansa Connect, and Samsung K5 they sound very tinny. It will be okay for watching video, but if you listen to music is it very fatiguing and will quickly wear on your ears.
Sound quality is lacking to be blunt. The entire sound spectrum lacks clarity, more noticeably in the highs and lows. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who rocks some expensive phones. The sound quality will suffice for the majority of uses and will only disappoint the more discerning enthusiasts.
This is one of the Archos 605’s strong points. Video from every file type looks great and scales nicely, even when dealing with YouTube videos from the web browser. Nearly everything I threw at it such as DivX/XviD worked quite nicely. Though there were a few that did not, since it used an AAC audio stream, purchasing the $20 plugin then allowed it to play.
The Archos 605 has a fantastic set of features and to this day is one of the more hardcore PMP with nearly all the bells and whistles. However the 605 suffers from a serious usability issue. The tactile navigation buttons on the right take some time get used to and the touch screen is rather difficult to use with your fingers. The 605 needs a serious user interface overhaul. This is a shame since there is nothing else on the market that that matches its extensive feature set and beautiful highres screen.
I am also coming away from the 605 with a bitter taste of being nickeled and dimed on plugins and accessories. The 605 is competitively priced, but once you add $30 for a TV out adapter, $70-$100 for DVR capabilities, $30 for a web browser, another $40 for video codecs that should have been included in the first place, you pockets will start to empty.
The bottom line is the 605 could be “the ultimate PMP”, but it needs a complete overhaul of the interface, making it more usable to the average consumer. I would only recommend this PMP for someone with above average knowledge of experience with gadgets and computers. It is definitely much less user friendly than what is on the market, but that said, it will make a very nice match for the portable video enthusiast.
- No video transcending needed
- Solid set of file support
- Great screen
- Very good video playback and scaling
- Outdated and not a user friendly interface
- Almost half the functionality requires you to spend more money
- Clunky design
- Interface can be slow especially on hard drive versions
- Must register product to use content portal
The Archos 605 is available at many B&M stores, but you can also find it on Amazon for a good price.