Archos’s bad-ass PMPs are constantly evolving towards the ultimate do-it-all gadget. The 605 WiFi actually comes close — all it needs is a phone, GPS, and espresso maker. Over-the-air downloads, Web surfing, and AV recording are certainly tantalizing features, but you’ll have to shell out some extra dough on top of the player’s base price. Our 30GB model will run you $299.99, but there are 4GB (flash memory w/ SD card slot), 80GB, supersize 160GB versions coming soon.
The 30GB 605 is a bit slimmer than the 604 was, at 4.8 by 3.2 by 0.6 inches, and its 6.7-ounce solid-feeling metal body will help you fend off haters and the overly envious alike. (The 4-gigger is lighter, and 80 and 160GB models are slightly bigger and even deadlier weapons.)
The screen is a 4.3-inch widescreen job, and it’s sensitive to the touch of your fingers and the included stylus (too bad there’s no slot on the 605 to hold said stylus). The screen looks great under most conditions, though if you’re trying to watch a movie in a park on a sunny day, you’re gonna have to hide under a blanket. That’ll help the pretty weak built-in speaker sound better too.
You can’t replace the battery yourself, reneging on older models, but at least it lasts for roughly 5 hours of video and 17 hours of music, making it a better travel buddy than your Xanax-popping co-worker. Just be sure to bring your own headphones, since the included ones suck. You also get a carrying pouch and an adapter for the optional DVR station, plus a proprietary USB cable for connecting to PCs (in MTP or USB mode) or Mac/Linux (USB mode only).
A single eighth-inch combo jack on the left side handles headphones, video output, and S/PDIF. A bunch of buttons along to the right of the screen give you plenty of control, and Archos seems to be getting the point that what works in Europe doesn’t quite work over here, but you can control everything from the touch screen if the buttons prove too confusing.
The 605’s interface is cute, simple, and finger-friendly, but the stylus is handy for precise clicking on Web links and list items. An on-screen QWERTY keyboard helps a lot with entering URLs and emails. One very iPhone-like feature is the ability drag your finger to scroll around in Web pages and photos, but Archos wasn’t quite hip enough to do multi-touch or gestures.
Out of the box, the 605 can do MPEG-4 SP and WMV on the video front, and MP3, WMA, protected WMA, and WAV for audio. You can also look at JPG, BMP, and PNG photos and PDF files that don’t have too many special features.
Now the bad news: To surf the Web, you need a $30 browser plug-in. And if you want to record your favorite episodes of Rock of Love with Bret Michaels, you’ll have to drop $100 on the DVR docking station or $70 for the travel DVR adapter. For obscure codec support (AAC, H.264, MPEG-2, Real, and the like), you’ll have to pay $20 a pop, too. That could bring your total for the 30GB 605 to around $450, which still isn’t a terrible deal given all the geeky fun you could have with it.
Our fully loaded test unit didn’t wasn’t exactly a speed demon on the Web, and it missed wireless networks that our MacBook had no problem catching. Streaming music and movies over the UPnP protocol to the 605 WiFi from our computer worked pretty well when the wireless signal was strong, but if it dropped, our favorite episode of Chappele’s Show started to stutter. Wireless file transfers are a huge plus, but speeds also varied a lot depending on signal strength.
Archos’s Content Portal wasn’t quite ready for prime time when we checked it out, but movies and TV shows will be available from CinemaNow for $3.99 (rental) and $9.99 to $19.99 (download to own). If want all those deleted scenes or director’s commentary, though, you’re out of luck.
We were able to watch full-screen YouTube vids via the Opera-based browser, but you can also get them on the Content Portal, which makes for a tasty video-on-the-go alternative to the iPhone. Another Apple rip-off: widgets for things like weather and calendaring.
If you think you’re going to get a non-Apple phoneless iPhone for $299, think again — it’ll cost you at least $450. Still, it’s a pretty decent gadget, even if it doesn’t have a piece of fruit on it.