LinuxReviews

Review: Archos 604 WiFi (Part 3)

Now that the source code for the Archos Generation 4 series has been released, there’s no time to waste on summarizing what was covered in Part 1 and Part 2 of this review.

Archos_604w_logo_1

Click on to see what the Archos 604 WiFi is all about when it drops the WiFi and becomes a more traditional PMP.

Video

Given its generous 4.3-inch display, the 604 WiFi is clearly designed for video playback. And it excels at it. With stated support of MPEG4, WMV, H.264, and MPEG-2 (the latter two require an optional plug-in) up to DVD resolution, the unit can also play DivX and XviD files with no problem. Videos load almost immediately and playback is smooth and colorful, even when output to a TV (cables not included).

Transferring content onto the player is fast and easy via lovely drag-and-drop over a USB 2.0 connection. The video library can be viewed in two modes: the default list, which doesn’t display subfolders for whatever reason, and the browser, which does. Both show the same file information and a motion thumbnail of each video, so there’s no benefit of using one over the other (unless you use subfolders).

Archos_604w_video1

Archos_604w_video2

Videos can be renamed and deleted without the use of a computer, which I always appreciate. I like my gadgets to be independent.

Archos_604w_vidmenu1

There’s also a nice set of options to control playback. View mode (auto, full screen, maximized, or original) and fast-forward and rewind speeds (up to 8x) are set through the Format and Speed options, respectively. Single frames from the video can be saved as either the file’s thumbnail or the system’s wallpaper (quite cool),  and bookmarks and playmode options (single file or entire folder; normal, repeat, or shuffle) can be set, too.

Archos_604w_vidmenu2

Audio

Like just about every other gadget out there, the 604 WiFi can play (gasp!) MP3s. It also supports WAV (PCM/ADPCM), WMA, and WMA-DRM tracks, as well as AAC and AC3 with optional plug-ins.

Sound quality is good (better with a good pair of headphones than through the built-in speaker), but navigation leaves much to be desired. It gets the job done and is straightforward, sure, but it just doesn’t cut it for me.

Archos_604w_music1

If you have a large collection of music, it won’t be long before you miss the GUI of a real DAP (Creative, Apple, whatever). Actually, if you have a large collection of music, don’t buy the 604 WiFi to listen to it. Maybe it’s just my convergence aversion, but I wouldn’t recommend devoting any of the already meager 30GB hard drive to music. Save it for videos!

But if you insist…

The simple music playback screen displays album art, track progress bar, volume level, and other basic information. There are no visualizations to make use of the screen estate (-1), but at least the title of the next track is shown (+1).

Archos_604w_music2

The 604 WiFi actually has a rather full-featured set of options.

Archos_604w_musmenu1

Archos_604w_musmenu2

In addition to bookmarking, rating, on-the-go playlists, and playmode options, the device has preset sound profiles, bass boost, and a custom EQ.

Archos_604w_eq1

Archos_604w_eq2

Not bad at all for a "non-DAP," eh?

Photo

Older Archos models used to be equipped with built-in Compact Flash slots and USB-host ports. The 604 WiFi, with its 16-million-color screen, has neither. Quite a shame.

Archos_604w_photowall

Archos_604w_photo2

If there’s a photo resolution limit, I can’t find it.

Archos_604w_picinfo

Just like everywhere else in the system, there are lots of menu options here, too.

Archos_604w_phomenu1

Archos_604w_phomenu2

There are eight different transitions and pause increments varying between 2 and 30 seconds available for slideshows, which can be viewed while listening to music. Another nice feature is that even zoomed-in portions of photos can be set as wallpaper.

Archos_604w_piczoomout

Archos_604w_piczoomin

Extras

I’m still deciding whether secondary and extra features are the same thing…

Audio recorder
Here are some self-explanatory pictures of the recording process.

Archos_604w_audiorec

Archos_604w_audiorec2

Archos_604w_audiorec3

Archos_604w_audiorec4

The optional DVR Station or DVR Travel Adapter is required to enable line-in recording. Without it, you can only use the built-in microphone. Either way, recordings are saved in WAV format (PCM or ADPCM) at 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, or 48 kHz.

PDF viewer
PDFs are accessed through the system’s File Browser (basically Windows Explorer) and can be stored loose or in folders.

Archos_604w_browse

The screen is certainly big enough to read PDF documents, but loading time requires a bit of patience. For example:

  • 59-page user manual (2.1MB): 20 seconds to open, 6-8 seconds to next page
  • 6-page press release (2.3MB): 10 seconds to open, 5 seconds to next page
  • 130-page eBook (460KB): 12 seconds to open, 3-5 seconds to next page

Archos_604w_manual

Because the display orientation cannot be rotated, reading PDFs requires a fair amount of scrolling. If you’re looking to use the 604 WiFi to read eBooks in PDF format, I would suggest looking elsewhere.

File server
This feature belongs in Part 2 of the review since it requires WiFi, but I want to keep all the "extras" together.

Archos_604w_fileserver1

All you need to do to access the device remotely is to press the "Enable file server" button.

Archos_604w_fileserver2

The 604 WiFi’s hard drive appears on your computer’s network neighborhood.

Archos_604w_fileserver3

Removable disk
The 604 WiFi can be connected to a computer as either an MTP (requires Windows XP and WMP10) or UMS device.

Archos_604w_usbmode

It’s misleading, I know, but PC Hard Drive mode works on Windows and Macs.

Battery life

Archos rates battery life at 16 hours for music and 5 hours for video, but does not provide any numbers for Web browsing (I’d say about 3-4 hours). A lot depends on the power settings and screen brightness levels, but I’m fairly certain that the company’s estimates are not accurate.

Archos_604w_power

I tried to run a series of battery tests, but it made the device very unhappy. I don’t know why, but just looping an album of 192kbps MP3s sent the 604 WiFi to the crazy house after only 12 hours. It refused to charge via USB afterward and would automatically shutdown within about a minute of turning on.

So I have no idea what battery life is really like. For what it’s worth, though, the AV420 can play a full-length movie and a TV episode or two before running out of juice.

Conclusion

The Archos 604 WiFi hasn’t changed my status as an Archos PMP fan . . . but . . . I have to say that I’m the teeniest bit disappointed.

Compared to the AV420 I got in 2004, the 604 WiFi isn’t that much better. The addition of WiFi is huge, of course, and it’s certainly an impressive and well-executed addition (as you saw), but it’s not what I could call three years’ worth of progress. This is the only model in the current lineup that has it, too, so what kind of significant improvements over previous models do the other ones have to offer? Aesthetically, the 604 WiFi is lightyears beyond the AV420. But that’s really about it. Appearances (and WiFi) aside, all the 604 WiFi has is 10GB of additional storage capacity.

PMPs in general are a bit cheaper than they used to be (the AV420 retailed for $550), but a lower base price ($350 for 604, $450 for 604 WiFi) doesn’t matter much if you have to buy accessories that used to come standard with older models. The AV420 came with the docking cradle (equivalent of $100 DVR Station), AC adapter ($30), and easily replaceable standard USB cable.

Perhaps previous models left so little to improve upon that a bigger screen and redesign were  enough to warrant an upgrade? Maybe. After all, there was actually very little to complain about with the AV420. But even if it’s true that you can’t perfect perfection, after three years of exclusive devotion to my AV420, I still expected to be completely swept off my feet by the 604 WiFi. And I wasn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. The 604 WiFi is definitely a fantastic PMP . . . but only because it’s just a nicer-looking AV420 with Internet access.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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10 thoughts on “Review: Archos 604 WiFi (Part 3)

  • Woah, great overview of the 604 there. I just played with the 704 (as seen on my blog) and was wondering which to get since they have almost similar price points, but different in terms of size and weight. With the 704, you sacrifice portability, but the large screen is really nice.

    Reply
  • Thanks, Kevin.

    I’m surprised that they’re priced so similarly. The 704’s price ($718) falls within the previously reported range, but the 604 WiFi at $658 is incredibly overpriced.

    Given the size, weight, and price of the 704, I think a UMPC would be a better buy.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Richard

    Archos PMA400 units are now available for app £200 (assume about the same for US $).

    This has all that the AV420 has (though 30GB not 20) plus wifi, browsing, USB Host, irda, leads and adaptors (as well as being able to support MS Office compatible documents and applications) and is being sold off cheaply as it is discontinued.

    So if you want all the functionality of the 604 WiFi at a fraction of the cost it is definitely worth a look.

    Reply
  • Thanks for the suggestion, Richard.

    Reviews I’ve read on the PMA400 have been less than glowing (gripes about sluggish performance and touchscreen responsiveness, I think), but you bring up some great points.

    That’s a good price, too, as I vaguely remember the device being quite expensive ($700+).

    Reply
  • Excellent review, very high quality writing, photos and video. You thoroughly convinced me not to get this (which is a good thing) since I was on the fence, and the shallow CNet and PCMagazine (shill?) reviews usually are not “realistic” enough for me. Specifically I was looking for a device with built-in USB Host functionality, and the PDF Reading capability, thanks for adding load time information. I can wait until there is more competition in this area (and products are improved), we’ll see how the iPhone changes this market segment later this year as well. Keep up the great reviews! Bookmarked!

    Reply
  • Thanks, Andy!

    I’m curious about where this market is headed. Have you considered a handtop/UMPC? They’re signficantly more expensive, of course, but the storage capacity and connectivity options may fit the bill. It may actually be overkill, depending on your needs, but there are several screen sizes to choose from (4.5, 5, 5.6, 6.5, and 7 inches) and they’re all pretty good for reading PDFs. Load time would be much faster, too. :)

    Reply
  • Avatar of 504 owner

    Liked the review. It’s good to wait for a while on products like this. Amazon now has the 604 wifi for $195! all within a year :)

    Reply
  • That’s a fantastic price, 504 owner. Will you change your name to 604 wifi owner soon? ;-)

    Thanks for the info.

    Reply
  • Avatar of scott

    dose the 604 turn off when it is charging is that how it charges or dose it stay on till its done? idk mine is caying the green light will blink when its done then it will trun off after like a min and donse nothing in less i unplug it and turn it back on can some one help me out i dont kno wats going on ive only had it for a few days???

    Reply

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