If you are looking for a portable Internet and media playback device then the Archos 7 could well appeal. Coming in 160GB and 320GB versions and with a 7-inch screen capable of 800 x 480 pixels, it sounds spot-on for a bit of movie watching on the move. With a battery capacity of 10 hours for video and 39 hours for music it might even see you through a weekend away without mains power.
But that screen means it is large, and it is quite heavy too. At 640g and 190 x 110 x 16mm it isn’t going to fit into your pocket. Nor is it inexpensive, with even the least costly model coming in at more than you’d pay for a laptop computer or netbook these days.
If you decide you can bear the cost and size, then what you get here is a very capable little device – with a big caveat. Archos has had plenty of experience of making media players and the details are good, from the nice large icons on the touch screen through to the little stand which hinges out of the back of the casing and which looks flimsy but does a superb job.
Use the built in Wi-Fi to set up a connection to your network and you can go online to browse the Web and use email. The Opera browser is superbly implemented. The Wi-Fi also provides access to media stored on your PC; music, video and photos. Via Windows Media Player you can also grab BBC iPlayer content.
Sound output is good from the built-in stereo speakers and the supplied headset delivers reasonable quality too. The 3.5mm connector means you can easily use a favourite headset if you prefer.
But it is irritating that not everything available from the main menu is actually on the device. Choose the TV option by tapping the touchscreen and then opting for Freeview and you are told you need to buy an add-on TV receiver to get that. And there are other extras you’ll need to do things like listen to FM radio, watch Web TV and record from your DVD player.
Also, while the player supports some file types natively, others have to be accessed by add-on codecs. Even AAC supports will cost you £12 as will MPEG-2 and – not yet available – an HD movie plugin. What this means is that you probably won’t get all the functionality you want for the initial asking price and could rack up quite an additional bill on extras.
There is a bit of a problem with the build materials too. The shiny chassis might look nice but it is a real fingerprint magnet and the back, in particular, is likely to need regular cleaning.