Archos today launched a competitor product to the AppleTV. The Archos TV+ comes in 80GB and 250GB capacities and costs £180 inc VAT for the 80GB version or £250 for the larger-capacity model.
Resembling several other set-top boxes we could mention – the AppleTV and BT’s Vision among them – the Archos TV+ comes with Wi-Fi. Navigation is via a remote control similar to that supplied the other Generation 5 Archos players which, in addition to touchscreen Linux-based menus, can be controlled remotely.
Having tried out a couple of Windows Media Center Extenders, we were pleased to find the Archos TV+ is not dependent on that setup and is instead able to download programmes and photos straight to its internal hard disk over 80.11n Wi-Fi.
An electronic programme guide (EPG) assists with scheduling viewing and recording of TV programmes, while a remote control with mini keyboard and a scrollable mouse wheel in one corner makes accessing menu items or entering website addresses a simpler affair than the lengthy process of selecting characters one at a time on the AppleTV.
One of the central features of the Archos TV+ photo, music and video player is its collusion with Archos’ online portal where consumers can grab videos and other content from its partners. These include Vizumi, which rents DVDs for a seven-day duration for £2.99 each with film fans able to complete their viewing within a 24-hour period once the clicked the Play button.
Announcing the Archos TV+, managing director Tony Limmick explained that a crucial difference between his company’s TV box and others with a TV tag in their name was that some didn’t have their own hard drive. He derided rival products saying a “somethingTV that doesn’t record TV doesn’t quite compute for me”.
He also stressed that content downloaded to the Archos TV+ and its portable media player stablemates such as the Archos 605 Wi-Fi can be viewed almost immediately. He demonstrated a film rental that purportedly had 38 minutes left to transfer to the 605 but he fired up and began watching two minutes later, with the remainder of the download happening in the background.
Transferability from device to device was another key point. The Archos TV+ and PMPs in the Archos range can read photos, music and video from external devices including a USB memory key, from a camera or from peripherals linked to it via Ethernet.
However, the Archos TV+ doesn’t support each and every feature demonstrated straight out of the box. To enjoy H.264 encoding files, for example, and thus access AAC tracks requires the user to pay a separate, one-off licence fee for the codec for £19.99.
Accessing the Archos Content Portal also appeared to be an optional extra – not such good news for Archos’ VOD (video on demand) content partners.
That said, our first impressions of the ArchosTV+ were favourable Its low profile and comprehensive range of connection options and ports – including an HDMI port – mean users will be able to store and play hundreds of videos and thousands of songs.
Archos TV+ comes in 80GB and 250GB versions
Archos TV+ remote control with mini keyboard
80GB hard drive stores up to 100 movies, 800,000 photos or 45,000 songs depending on format chosen
250GB hard drive version stores up to 310 movies, 2, 500 000 photos or 145,000 songs depending on format chosen
Mpeg4 video playback
Optional software plug-ins (available from www.archos.com)
H.264 up to DVD resolution and AAC sound
Cinema Plug-in: Mpeg2 and AC3 stereo sound.
Stereo MP3 decoding @ 30-320 Kbits/s CBR & VBR, WMA, Protected WMA, WAV (PCM/ADPCM). AAC and AAC3 available as optional plugins
Records NTSC/PAL/SECAM to MPEG-4 SP files with ADPCM stereo sound, VGA resolution (640 x 480)@ 30 or 25 f/s, in AVI format.
Jpeg, bitmap and PNG photo viewer
MP3, WAV, Windows Media Audio, AVI audio
Audio: stereo analog
Video: composite, S-video, RGB, YPbPr (component)
Ethernet, USB slave (USB B), USB host ( USB A), infrared receptor for remote control, and DC-in
Video: composite, S-video, RGB, YPbPr, and HDMI
Optional Opera web browser plug-in