We've tested two portable media players - the Cowon D2 and the Archos 704 WiFi - that enable you to enjoy music, photos and videos wherever you go. Both have touchscreens to simplify navigation, but that's where the similarities end. Given their dramatically different physical designs, the two players will appeal to different types of users.

Where the tiny Cowon D2 is a typical 2GB audio player with video enabled, watching video on it is not much fun. The much larger Archos is a better bet.

Dominating the Archos 704 WiFi, which is more than five times as big as the Cowon D2, is a 7in 800x480 resolution touchscreen. The 704 WiFi's large size and wide-screen dimensions make watching videos a treat: it's like toting a portable TV set. Because it weighs 0.6 kg, you'll want to slip it into a backpack, briefcase or handbag.

In fact, the 80GB 704 WiFi is big enough that Archos included a remote control, though we found it of limited use while watching video on the player itself. Still, you'll need the remote to operate the device if you hook it up to a television to record shows (you'll also need the optional DVR Station).

The tiny Cowon D2 lacks the seamless photo playback of the Archos model, which simplifies moving through photos by letting you drag the stylus across the touch screen to summon the next picture. On the D2, you have to touch one of two icons to move forward or back through your collection. (On both models it's just as easy to use your fingertip as the included small - and easy to misplace - stylus.)

The Archos 704 WiFi plays MPEG-4 and WMV video files, as well as DivX 3.11. It can also handle DivX4 and DivX5. Archos also offers two plug-ins: one enables playback of H.264 video files and AAC audio files; the other, VOB and MPEG-2 video and AC3 audio playback. Each plug-in costs $20 via Archos' website .

The Archos has a few interesting extras. My favorite accessory is the Helmet Camcorder, which comes with a headband. To protect the 704 WiFi while you're on location, consider the reinforced nylon travel case (due out soon, pricing to be announced). Less exotic is the player's included kickstand, useful for propping up the device on an airplane tray table. And finally, the device offers wireless Internet access via 802.11g and the built-in Opera browser. Internet access worked well, although using the touch-screen keyboard to enter full URLs was cumbersome.

The Archos' sound contained some distortion, and the player generated more noise. At default settings, the Archos 704 WiFi sounded flat and hollow. But tinkering with the equaliser to boost the bass and treble response yielded much better music quality - on a better set of headphones, that is.

The Archos earbuds weren't much cop, and the nub on the rubberised edge made them uncomfortable to wear. For people who don't feel like wearing headphones, the 707WiFi comes with two built-in (albeit thin-sounding) speakers.

There's no FM tuner, but navigating music is a cinch. The Archos's touchscreen responded swiftly, and the 'Music' icon in its main menu brought up the music library.

Archos 704 WIFI 80GB: Specs

  • Digital AV recorder, digital audio player and recorder, digital photo viewer, external HDD function, video capture from external source, digital video player and recorder
  • PlaysForSure Audio compatible
  • 182x20
  • 128mm
  • 0.6kg
  • remote control
  • Hi-Speed USB, IEEE 802.11g
  • Opera web browser, email client, PDF viewer, USB host function
  • 7in colour TFT, 16:9, 800x480, touchscreen
  • supports NTSC, PAL
  • 80GB HDD capacity (40GB available)
  • photo viewer supports BMP, Jpeg, PNG
  • digital audio player supports WAV, WMA, PCM, MP3, ADPCM, protected WMA (DRM)
  • built-in stereo speakers
  • built-in microphone
  • VBR, equaliser
  • video playback format supports MPEG-4, WMV
  • MPEG-4 SP video capture, 640x480, 30fps
  • audio / video output
  • mini-USB type A
  • docking station provided
  • power adaptor
  • Digital AV recorder, digital audio player and recorder, digital photo viewer, external HDD function, video capture from external source, digital video player and recorder
  • PlaysForSure Audio compatible
  • 182x20
  • 128mm
  • 0.6kg
  • remote control
  • Hi-Speed USB, IEEE 802.11g
  • Opera web browser, email client, PDF viewer, USB host function
  • 7in colour TFT, 16:9, 800x480, touchscreen
  • supports NTSC, PAL
  • 80GB HDD capacity (40GB available)
  • photo viewer supports BMP, Jpeg, PNG
  • digital audio player supports WAV, WMA, PCM, MP3, ADPCM, protected WMA (DRM)
  • built-in stereo speakers
  • built-in microphone
  • VBR, equaliser
  • video playback format supports MPEG-4, WMV
  • MPEG-4 SP video capture, 640x480, 30fps
  • audio / video output
  • mini-USB type A
  • docking station provided
  • power adaptor

OUR VERDICT

The large Archos' calling itself a "mobile DVR" is a legitimate claim. This multimedia device is well suited to video lovers with big pockets - and a willingness to shell out again for the DVR Station, to hook up to and record from their TV

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