You may think Apple is king of portable player innovation, but there’s a lot to be said for Archos, too. Back when Apple and Creative were coming up with chunky music and, later, music and video players, Archos was besting them both. Archos has long offered support for more formats, larger capacity players and often manages to undercut them on price, too.

While this 40GB Archos 704 WiFi player isn’t quite as overblown as the 100GB PMP (portable media player) Archos launched a couple of years ago, it’s a monster in other ways. First, let’s deal with its size. The screen is fully 7in, which isn’t far off that of the daintier ultraportable laptops and is actually larger than a couple of the new breed of UMPCs (ultramobile PCs) now launching. Coupled with a metallic casing, this makes the Archos 704 WiFi pretty hefty, yet it doesn’t feel like a 600g product.

Unlike Apple, Archos hasn’t hedged its bets then. It’s not gone for a device that you’d watch video on at a push (video playback times for the Apple iPod Video are impressive, but would you seriously watch a couple of feature films on a 320x240-pixel screen?). Instead, Archos has come up with a quality portable video player that additionally does lots of other useful things.

It’s great for TV, for instance. We made use of the Wi-Fi - a fantastic inclusion in itself - and had no trouble identifying the iMac on our network and then streaming music and recorded TV from its hard disk. Mpeg2, Windows Media Video, DivX3 , 4 and 5 are all supported. For direct copying, there’s USB 2.0 and a matching docking station so you can grab content from your digital video recorder.

The 800x480 widescreen doesn’t have quite the clarity of the Creative Zen Vision W, but you’d be more than happy to watch a film on it and not find your gaze wandering off. It’s touchscreen too and comes with a remote control - dead handy as the display is large enough for you to sit at some distance from it and watch a movie with a mate.

The aspect ratio means proportions are largely preserved and you can flick through album of photos by running the stylus or a finger across the screen.

Music-wise, you can play WMA, WAV, MP3 and even AAC files - yes, the very ones that otherwise tie you in to iTunes. You just need to buy the codec for AAC and H.264. Another one lets you play VOB audio and Mpeg2 video. You’ll also need to adjust the sound settings a little as the default setup is rather flat and woolly.

Archos 704 WiFi 40GB: Specs

  • supports PlaysForSure audio, NTSC and PAL TV, BMP, Jpeg, PNG, WAV, WMA, PCM, MP3, ADPCM, Mpeg4, Mpeg4 SPWMV
  • 7in TFT
  • rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • voice recorder
  • digital photo viewer
  • externall HDD function
  • video capture from external source
  • digital video player
  • file transfer
  • Opera web browser
  • email client
  • PDF viewer
  • USB host function
  • USB 2.0
  • IEEE 802.11g
  • includes stereo headphones, USB cable, remote control, carrying pouch, 2 x stylus, remote control
  • 182x20x128mm
  • 600g
  • supports PlaysForSure audio, NTSC and PAL TV, BMP, Jpeg, PNG, WAV, WMA, PCM, MP3, ADPCM, Mpeg4, Mpeg4 SPWMV
  • 7in TFT
  • rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • voice recorder
  • digital photo viewer
  • externall HDD function
  • video capture from external source
  • digital video player
  • file transfer
  • Opera web browser
  • email client
  • PDF viewer
  • USB host function
  • USB 2.0
  • IEEE 802.11g
  • includes stereo headphones, USB cable, remote control, carrying pouch, 2 x stylus, remote control
  • 182x20x128mm
  • 600g

OUR VERDICT

If you want a portable video player - as opposed to a music player on which to watch occasional video content - we can’t see what else you’d choose. Read our comparative review of the Archos 704 WiFi and the Cowon D2.

Find the best price