I had looked at an iPod, to which I used to have a 2GB 1st Gen Nano. Apple really have worked well on the interface of the iPods. It works well and seems to do all that you need in a simple responsive way. The problem with them is the cost. I refuse to get the Shuffle as I want a screen and hate that whole one button rubbish. The Nano is just too expensive for the use I want from it, this is only for use on the bike. Some investigation later I found a promotion for an Archos 1 Vision. MyMemory were selling it with £5 discount bringing it down to £20.99 inc p&p.
With 4GB of flash it has more then enough space to store the music I want to listen too. Trying to find reviews of it though, that is a different story. There were none that I could find online, only some saying its specification and a little about it. I bit the bullet and brought one. A few days latter I get to answer the door to the postman, Saturday morning and I was still in my dressing gown, not a pretty sight! Still I pulled the Archos out of its box and the first thing that struck me was how really light it is. It actually is a little too light, even though it is very well constructed. Like most gadgets you are suppose to charge before use, however like most things there is enough juice in the battery to get it going to play. To get you going Archos have included a few music files, pictures and a video. Yes, video. It is something that isn't advertised anywhere, even a 'review' said it wouldn't play video. On the front of picture and video, it works well, but I can't imagine watching a full film on such a small screen. Anyway back to the box. Included is a USB lead (charging and transfer), pair of headphones and a CD with software to convert video files. There is no software for managing or transferring music. A reason for the being so cheap I imagine. Not that it is a problem, Windows Media Player 11 picks it up and you can simply drag the music from your library. As it is a mass storage device you can drag and drop directly to it or use any software that allows syncing to mass storage (Winamp spring to mind).
So in use the system works okay. It certainly isn't up there with the iPod in terms of slickness but it is functional. There are a few weird buttons on it to get used to but you soon do. The screen, although small and LCD, is very clear and readable although looses a little in direct sunlight. Would have been better to have been OLED. Sound wise, the included headphones work in a pinch but don't really do justice to the machine. Upgrading them shows off the sound quality which is impressive given the units size and cost. If you dig into the menus there is even an equalizer which includes a 3d setting, which I felt is the best setting to have it on. You can even define your own. The buttons have a positive click on them so moving around the menus is easy. Speaking of menus, there is a noticeable flicker as the screen refreshes as it scrolls down (see video clip below).
One of the biggest annoyances on it, which shows its reduced cost, is the hiss you can hear while it isn't playing. It is only quiet and you certainly do not notice it once the music is playing. It also changes note depending on what the screen is doing. Should you wish to use it for video, the included software does the job, but it sat saying 1% complete even though it had actually finished the encoding. Looking at the output file it seems to be a 128x128 pixel image at about 380Kbps and MPEG audio at 128Kbps so using your own encoder is possible. There is also a voice recorder should the need take you. You can also view text files on it, not sure why you would though. While music is playing it shows off a graphic equaliser. It is so slow as to be pointless, I would rather seen more track information or cover art, a more productive use of the screen.
Despite it being advertised, as far as my speed tests go, this isn't a full USB 2.0 device. When transferring files I get a top speed of only around 1.3MB/s. That is USB 1.1 territory not USB 2.0 as such transfers can take hours if you do a bulk transfer.
For the use I plan for it none of the issues above will prove a problem, even the hiss, which the wind noise drowns out anyway. If you are looking for a cheap and capable MP3 play with a few features this is a great unit. It is in need of a few tweeks. There needs to be a little more weight to give it that solid feeling it is missing and deserves. The processor needs to be faster in order to scroll through menus without flicker, or the firmware needs updating to reduce its effect. The graphic equaliser needs to be removed and replaced with a user selectable option of cover art or just track information. Lastly there it really needs to loose the hiss, although they may increase the cost. There is the main thing to remember, this is a very cheap MP3 player.
Bright and clear screen.
Excellent sound quality (once the headphones are changed!).
Feature rich: music, photo, video, voice recorder and text reader.
Easy syncing with WMP11 or Winamp.
Numerous equaliser settings.
Positive action on buttons.
maybe too light?
Video and photos screen too small to be something to use regularly.
Reflective front a fingerprint magnet.
That hiss when not playing.
Apparently not USB 2.0 speeds.
After writing this I have run into problems with the little Archos. The system won't list out the full number of tracks I have put onto it. Now it reports that I have over 2000 songs on it (only put on around 600!) and the music directory, according to Windows, is 75Gb! Have spoken to MyMemory I am going to get a replacement. Will update when I have more information.
Recived the replacment unit and this one works much better. The transfer speeds are what I would expect from USB2.0 and transfering large amounts took about 30mins (approx 3GB). The hiss seems to be less on this unit, although still noticeable if you are in a really quite area and nothing is playing. Another function I have found on it is the ability to read LRC lyric files, but when it is playing them you have to remember to deselect the auto backlight off function. Overall a good little machine for what I need.