After installing VirtualDub and MPEG-4 Translator, you'll use the latter to set up AVI and MPEG-1 conversions; MPEG-2 isn't supported, alas. It's an easy program to work with, except that it doesn't list the AV700 as a potential target device--only older Archos models. If you choose Archos Default as suggested in the manual, the default output resolution falls to 320x176, which is quite a bit lower than the LCD can handle.
Once you're actually playing video on the Archos AV700 or an external TV, you can adjust the aspect ratio using any of three settings: Auto, Maximized, or Full Picture. There's also a slow-motion mode with three speed settings, as well as a Bookmark option. Don't worry if you forget to set a bookmark; the main menu features a handy Resume option that automatically returns you to wherever you left off.
As an audio player, the Archos AV700 covers all the bases: MP3; protected WMA, including subscription content; and WAV, which is also the format used for audio recordings. Mac users can leverage the included iTunes plug-in, though not for songs purchased from the service; the AAC format isn't supported.
The Archos AV700 provides all the typical playback and library options, plus on-device playlist creation and support for album art. Indeed, the player takes full advantage of its big screen, splashing album art across nearly a third of it and using the remaining space for track info: name, artist, album, bit rate, playback time (remaining, elapsed, and total), and so on. It even displays the name of the next queued track. Surprisingly, the player lacks an equalizer, leaving you with little more than treble, bass, and bass-boost sliders.
Sifting through lengthy song lists is made somewhat easier by the Archos AV700's accelerate-up and accelerate-down buttons, which reside at the corners of the four-way D-pad, but they're a far cry from, say, an iPod scrollwheel. You can press either of them once to scroll one page at a time and hold them down to accelerate through the list.
There's not much to say about the Archos AV700's photo features, which don't extend much beyond basic slide-show capabilities. One nice touch is the ability to turn any photo into the background wallpaper for the interface. If you remember to pack both the USB cable for your camera, or a USB memory-card reader, and the adapter cable for the AV700, you can download and view photos--a handy remedy for overfilled memory cards. The AV700 displays only JPEG and BMP images, though it can still download other file types, such as TIFF and raw.
The Archos AV700 is compatible with the Mophun gaming engine, but Archos has been slow to make any titles available. By downloading a firmware update from the Archos site, we were able to play demos of roughly half a dozen games, all of which could best be described as cell phone caliber. Don't base your decision for purchasing an AV700 on its gaming capabilities; for the moment, it barely has any.Having been spoiled by the Creative Zen Vision's high-resolution VGA screen--which, though smaller, has nearly three times as many pixels--we couldn't help being a bit disappointed by the Archos AV700's LCD. Photos, videos, and even the interface looked grainy and washed out. The physical size of the screen is at least partially responsible, as it makes the pixels themselves larger and exaggerates the space between them--all the more reason an LCD of this size deserves a higher pixel count. We also noticed some artifacts in video recorded on the AV700, even when a DVD was the source.
On the plus side, the LCD looks very bright, even outdoors, and it permits a much wider viewing angle than the Zen Vision's. Connecting the Archos AV700 to a TV yields good results as well, particularly with high-resolution source files. It's capable of 720x480-pixel output, which is on a par with high-definition TV. Ironically, however, because it's limited to 640x480 recording, there's no easy way to fully leverage its maximum output resolution.
The Archos AV700's built-in speakers produce passable audio, though no bigger or bolder than what you'd expect from a pair of 1-inch drivers. As usual, Archos supplies a pair of uncomfortable though decent-sounding earbuds. The in-line volume control is nice, but most users should plan on plugging in their favorite headphones instead.
In our lab tests, the Archos AV700 copied files at a rate of just less than 5MB per second, a good speed but lower than expected. In our informal drag-and-drop test, it took about 24 minutes to copy our 10GB library of MP3 tunes--another less-than-stellar time, at least relative to the much-speedier Archos PMA430.
For a player with such a big screen and a relatively small battery, the Archos AV700 delivers exceptional battery life. It lasted more than 36 hours in our audio-playback tests, enough to fly you coast to coast a few times over. As for video, the results weren't so impressive: just less than 5 hours. However, that's more than enough for two feature-length movies, and you can always swap in a spare battery if desired.