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For those of you not prepared to shell out up to £300 for the flagship Archos multimedia player, the 605 WiFi, the French manufacturer has an affordable alternative for you.
The Archos 405 includes many of the key features of its bigger brother, such as DVD-quality video playback and DVR functionality (with the optional DVR docking station).
The 405 is basically a small 605: retained are the smooth navigation buttons on the right and the superb build quality we've come to admire Archos for. Different to the 605, however, is the inclusion of the SD slot, which sits on the top of the player. There's no kickstand, though, and the screen isn't touch-sensitive, so you'll need to master the Archos navigation system.
At 89mm (3.5 inches), the screen's nicely sized, though the disappointing 320x240-pixel resolution makes it slightly lacking in sharpness.
As a music player the 405 offers the typical 'artist > album > song' organisational structure. You can also sort by genre, year of release and user rating, providing these details are within each file's ID3 tags. You'll see any album art in a right-hand column that eats about a third of the screen, along with access to context menus and album/song metadata.
Videos are sorted by file name and folders. Organisation is a simple drag-and-drop process within Windows. Context menu options allow you to delete and rename files, but you can't reorganise them on the device itself. By default, WMV and standard MPEG-4 videos only are supported. If you want to watch high quality H.264 stuff -- such as typical video podcasts -- or DVD-quality MPEG-2 videos, you'll need to pay about £15 each for the two required firmware upgrades from Archos.
The image library works in the same way as the video portion.
Additionally, there's an option to view image meta-data, should you
ever need to see what camera took a certain photo or what aperture the
camera was configured to use. You can also browse images by the date
they were taken, this being the most useful of the two options.
Finally, the TV recording function will allow you to record from your television to the 405, as well as output any video on your device to a TV. You'll need to buy the optional DVR dock (sensing the running theme?) in order to use this interesting feature, which we'll be reviewing separately.