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Archos 204: 20GB of small metallic joy

The new Archos 204 is a small 20GB MP3 player that's exclusive to Europe -- it's a very small hard disk-based model that's sure to appeal to both teens and grown-ups

After the announcement of the new Archos 704 PMP, we weren't expecting any more news from the company, but how wrong could we be?

Archos has just announced the 204 -- a very small 20GB MP3 player that's exclusive to the European market. We're very pleased to be European because this little beauty is, well, a beauty. It's got a 46mm (1.8-inch) OLED screen, just a touch bigger than Apple's iPod nano, and it plays music in MP3, WMA and WAV format. We're also told it'll support music bought from online stores such as Napster and MusicMatch.

What we like most about the 204's appearance is its professional style. Some smaller MP3 players tend to appeal to the younger market, thanks to their low cost, their lower capacity (most kids won't use more than about 4GB) and their typically more vibrant colouring. We're pleased to see that this small yet reasonably high-capacity MP3 player has been given a trendy metallic finish, which will certainly appeal to older consumers.

Photo support is also included, and you're free to personalise the theme of the navigation display by using a selected photo as a background -- a nice touch and one not often seen as an option. Thankfully, Archos will let us enjoy 20 hours of music from a single charge, which brings it on par with Apple's hard disk-based iPods. Nice.

Crave can't wait to get its hands on the 204 and expects it to be a success in the UK. To get over 8GB of storage in an MP3 player, you really need to be looking at either a 30GB iPod or a 30GB Creative Zen Vision M, and these are much larger than this new Archos player.

With 20GB of storage, 20 hours of battery life, photo libraries and support for online music stores, this could really be killer product. At around £130 it's an incredible purchase -- check back later this year for a full review. -NL