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MP3 Players

Hands-on with the Archos 405 and DVR dock

We've got our gadget on with the brand new Archos 405 portable media player. If it was a member of the opposite sex, we'd consider looking twice in the bar. The question is, would we persuade them to come home with us?

We reviewed one of our favourite gadgets of 2007 earlier this month -- the all-sexed-up Archos 605. It was quite literally the most bootylicious piece of tech we'd seen all year. However, for those of you who can't afford the class 'A' model, the cheaper, stripped-down version sells for half the price but with half the spec. This younger sibling goes by the name 405.

The Archos 405 is a small and portable multimedia player, with an 89mm (3.5-inch) colour screen and superb sound quality. Initially you may be disappointed about the 2GB internal memory capacity, especially since there are no other capacities available. But don't be disheartened, media freaks -- Archos has built support for SDHC into this baby. That means you could theoretically shaft the player with a 32GB SD card and store thousands of MP3s, heaps of pictures and a plethora of video clips.

Take ten such cards with you on holiday and enjoy a third of a terabyte of media during your trip.

We've always loved the build quality of Archos products, and the 405 is no exception. The slim form factor and build give this player a feeling of superb ruggedness. Since there aren't any moving parts, operation is swift, with no waiting around for a slow hard drive to spin up and seek data across a fragmented platter.

Sadly, there's no built-in kickstand like there is on the 605, so despite the potential 34GB capacity, this isn't a device hoping to solve all your portable video needs.

The real fun comes when you hook the player up to the TV dock and enjoy DVD-quality video on your HDTV...

The Archos DVR Station lets you play any content stored on the 405 (or the 605 WiFi) through your TV. With some additional codecs (don't get us started about these not being included out-of-the-box), DVD-quality MPEG-2 video is supported at bit rates up to 10Mbps, or high-quality H.264 files. Video of this quality looks stunning, even on large TVs.

32GB is a helpful capacity when you're playing back 10Mbps video, but even more so when you start creating video. The other main function of the docking station is to allow the 405 to be used as a PVR -- TV recording can be scheduled on-screen using the supplied wireless Qwerty keyboard. The keyboard also lets you interact with menus from the comfort of your beer-laden sofa, or when you're suffering in bed from last night's drinking binge.

Moving to the rear of the dock, we see composite out, component in and out, and S-Video in and out. The dock itself is actually pretty lightweight and doesn't reflect the media players' solid build quality. Obviously there's much less to a dock, but we feel a little extra weight -- or perhaps a similar metal construction instead of plastic -- would have added significant 'wow' to an otherwise uninspiring design.

The Archos 405 is on sale now for around £109, and the DVR docking station will be on sale later this month for around £47. Expect our full review very soon. -Nate Lanxon