The Archos 405 ($169) is a smaller, more portable version of the Archos flagship product, the Archos 605 WiFi. Compared to the 605, the 405 does away with the touch-screen interface, Wi-Fi connectivity, and wireless download content partners. Still, the 405 maintains the Archos reputation for making high-quality portable video and music players.
The Archos 405 comes in only one model with a 2GB storage capacity and an SD expansion slot. While the paltry 2GB of internal memory seems criminal for a portable video player, the SD expansion slot supports high-capacity Flash memory cards up to 16GB that you can easily swap out of the player. In this scenario, users can load up their entire digital music and video collection to a handful of SD Flash cards and swap content into the 405 as needed. While this method isn't as convenient as dumping all your files onto a 160GB hard drive PVP, it keeps the price very affordable.
The recessed 3.5-inch LCD screen on the Archos 405 is beautiful, but certainly not as large or sharp as the 605's. Like the Creative Zen Vision:W, the Archos 405 supports a resolution of 480x272, but images don't pop quite as much as on the Vision:W. Regardless, the Archos 405's display is bright and colorful with excellent viewing angles and a matte finish that resists glare. The body of the Archos 405 measures a pocket-worthy 4 inches across, 3 inches high, and just a half-inch thick. Unlike the Archos 605's touch-screen interface, the 405 relies solely on the contoured button navigation that lines the right edge of the screen. We couldn't help but think that the white buttons on the 405 will surely pick up some nasty finger smudges over time, but the navigation layout works very well, and the buttons' contoured edges make them easy to navigate in a dark room.
The Archos 405 has a few surprising advantages over the Archos 605. For instance, the 405 includes both the proprietary Archos USB connection as well as a common mini-USB jack. Plus, the 405's slimmer feature set allows for a lighter and more compact design. We do miss the built-in kickstand found on the 605, but for an extra $49, you can buy an extended battery pack for the Archos 405 that doubles as stand.
While the Archos 405 gives up many of the gee-whiz features of the full-fledged 605 WiFi, the payoff is an incredibly low price of only $169 (as of September 2007).
With most portable media players, what you see is what you get. But with any Archos product, the gear you buy is a base to which you can add additional features--for a price. Some accuse Archos of skimping on features to maintain an artificially attractive price, but you can also think of it as Archos allowing their customers to purchase only the features they want. Either way, the 405 comes out of the box with most of the features people want in a PVP, and plug-ins (such as hi-def video playback, AAC support, and others) cost only $20 a pop.