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Archos 405 review: Archos 405

Archos 405

Donald Bell Senior Editor / How To
Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.
Donald Bell
5 min read

7.7

Archos 405

The Good

The Archos 405 offers a big, beautiful, glare-free screen, above-average audio quality, SD Flash memory expansion, and Mac/PC compatibility, at a very attractive price.

The Bad

The Archos 405 has only 2GB of built-in memory; battery life is just average; and the lack of a kickstand or built-in speaker is disappointing for a PVP.

The Bottom Line

As the Archos 605 WiFi's little sib, the Archos 405 holds its own as one of the best portable video players for under $200.

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.

Design
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.


Here's the Archos 405 next to its big brother, the 605 WiFi. Aside from its diminished capacity and screen size, the 405 also lacks the 605's internal speaker, kickstand, wireless connectivity, and touch screen.

Features
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.

Even if you don't intend on giving Archos a single extra penny for plug-in features, you'll still love the player. The 405 comes with an MP3 player, video player, photo viewer, and PDF viewer. By default, the music player supports MP3, WMA (including DRM-protected files), and WAV files. (You can purchase support for additional formats, such as AAC). During playback, the music player displays album artwork, allows for your music library to be sorted by ID3 content, and gives you the ability to bookmark long files such as lectures and audiobooks.

The Archos 405's video player is equally polished. It supports playback of MPEG-4, AVI, and WMV formats at up to 30 frames per second, covering most bases for common video files, and you can buy optional plug-ins for formats such as H.264 and MPEG-2/VOB files. Once you're actually playing video, you can bookmark, resize, and skip through your movie with ease.

Another compelling, if expensive, accessory is the $99 DVR Station made especially for the Archos Generation 5 portable video players. The DVR Station allows you to record video from your television, cable box, or satellite receiver at a resolution of 640x480. It also lets you view the contents of your Archos 405 via your television, including music, movies, and photos. Using the DVR Station also enables a Tivo-esque graphic program guide that makes scheduling recordings very simple. DVR Station includes a remote control with a QWERTY keyboard that works seamlessly for watching videos from your couch.


This bird's-eye shot of the 405 shows off the SD card slot on the far left side. With only 2GB of internal memory, plan on investing in some SD Flash cards.

Performance
With the Archos 405 straddling the fine line between MP3 player and video player, it's hard to say which feature works best. We're tempted to call it a draw, but we expect most users choose the Archos 405 for its video playback capabilities.

As a music player, the 405 weighs in on the bulky side, but its sound quality equals that of most of our preferred MP3 players. Both the customizable 5-band EQ and independent Bass Boost controls err on the side of subtlety, but we think they offer just the right amount of sonic sculpting without mangling the sound into an overprocessed mush. (The same sound-enhancement features apply to movie audio playback.) For those of you pulling media files from both a Mac and a PC, you'll be happy to know that the 405 can boot in multiple USB modes, both MSC and MTP, allowing it to work as both a drag-and-drop hard drive and a Windows Media Player device.

"In our CNET Labs testing, the Archos 405's battery squeezed out 11 hours of audio playback and 4 hours of video. The video results aren't bad, considering all the power required to drive the 405's 3.5-inch screen, but we certainly had hoped for better results on audio playback time. Anyone planning to use the 405 extensively as a road trip boredom-buster should seriously consider purchasing the optional battery pack that doubles as a stand."

Final thoughts
Despite its limited capacity, the Archos 405 is an amazing value if you're looking for a portable video player for traveling and possibly taking DVR content on the road. If you really like the idea of having Internet access on your PVP for browsing YouTube videos or downloading movies directly to the device, you'll need to go with the Wi-Fi-enabled Archos 605 instead.

7.7

Archos 405

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8