In the world of portable video players, there are swift little cheetahs like the Apple iPod Touch, midsize workhorses like the Cowon A3, and then there are breathtaking mastodons like the Archos 705 WiFi. If you take your gadgets extra-large, the Archos 705 WiFi offers a boatload of entertainment in a sturdy design priced at $399 (80GB) and $499 (160GB).
With its 7-inch, widescreen display, the Archos 705 WiFi is an intimidating, metal-clad gadget that is equally useful for playing videos and clubbing assailants--seriously, this thing is enormous. Unlike its fifth-generation kin (the Archos 405 and the 605 WiFi), the face of the Archos 705 WiFi is utterly devoid of buttons, relying on its touch screen to take care of everything from menu navigation to volume control. Headphone output, power adapter input, and buttons for power and TV output are located on the left edge of the Archos 705 WiFi, leaving the right and top edges bare. The bottom edge of the Archos 705 WiFi is packed with ports for USB transfer, USB hosting, and Archos' own proprietary jack used for accessories such as the company's DVR Station, FM receiver, and battery extender. Flipping over the Archos 705 WiFi, you'll find a metal fold-out kickstand for hands-free use and a removable battery pack (replacements run $29).
The majority of the features found on the Archos 705 WiFi are identical to the excellent ones found on the Archos 605 WiFi (the recipient of a 2007 CNET Editors' Choice). Packed within the 705 WiFi's giant metal husk are a music player, a video player, a photo viewer, a PDF reader, a Wi-Fi video rental portal, and an optional Flash-enabled Web browser (Opera), as well as optional widgets such as games, weather, an RSS newsreader, and more.
It's tempting to call the Archos 705 WiFi simply an overgrown version of the 605 WiFi, but in truth there are some critical differences--both good and bad--between these two PVP powerhouses. Aside from its larger screen, the Archos 705 WiFi distinguishes itself from the 605 WiFi by including built-in TV output (composite through headphone jack), an outstanding QWERTY keypad remote control, USB hosting for transferring media from external drives and digital cameras, built-in stereo speakers, and a replaceable battery. On the downside, the 705 WiFi lacks the 605 WiFi's hardware controls (especially useful for quick volume changes), pocket-worthy size, and a crisp, more colorful screen.
The Archos 705 WiFi is a portable video player, first and foremost, and it does not disappoint when it comes to movie playback. Out of the box, the Archos 705 WiFi is capable of playing MPEG4, AVI, WMV, and DIVX video files up to DVD resolution. For an extra $20, you can also purchase a plug-in for H.264 video playback and a separate plug-in for MPEG2/VOB video playback. In a perfect world, the 705 WiFi would support all of these formats out of the box, but it's only a small inconvenience to buy the plug-ins a la carte. Once you're actually playing video, you can bookmark, resize, and skip through your movie with ease.