Archos Gmini 402 (20GB) review: Archos Gmini 402 (20GB)

The Archos Gmini 402's MP3/WMA player also benefits from a slick interface, which includes artist/album/track name info; the name of the next track; file type and bit-rate info; elapsed/remaining/total time and a progress bar; and, in an especially nice touch, album art. The navigational keypad gives you the usual fast-forward/back/pause functionality, while the bottom soft keys let you tweak the player settings; set a bookmark or edit a playlist; or browse your music by album, artist, title, genre, or year. You can also sync your PC's music library--including any DRM-protected WMA files purchased from MSN Music--with Windows Media Player, a welcome improvement upon the Gmini400. However, we do have a couple of key complaints about the music player: There's no support for AAC or open-source Ogg Vorbis music files, and there's no equalizer for tweaking the sound, just bass, treble, and bass-boost sliders--a disappointing omission for an otherwise impressive music player. In fact, the 402 is the best MP3 playerlike PVP we've used, since it's so compact. It's great for music, but you also get video playback thrown in.

The Archos Gmini 402's photo viewer has the same two-pane browsing interface as the video player, with filenames and directory info on the left side and thumbnails on the right. Once you've transferred images from your digital camera via the 402's USB port, just click an image to see it in full-screen mode, or you can view four or nine images at a time using the left soft key. You can also zoom and rotate images or view your photos as a slide show, but you can't tweak the slide-show interval or play music in the background--too bad, given the Gmini's ready and willing music player.

The Archos Gmini 402's voice and line-in recording capabilities are decent if a bit limited. You can make recordings only in WAV PCM or ADPCM formats at sampling rates ranging from 16KHz to 48KHz--perfect if you need the best recording quality possible but problematic if you're running low on disk space. We also missed such handy recording features as voice-activated recording and the ability to detect track breaks when recording LPs or cassettes.

Gamers will get a kick out of the Archos Gmini 402's support for games running on the Mophun gaming engine. The player comes with eight demo games, including Golf Pro Contest, Dog City, Icebox Plus, Joe's Treasure Quest 3D, and Lock 'n Load. Don't expect PSP-quality action, however--these games are closer to the ones you'd find on a cell phone.

We were mighty pleased with the Archos Gmini 402's video quality; our movies looked sharp and smooth, with plenty of color and few, if any, dropped frames. Again, our only serious complaint was with the LCD's so-so viewing angles, especially from the left.

The Archos Gmini 402's sound quality was good, with nice high-end detail, plenty of bass, and almost undetectable hiss. There's only one problem, however: The sound isn't all that loud, though we cranked the volume all the way up. We also found that sound levels were low for voice and line-in recordings, even when we turned the volume up on our audio source. There are no preset or custom equalizers, much to our chagrin, but the bass, treble, and bass-enhancement options did help mold the sound to our liking, especially the extra bass.

We were also disappointed by the Archos Gmini 402's so-so battery life. CNET Labs was able to squeeze 9 hours, 49 minutes from the 402 in our audio drain test, which is subpar for a 20GB MP3 player. For video, the 402 lasted nearly 5 hours, which is good enough for a couple of movies.