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The Archos Gmini XS202's main design virtue is its size. At 2.9 by 2.3 by 0.7 inches and 4.2 ounces, it rivals microdrive players such as the Creative Zen Micro. Overall, though, its appearance is rather industrial, making the Dell DJ-20 look downright stylish in comparison. Despite its compact form, the LCD is surprisingly large at 2 inches diagonal, with excellent contrast and blue backlighting. The display has enough room to comfortably show the song, the artist, and the album name, as well as the next song in the queue. It also shows elapsed time, time remaining, total song length, and a progress gauge. The XS202 features the same easy-to-follow menu structure as the XS200.
We liked the easy flow and logical layout of the Archos Gmini XS202's icon-driven interface. Using the joystick, you can select Music, Browser, Resume, or Setup from the main menu. Within the Music submenu, you can browse songs by artist, album, title, genre, year, or playlist. Browser provides access to the hard drive's folders (handy for perusing its nonmusic contents), while Resume returns you to a bookmarked spot. The Setup submenu includes the usual playback options--repeat, shuffle, or five equalizer presets (and a five-band custom setting)--along with a few nice extras. These include the option to play only a selected folder, as well as a car-stereo-like Scan mode that plays the first 15 seconds of each song until you press the joystick, at which point it reverts to normal playback.
The Archos Gmini XS202 adds support for protected WMA files (WMA DRM 9)--a feature curiously missing from the previous version--so you can enjoy songs purchased from such stores as Napster and Yahoo Music. And while the XS200 can't sync with popular desktop music managers, the XS202 works well with Windows Media Player 10, Musicmatch 10, and Yahoo Music Engine, though it still doesn't support Napster. While the XS202 doesn't offer an FM tuner or voice recorder, Archos plans to offer a firmware upgrade to enable Janus support for on-the-go subscription services, such as Napster To Go.
With decent headphones, the Archos Gmini XS202 sounds fantastic and gets loud enough to handle the noisiest environments. Although the XS202's average transfer speed of 5.29MB per second is somewhat less impressive than the XS200's 10.19MB per second, it's still plenty fast. Battery life is a marathonlike 25.3 hours, showing a big improvement.