With a dazzling screen, broad video-format support, and the ability to connect to the Internet wirelessly, this portable multimedia player comes loaded with options — and 80 GB of storage space.
I wish the DVR features didn't require a separate docking station, but even so, this hefty player offers an amazing portable video experience.
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Measuring 7.1 by 5 by 7.8 inches when it's propped up on its kickstand, the 704 boasts a lovely 7-inch TFT touch screen and weighs a substantial 1 pound 6 ounces.
Aside from its size, it resembles past Archos models, such as the 604, with sturdy, metallic rectangular housing and minimal buttons.
Sadly, the included headphones are pretty crappy — but if you can afford this thing, I bet you can spring for replacements.
You also get a power cable, a couple of styluses, USB connection cables and an adapter stand that enables the player to fit into the Archos DVR Station ($80) or the DVR Travel Adapter. (Neither is included; you'll need one or the other to record video and audio.)
The kickstand on the back is essential for viewing, as the player quickly becomes too heavy to hold. There are two small speakers, but they are mainly just for reference and sound pretty weak.
In addition, optional software plug-ins are available at http://www.archos.com for more codec flexibility. There you'll find upgrades that will provide for MPEG-2 video and unprotected AAC audio file support.
The player also reads JPEG, BMP, and PNG picture files, as well as PDF files (although the manual states the 704 "may not implement all PDF features," I didn't run into any serious issues).
As the name suggests, the 704 WiFi has wireless networking built in. It also has two mini USB ports (one for computer connection and one for the host), a 3.5mm jack for headphones or TV output, and a DC-in jack for the power supply.
Unfortunately, the power supply is located right next to the headphone jack. If you're clumsy (like me), it's easy to mistake one for the other when you're looking at them from the side.
The battery life is rated at 25 hours for music playback and 4.5 hours for video. Our continuous video play test, however, ran down the battery after 3.25 hours.
As usual, Archos has produced an excellent audio player, although I doubt anyone will use the 704 exclusively to play music. The machine features gapless playback and a bevy of listening options, including adjustable EQ levels, bass boost, balance and standard playback modes.
I liked the Queue feature, which lets you choose the next track to play after the current one is finished, and the player's ability to "scan" through tracks by playing the first few seconds of each song.
Although the 704 comes with lousy earbuds, when I used my Ultimate Ears UE10 Pros everything sparkled as it should. There was no distortion at even high volumes — though the player's bass boost seemed a little meager.
In my view, the 7-inch, 800-by-480 pixel, 260,000-color screen is the primary reason to get the 704.
Zooming capabilities on high-res photos show you just how sharp and detailed the display is. You can save any image as your wallpaper in just a few clicks.
For example, it took me less than a minute to load an image from a recent Puerto Rican vacation and save it as the backdrop. I also customized the icon colors, making red the primary theme (there are several other options).
Of course, the 704's key selling point is how nice video — even when recorded from television — looks on the wide screen: smooth and clear, with no pixelation.
The player's aspect ratio is adjustable to fit the file you are watching, so when I was testing it, no matter what my source was, the video always filled the screen.
Recording video when the 704 is docked in the DVR station is easy — simply connect the audio and video cables, go into the video-recording mode and start rolling.
Naming the file is also easy — just one tap takes you to a keyboard screen (which also pops up for Internet use and other functions).
Programming the device to auto-record and control your cable or satellite box is another nice option. Although I had some issues syncing the 704 with the Dish Network satellite box here at PC Magazine Labs (it seems the box isn't supported), there were no issues when I was recording from a cable box.
What looks like a complicated process is as simple as selecting start and stop times and the desired channel, and making sure that the Archos recognizes your cable box so the DVR station's IR emitter will work properly.
Those who truly wish to customize the 704 can take the time to enter channels and their corresponding numbers into the player manually, making channel selection for TV programming and recording much easier.
Audio recording works fine, too, though it's annoying that, because it uses the same left/right RCA jacks that get you audio from your video sources, you need the optional DVR station to do it.
The problem is that RCA outputs are common only on stereo equipment and components — recordings from computer sources and, dare I say, iPods will require an adapter.
Regardless, the recording function worked like a charm on my tests, with intuitive naming functions and selectable sampling rates up to 48 kHz.
Within moments of clicking on the Wi-Fi icon, I connected to the PC Magazine Labs network and streamed music files from a nearby laptop with no noticeable lapse in sound quality.
I had no problem sending and receiving messages via webmail using the bundled Opera browser. When I first tried to download an attachment, however — a JPEG from a coworker — the Archos crashed, which was disappointing. But I had no problems on the second try, and soon I was viewing pictures without any trouble.
Be advised that in Wi-Fi mode you can't browse the Web and stream music or video from another computer simultaneously.
Another annoyance is that the carrying case — essential for protecting the screen — has no hole for the headphone jack, so you can't shove the player in your bag while listening to music (unless you don't care about screen scratches).
Archos offers a one-year warranty on parts and labor. Tech support can be found at www.archos.com/support.
The Archos 704 WiFi's shortcomings, aside from the lack of an audio-in jack, are few and far between. Of course, it would have been nice to see an FM tuner, but that is a small complaint.
It isn't the most portable multimedia player on the market, but with its huge 7-inch display, it is probably the easiest on the eyes.
BOTTOM LINE: This player has loads of functions and options, from video recording to Wi-Fi connectivity and file streaming. And though its capabilities can overwhelm, it's worth all of its $550 price.
PROS: Huge, sharp, bright TFT screen. Video and audio recording capabilities. Wi-Fi-enabled. Excellent sound quality. Highly customizable through plug-ins and onboard settings. Programmable for auto-recording TV.
CONS: Huge and heavy. DVR station (sold separately) is essential for recording. No built-in line-in audio jack. No FM tuner.
Price: $550.00 List
Player Type: Portable Media Player
Recording, Voice: No
Recording, Line In: Yes
Video Battery Life: 3.25 Hr
Screen Size: 7 inches
Storage Capacity: 80 GB
Dimensions: 7.05 x 4.96 x 7.75 inches
Weight: 1.38 lb
Video Recording: Yes
Music Playback Formats: MP3, WAV, WMA
Photo formats: BMP, JPEG, PNG
Video Formats: MPEG4, WMV
Screen Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels
EDITOR RATING: Four out of five stars.
Copyright © 2007 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ziff Davis Media Inc. is prohibited.