The Archos 504 is the third version of this diminutive media player/recorder that I have had and I am generally happy to say it's a good improvement on the previous ones (the Archos AV500 and AV700). I've also tried the Creative Zen M, W and Apple ipod and this is the winner in the video category (if you're interested then the Creative Zen M wins the overall category - it truly is a mobile media player). Anyway, as with most things, there are good and bad points and I will try and be fair in the assessment of both.
Archos AV500 (old model) Archos 504 (newer model)
As a lot of you will be eager to get to the outcome first and won't be bothered reading the details and so I have a quick synopsis of the Archos 504 for you below.
Excellent screen, resolution increased to 640x480 NO TV RECORDER IN BOX
Hard drive capacity (80GB or 160GB) NO POWER ADAPTOR IN BOX
Plugs straight into PC, acts as hard rive Buttons should now be backlit
New software, animated previews, Noisier in operation
Improved menu options Heavier than previously (
Build quality is superb
My first reaction to the player itself was very favourable. The screen is a great improvement on the AV500 (it's direct replacement) and has a much higher resolution (up from 480x320 to 640x480). This basically means the screen is larger and has a much sharper image. The finish to the player is very similar to before, and as this was great, Archos have done well to maintain their high standards. The metal body gives a sense of sturdiness and value for money. One thing I did like visually (but not in operation - see later) was the buttons are now the same size down the right hand side. They are rocker buttons i.e. they have a left and right function for each one. These have a good feel and respond as expected when depressed. The days of breaking a fingernail to turn the volume up are long gone. The only problem I do have with them is that they are not backlit. I know you can't have everything in the world in one little handy device but as I, and I'm sure a lot of you will, use this device when it's dark, the new button shapes are difficult to distinguish between. On the old AV500 they where quite distinct, and whilst a bit ugly, they were easy to decipher in the dark. Now I have to try and read it like braille before I'm confident I'm pressing the pause button and not the cancel one. This really is only a minor gripe though and I'm not intending it to put any of you off buying the unit.
Along with the screen improvement has come the hard drive capacity. If your going to have a better screen then you want better quality files to play on it - therefore more memory will be needed. I am more than happy with the 80GB model I have as I previously only had 30GB on the AV500. I think I need to point out at this stage that I personally do very little recording from TV and so most of my viewing is of ripped DVD's or downloads. This means that I was not too bothered about the next point but I'm sure a lot of people will be hacked off by it.
There is no TV recording straight from out of the box!!!!!!!!!!!! You can record TV (and other sources) but you need to buy the DVR station separately and this costs a small fortune too! With the old AV500 you had it all in the box, you got the cables, the remote control, the TV input box - all of it. Not any more I'm afraid. I think this is pretty poor myself as it's advertised as being able to record TV. Also, you only get charging from the USB cable - no DC charger is included!
A feature I like about the new 504 is that you can change the way the file being played is displayed. Some movies are letterbox, some are 4:3 but some are in between and it's these ones where the new view options improve the usability of the device. Generally the software is a step up as the folder view of your content has previews of the files in two settings. One has a larger image on the left and only 3 selections can fit on the screen at a time. The second has a classic windows folder view and the current selection has a preview window on the right. Nice touch.
As with previous models you can watch the files you have on the screen or output them to your TV via optional cables. The 504 plays more formats than my previous AV500 but you have to pay for some such as AC3 sound and mp4 - unsurprisingly Archos allow you to purchase these functionalities from them!
Overall I am very happy with this upgrade, especially as I got a good deal on ebay, but if I wanted the TV recorder unit then I would be very annoyed. Archos aretrying to fleece their customers in my opinion and that's something that winds me up big time. I wouldn't mind them splitting the packages up if they charged reasonable prices as I know not everyone can afford the whole kit in one go but to price the accessories how they do is just going to alienate people - not get them to abandon their ipod videos to a much better viewing experience.
Calm down, calm down! After all I've said this 504 is a little beauty and I won't be changing it for a good while yet. Would I pay the full price for a new one? Now I own one - probably to be honest!