Archos Gmini 402

By Ian Urie

Who needs an MP3 player?

Well, the X-clef mp3 players in our household have been getting used extensively for more than a couple of years now and still perform faultlessly. However, the wife was starting to get upset that hers was a “brick” now with more modern players being around.

As a surprise present, I had a look at my usual places for music based gadgets. I've always found Advanced one of the most helpful, with a nice wide range of players.

Besides that, they usually manage to undercut the prices in the High Street easily.

Browsing their website, I discovered that combined players, music and video, were taking off and I had a look through some of the kit available.

I finally settled on the Archos Gmini 402 unit.

The Archos range stretches from small music players to larger units featuring video camera and video recorder capability. The 402 was settled upon for a few reasons. I didn't feel we had the need to record from TV, it could play back through the TV, I thought it had one of the best range of video formats available and I also had a talk with one of the guys at AMP, who pointed out that he had taken one of the older demo models around with him for a year and was still using it!

As you can see from the picture above, it has the look of a sleek little unit . The dimensions are 10.6 X 6 X 1.7 cm, or, if you prefer, 4.17 X 2.37 X .69 inches. As you can appreciate, this will not exactly bulge in your pocket. The screen size is 2.2 inch, and can display 262000 colours. The display picture is 220 X 176 pixels. The weight of the unit is not a great deal either, coming in at 160g (5.64oz).

Controls are very simple to use, menus nicely laid out and icons for the majority of it. Battery life is fairly good at 10 hours playing music, or 4 hours watching video via the LCD.

Ok, some of the features of the unit.

The unit plays MP3, WMA (as well as protected WMA). No option to play OGG yet, but the firmware is upgradeable, so it might still be able to soon. The unit is badged as “Playsforsure” to prove that it can be used on the pay for music sites. The unit also is able to sync with Windows Media Player 10.

On the video front, the unit can play DIVX, XVID, WMV,AVI,MPEG-4 formats. Again, it can use protected WMV.

How well does it play? It's hard to tell, because since the wife got the unit, the only time I get near it is to download more files onto it!

The unit doesn't have radio built in, but an optional plug-in unit is available to add that capability.

Picture quality on the LCD is superb, sound quality is also excellent.

I nearly forgot to mention, that the unit also acts as a USB hub, meaning you can plug your digital camera straight into it to download your pictures onto the unit. It does, of course, also display the pictures..........

If that isn't enough, the unit also plays small games using the Morphun engine built in. Games are available as downloads.

Just in case the video files you have aren't compatible with the player, they also give you a very simple piece of encoder software to change it to a format that the player can work with. Downloading to the unit is a simple plug and play cable using USB2.0. This gives speed on my computer of up to around the 30mb/s value, so it doesn't take long.........

The unit is compatible with Windows or Apple-Mac, there's no linux support. Since I use Linux almost exclusively these days, that could be construed as a problem. First time it got plugged into my computer, it did not show up in my list of devices. Oh, oh! A quick scan of the options in “System” on its menus showed that it was set as a Windows device. I swiftly changed that to hard drive device and it appeared on the computer. Do I want to sync it to Windows Media Player 10? LOL, I'd rather have my toenails extracted.

The unit has performed flawlessly here. In fact, so well, that my daughter demanded one for Christmas. Being the caring parent that I am, her wish came true.

Now, some of you out there might not wish to watch video on the unit. I mean , it is a 2.2 inch screen. Ok, simply plug it in to the telly using the RGB ports or get one of the adaptors to switch the output to a SCART lead. It plays back through the telly at near DVD quality. I tell you this unit is wonderful.

I have, so far, neglected to mention the capacity of this little wonder. The 402 is a 20gb unit. Considering that if you convert a DVD to XVID format, it will come in around the 700mb mark, it shows how many movies you can stash on the little thing. Other players in the range come with larger capacities, but, I feel, 20gb should do our family nicely. Prices for the unit come in around the £230 mark. Shop around, the price will drop as more types of unit become available.

© RIYAN Productions