Archos Gmini 400, 5.6 Ounce MP3/Video Portable

By Richard Menta 8/28/04

Archos has been touting the new Gmini 400 as the first MP3 player with a color screen. Of course all of their digital media players (music/still photos/video) since the Archos AV100 series have a color screen, but this time the menu system for selecting tracks is in color. Nice, but no big deal.

What is much more important about the Gmini 400 is that Archos finally came out with a video/audio mediabox the size and weight of the music-only iPod. Earlier Archos units were excellent, but quite big and heavy.

The 20GB Archos Gmini 400 Digital Audio/Video Jukebox is available on Amazon

For example the Archos AV320 mediabox weighed in at 12.5 oz, more than double that of the 5.6oz iPod. The Gmini on the other hand weighs in at 5.64oz. Furthermore, the Gmini 400's 4.17" x 2.37" x 0.69'' dimensions square quite well with the iPod's 4.1" x 2.4" x 0.57" shape.

Since the iPod first appeared we have heard talk of iPod killers. I have always stated that for a true iPod killer to appear, competitors first have to put out a multiple GB unit that matches the size and weight of Apple's portable, the most compelling factor to its success. Other manufacturers have tried and failed, but they always seemed to focus on features rather than the fact that their products felt like a lead weight in someone's pocket.

The most recent challengers to the iPod's dominance are finally getting the hint, but the iPod has since elevated to a cultural icon. Wearing an iPod is a fashion statement now and until the fashion changes it will be extra hard to carve out market share.

But Archos already has carved out a profitable niche they invented for themselves with their MPEG-4 video/MP3 players. In my rave reviews of past units the only real flaw I saw in them was the fact they were fairly bulky and not suitable for those who wish to jog to music.

The Gmini 400 completes the circle for a manufacturer who has always made a fine player. The product set has always been compelling, but now it is small enough to qualify as a unit that truly has a shot at being an iPod killer.

Of course, the truth is there will be no iPod killer, the phrase is just marketing spin. An "iPod killer" defines a single product that would steal much of Apple's market share in one fell swoop. The iPod would have to lose favor first for that to even remotely happen.

With hundreds of digital media products aiming their crosshairs against the iPod there is no doubt Apple will lose marketshare over time, but it will lose it gradually and it will still remain number one for a long time to come.

With rumors of an iPod video still rumors, the Gmini has a good shot to be the next hot digital toy for the Christmas holidays. Especially for the mass transit commuter who can record their previous nights shows for the morning ride into work. Another feature of the Gmini 400 is that it has a Mophun game engine to play games on the unit's screen. That will also play into the favor of commuters and frequent flyers.

Selling for $399, the Archos Gmini 400 utilizes the same 20GB 1.8" Hard Disk found in the iPod. It also has a built-in CompactFlash slot for convenient uploading of files. The Gmini plays MP3, WAV, and WMA files. Sorry, Apple doens't license it's Fairplay DRM so song purchased on iTunes will not play on the Gmini. Files are uploaded via USB 2.0. An FM radio and remote control for the Gmini 400 are optional.

Specs are below:

Capacity 20GB 1.8" Hard Disk – Store up to 300 hours of music, 200,000 photos or 80 hours of MPEG-4 videos*.
Interfaces: USB 2.0 high-speed, compatible USB 1.1, PC & Mac . Built-in CompactFlash™ Type I slot to accept CompactFlash™ memory cards or optional 4-in-1 CF adapter.
Video playback: MPEG-4 SP with MP3 or ADPCM stereo sound, near DVD quality up to 640 x 400 @ 30 f/s, AVI file format. Reads XviD and DivX"* 4.0 & 5.0. Play Music Video in MPEG-4.
Display: 2.2" LCD 220x176 pixels, 262 000 colours and TV output.
Music playback: Stereo MP3 decoding @ 30-320 kb/s CBR & VBR, WMA (Including copy protected files with Microsoft PD DRM), WAV (PCM & ADPCM).
Power Source: Internal: Rechargeable Li-Ion Batteries. External: AC charger/adaptor
Dimensions: Approx. 106 x 60,3 x 17,4 mm 4.17" x 2.37" x 0.69''
Weight: 160 g (5.64 oz)
Package Includes: Stereo headphones, AC adapter/charger, USB cable, Audio/video cable + Multi-connect adapter, user guide.


The Archos AV320 digital audio/video recorder is available on Amazon



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