Archos AV 700 Mobile DVR

By Richard Menta 6/3/05

When Steve Jobs is asked if an iPod Video is in the works his pat answer is that such a device is not capable of success until there is content for it. Jobs, of course, means paid content not the stuff traded for free on P2P applications. Such paid content exists too - on sites like MovieLink and MovieFlix - but Jobs is really talking about setting up his own iTunes-like site for movies and TV and such a site is not ready yet.

Recently, Sony has developed another option for the acquisition of video content for portable devices. This one has emerged through the success of the Sony PSP, a game player that also plays movies sold in Sony's proprietary UMD format. Sales of UMD movies are a hit and this offers a new proven financial model for media delivery, one tied to retail stores and not the Internet. (see our review: Sony PSP As Personal Media Player)

But there is another way to fill such a player with video content. A way that is free to the consumer and has been ruled as fair use and legal by no less than the US Supreme Court in the old Betamax case. That way is to simply record from television.

This is were the Archos line of products come in. It was Archos who invented the Personal Media Player (PMP). Focused more on selling players than the content, most Archos' PMPs record from television.

Previous editions of Archos players did not highlight this Tivo-like ability as the company originally targeted those who trade movies on the Net. One significant problem that we found in our reviews of their players is that most movie files available online are in formats not readable by the Archos, requiring them to be laboriously converted before they could play on their devices.

But, this is not a problem for programs recorded directly by the player. I have always said that the ideal market for these players are mass transit commuters who find the idea of watching the previous nights show while on the ride in compelling. There is plently of content on television ("57 channels and nothin' ons" worth) and this is the group that Archos is now targeting with their new AV 700 series players.

The Archos AV 700 Mobile DVR comes with a 7" widescreen display that offers 480x234 pixel resolution (versus the Sony PSPs 480 x 272 pixel screen) The unit is offered in two flavors, a 40GB version and a 100GB version. Files are recorded in the MPEG-4 codec wrapped in Microsoft's AVI format that Archos adopted with its first players. The AV 700 also utilizes Microsoft's Janus (PlaysForSure) technology, which means you will also be able to buy subscription content (both audio and video) from sites like Napster, CinemaNow and MSNs own audio and video sites. What is available now is extremely limited, but titles are expected to grow quickly in the near future.

To easily facilitate TV recording, the AV 700 comes with a new TV docking pod to connect to your setup, which includes recording from VCR and DVD. The unit also allows users to transfer songs directly from a video camera. The Archos AV 700 can be programmed to record shows while you are away. The player claims 4 hours of battery life for video play and 30 hours for audio play on rechargeable Lithium-Ion Batteries.

The Archos AV 700 is a fairly large and heavy unit. Dimensions are 4.2" x 8.2" x 0.8"and the unit weighs in at a healthy 20.8oz, well over a pound. This is more than double the 10oz weight of the Sony PSP, but the flash-memory based Sony does not have to carry a 100GB hard drive.

Like some of its predecessors, the Archos AV 700 Mobile DVR plays Mophun™ games. These games are not in the same league with what Sony has released for its PSP, but then the PSP is a game player that happens to play (though not record) movies, while the Archos is a movie player that happens to play games.

Below are the Archos AV 700's technical specifications:

Capacity 40GB and 100GB
Display: 7” LCD 480x234 pixels, 262 000 colours and TV output
Video recording: MPEG-4 SP and stereo sound, optimised resolution for TV up to 640x480 @ 30 f/s (TBC), in AVI format
Video playback: MPEG-4 SP with B-Frames (compatible with DivX® 4.0 and 5.03) with stereo sound. Near DVD quality up to 720x480 @ 30 f/s (NTSC), 720x576 @ 25 f/s (PAL), AVI file format (including WMV9 SP protected files) up to 352x288 @ 30 f/s and 800 Kbits
Music playback: Stereo MP3 decoding @ 30-320 kb/s CBR & VBR, WMA (including protected WMA files), WAV (PCM & ADPCM)
AV connections: TV Docking Pod with video pass through, AV in & out cables (SCART In & Out for European version) and IR emitter cable for tuner control of VCR, cable box or satellite receiver. Earphones / Audio & Video line out. Travel audio-video kit in option to record audio and video analog source on the move.
Speakers: 2 built-in stereo speakers

USB 2.0 high-speed device, compatible USB 1.1, PC & Mac.

USB Host port compatible Mass Storage Device.

Package includes: AV 700, TV Docking Pod, remote control (with batteries), audio/video cables (SCART in/out for European version), USB 2.0 cable, USB host adapter, AC adapter & charger, stereo headphones, protective case, user guide.


The Archos AV 400 is available on Amazon


Other MP3 stories:
MP3 Players for Summer 2005 Part I
Sony PSP As Personal Media Player - Review
Big Music vs Digital Radio