Archos Gmini 402 Camcorder
At a Glance
Archos Gmini 402 Camcorder 20 GB Portable Media Player (2.2
Doubles as a camcorder, plays video, and delivers top-notch audio quality. The numerous buttons can be confusing, however.
The Gmini 402 Camcorder (priced at $290 as of 7/21/06) is a versatile device: Besides playing back digital audio and video from the built-in 20GB hard drive, it can capture still images at a 1.2-megapixel resolution, and it can capture video and record audio from either the internal microphone or a line input. This makes it a jack-of-all-trades, though it also has a good claim to being a master of some.
The camcorder's audio performance in our lab tests was be excellent: Audio was almost completely distortion-free, and was clear and sharp across the audio spectrum. The device is undermined by the weak earbuds that are bundled with it, however; the base tones were muddy and the trebles muted. It's worth spending a little extra to get a better pair.
The 2.2-inch screen is bright and sharp, but (like most of the players we looked at) it's a little small to watch for long periods. Videos look smooth and have reasonably good color, but the screen is just too tiny to be comfortable for anything more than a few minutes.
The Gmini 402 is fairly easy to control, but it has too many buttons (seven, plus a control pad) and it is sometimes unclear about which one to press. The three general-purpose buttons below the screen perform different tasks depending on what you're doing; for example, during music playback they pull up settings, the playlist controls, and the media library. This does make navigating the music files easier, but the process is still too complex. The play button (on the back of the case) also stops and starts recording in camcorder mode; this placement makes it too easy to accidentally put your fingers over the small lens on the front of the device. Putting a shutter button on the top of the case would have made more sense.
The video that the Gmini 402 captures is a little less impressive than the audio: at a resolution of 448 by 336 pixels, it's not going to replace a dedicated camcorder. But it's great for capturing impromptu video clips, and the MPEG 4 video it captures doesn't take up much space (the device also supports DivX4, DivX5, and WMV formats). The still-images quality is about the same: The resolution is low (1.2 megapixels) and colors look pale. Still, carrying around the Gmini 402 is a lot more convenient than hauling both an MP3 player and a dedicated camcorder. The rated battery life of around 10 hours when playing audio is a little less than some other players, but it's probably enough for most users.
The Gmini 402 doesn't come with any software, but it works with Windows Media Player, which does a good job of organizing and automatically transferring video and audio files to the device. The Gmini 402 is a PlaysForSure device, so it will play music you've bought from an online music service that supports PlaysForSure, such as Napster and MSN Music.
The Gmini 402 is an interesting combo device. It's a great audio player and a reasonably good camcorder and still camera. If you want a music player for occasionally capturing and watching videos and still images, it's a great pick.