capsule review

Archos 104

At a Glance
  • Archos 104 mini music player (4GB)

    TechHive Rating

The chrome-accented Archos 104 looks chic, and its surfaces are smooth to the touch. The 4GB player, which comes in silver, black, or pink, has a 1-inch hard drive, which you can hear clicking away inside as it operates. At $160 (as of 7/21/06), it costs less than a 4GB Apple iPod Nano and competes well with other players of the same capacity. Although it's a shade larger than an iPod Nano and weighs over an ounce more, it has a smaller, 1.5-inch screen.

The main control is a four-way dial with a center select button, similar to that on many digital cameras. It also has a menu button and a back button. Despite the way each button contains multiple functions, you quickly get used to these slightly quirky controls. For example, the up and down buttons adjust the volume during play mode, and while you turn on the player by holding the menu button, you turn it off by holding the back button. The included earbuds are of average quality, but they do have a handy volume control built into the wires.

In the PC World Test Center's new audio quality tests, the Archos 104's scores were far from perfect. Our test equipment measured high levels of harmonic distortion and a low signal-to-noise ratio compared to other players we've tested. In my informal testing, I noticed a lot of noise in the audio, especially at higher volumes.

The Archos 104 plays MP3 and WMA audio files, but not AAC and Ogg Vorbis formats. It lacks an FM radio tuner and has no recording abilities. No PC software is included, but the device integrates well with Windows Media Player for synchronizing with your music collection, and it supports Microsoft's PlaysForSure system for online music store subscriptions. The internal lithium ion battery charges from your PC's USB port while it's connected, but you'll need to buy one of the optional power adapters to charge it on the go.

The player displays photos in JPEG format, but I was unimpressed with the results. The screen resolution is only 128 by 128 pixels, so you see little detail. Photos looked very dark, even with the screen brightness turned up. Images from an 8-megapixel digital camera took about 15 seconds to display, though they do appear progressively from top to bottom while you wait, unlike other players that just show an hourglass. I was also disappointed to find that I couldn't listen to music at the same time as viewing my photos.

If you can live without video on a portable player, and you don't mind gazing at a small, low-resolution screen for photos, this low-cost model is worth a look.

Paul Jasper

This story, "Archos 104" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Low-cost model looks chic, but it lacks video capabilities and an FM tuner. Photos looked dark on small, 1.5-inch screen.

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