The brushed-aluminum 704 is controlled almost exclusively via the ample (7-inch) touch screen, which responds to your fingers or the included stylus. However, there are two small buttons on the left edge, Power and TV/LCD output, as well as a switch on the right for removing the battery The player has a pair of small but reasonably powerful integrated speakers on the front and a kickstand on the back. Archos also includes a full-featured wireless infrared remote, a soft carrying case, an extra stylus, and an AC charger. Notably missing is a slot or clip on the device to store the stylus.
Under the hood, the Archos 704 features an 80GB hard drive--room for roughly 100 hours of DVD-quality video--and a user-replaceable battery (get an extra for $29.99). The latter is rated for 16 hours of music playback, 5 hours of video, or 5 hours of Web browsing, all acceptable, though not outstanding, numbers. We're happy to report that CNET Labs tests beat the ratings, eking out 22.9 hours of music and 5.5 hours of video.
The player's features are identical to those of the smaller Archos 604 WiFi, including video, photo, and audio playback, a Web browser (Opera), and a PDF reader. The optional DVR docking station ($99.99) or the travel kit ($69.99) lets you snatch video and audio content from any analog source in real time. Using the optional recording kit was a breeze, and recordings looked very good. Videos are in MPEG-4 SP format at up to 2,500Kbps with ADPCM stereo sound (up to 48KHz), and you can choose from an impressively wide variety of aspect ratios and letterbox options. You can even make scheduled or timed recordings, and the IR remote can be programmed to control your TV set or cable box.
Connecting the Archos 704 with a computer is a snap. It syncs with any Windows-, Linux-, or Mac-based computer without any software installation; and we found transfer speeds fairly zippy via Windows Media Player and drag and drop. You can transfer photos directly from cameras using yet another optional dock, or grab files from USB devices via the USB host port on the bottom next to the standard USB 2.0 port. The 704 doesn't charge via USB, so plug in the charger if you're transferring a lot of content.
The Archos 704's user interface is fairly straightforward, though it's not as simple as, say, the iPod's menus. The touch screen is responsive, and the icon-based menus are utilitarian-looking and easy to navigate. The 704's processor is quick enough for most tasks, though it can be a bit slow when performing actions involving thumbnail generation, at least until the thumbnails are cached. Playlisting and file management features are extensive and very flexible, thanks in part to a pop-up virtual keyboard that's actually big enough to use with your thumbs.