Pros Records live TV. Can store your movie collection on it and play on device or connect to TV. Comes with all needed software.
Cons Cheap headphones, no kickstand.
Summary A friend had a portable media player and I fell in love with it so I purchased 3 and used each one for 3 weeks before deciding which to keep. The ones I reviewed are the RCA Lyra A/V jukebox, Creative ZEN PMC and the Archos AV420.
I rate these as follows
RCA Lyra A/V jukebox 4
Creative ZEN PMC 6
Archos AV420 9
I will post a review for each of these but this review is on the Archos AV420.
This is by far the most versatile of the bunch. It comes with a cradle, remote control, and software where none of the others did. You can connect this to the output of your TV, cable box or VCR and record TV like a DVR can. You can even schedule events to record on a calendar in My Yahoo and download the calendar to the AV420. I was also able to back up my purchased DVD collection onto it fairly easily using the supplied software and one acquired freeware. The other units didn’t provide software. The connection to the TV is easy since you can connect the cradle once then just connect the AV420 to the cradle when you want to watch a movie or make a recording. This unit also has a built in microphone so you can use it as a audio recorder. This unit as did all performed perfectly in storing and playing music (MP3/WMA) as well as storing the family picture album. As all devices you can store files onto it as well. The built in LCD screen provides good resolution. Manuals are adequate in explaining how to use the device but you need to read the entire manual prior to attempting to placing any recordings on the unit yourself. You need to make sure you understand the required audio and video formats. When playing video the quality was great, no pixilation and very smooth transition through the movie.
Pros Decent battery life and you can record direct from a video source.
Cons No easy way to load videos, video quality suffers at times, unit locks up on occasion and no kickstand.
Summary I was really disappointed in my purchase of the AV420. I read all these great reviews on this site, but was let down when I finally bought it. First off, there is no way to easily load your movies onto this thing. As far as I can tell, you either have to record them in real time or use other conversion methods to get your movies on there. Maybe there are easier ways, but since the instructions contain about 3 sentences on how to load video onto the device, I was left searching google for all the answers. Secondly, the video that I did record in real time (direct from DVD) often had glitches and lapses in quality. Additionally, when I was watching the movies, the unit would freeze up on occasion...forcing me to reboot the device. Lastly, the unit has no kickstand, so using this thing on a plane or other travel situation is not easy. I had to prop the device up on a deck of cards to watch it in my plane seat. Yes, the unit does come with a nice cradle, but the cradle has tons of cables attached to it permanently, so it's not practical to travel with the cradle. There were a couple other smaller problems too. The external speaker isn't worth using at all and the headphones that came with the unit were defective. On the good side, the unit does have a good battery life and the unit on the whole is fairly user friendly. In summary, I spent a lot of money for this thing and was supremely disappointed. My only hope is that the store will give me a full refund so that I can try out the Samsung Yepp instead.
Pros Too numerous to list in one line
Cons removable battery only on the 20 gig model
Summary After much research, I finally bought the AV420. I was worried about mac compatibility and the potential difficulty in creating AVI's to view. All concerns have vanished. WIth Handbrake, turning a DVD into an AVI that the 420 can read is easy. And downloading tv shows from tivo or a DVD player is even easier. The screen is stunning and surprisingly watchable for long periods. And with the Compact Flash converter, loading photos from an SD or memory stick is a breeze. I LOVE this thing. A must buy for the frequent flyer who hates lugging around a laptop.
Pros Nice screen, good interface for MP3 payback, video playback
Cons Unreliable video recording, many glitches when loading MP3 files
Summary I picked up two of these, one for me and one for the wife. It sounded like a good idea with the nice big screen for viewing photos and videos and the recording capabilities interested me. Then I started using it and it was time for some reality...
First I transferred about 500 music files using Windows Media Player. I found that most of the files showed up as an Unknown Artist and when viewing the file details they had incomplete tag info. Even though the player is supposed to be able to display the album covers, only a few would actually show up while playing the audio files. I actually had loaded a mix of WMA and MP3 files and noticed that the problem files were all WMA files. So, I scrapped the WMA files and re-ripped all the CD's as MP3's. This helped and everything showed up under the correct artist, genre, etc. but still only a few album covers were showing up. Eventually I found that I had to manually assign album covers to the MP3 files. Doable but What A Pain! I had to locate each album cover online (I found http://www.slothradio.com/covers/ simplified this greatly) or scanned the ones that I couldn't find. I then resized these to 200x200 jpeg's and tied the cover to the MP3 file using the Advanced Tag Editor in Windows Media Player.
Eventually I got my initial 500 or so MP3's loaded with album covers and showing up with correct artist info. So, I ripped another 20 or so CD's and sync'd the player. No errors but now only a few artists and a couple of genres showed up at all. I could browse to the Music folder and find all the CD's listed and I could see all the expected tag info on the files but under the Archos Music icon where you're supposed to be able to find your music by genre, artist, etc. there were only a few tracks showing up.
So I deleted all the music from the unit, re-sync'd everything again and finally got all the music to show up. Ripped a few more CD's, sync'd these onto the unit and once again only a few artists and only some genre's showed up. The only way I can consistently get everything to be recognized is to delete all the music files from the unit and re-sync all 2300+ MP3 files any time I want to add a new CD or two. Not my idea of a well executed MP3 player.
Now, on to video recording... That's even worse. This thing has a scheduler in it that you can use to set a start time, end time and channel. The unit then communicates via an IR interface to your VCR to tune it to the desired channel and records from the video output of the VCR. Ok, nice idea except that I can only get this to work about 1 out of 3 times. The rest of the time the unit will power on, turn on the VCR, tune the VCR to the right channel, record a few seconds then stops recording or shuts down altogether. I've been playing with these things for a couple of weeks and I think I've been able to get one or two successful recordings using the scheduler.
Even on manual recording it's a crap shoot at best. I set it up to record a 2 hour show, manually start the recorder and it runs for a few seconds and shuts down. Again, I can get it to work about 1 out of 3 times as a manual recorder.
I have to say that when it works it's a slick piece of gear. Fortunately it worked when I recorded the Indy 500. For a long recording like that (anything over about 2 hours) it will create multiple files since the file system has a limit of 2GBytes per file. I was able to splice the files together easily using ULEAD software that came with my DVD burner, edited out the commercials and ended up with a video that is a bit over 3 1/2 hours.
Anyway, the bottom line is this unit is a nice idea but its software just isn't quite ready for prime time yet.
P.S. I've tried two units. The last one has the latest software available from the ARCHOS site but still has the same problems.
Pros Great video playback. Music is great quality as well as recording. Photos show nicely
Cons Cables do get tangled if not taken cared for properly. Copying videos aren't for the impatient. When copying dvds, it takes up alot of space.
Summary Everything is great about it, the only thing I didn't like is the fact that you have to download a plug-in driver in order for WMP9 to recognize it. Copying DVDs and TV shows use alot of space. Cables are bulky & the manual fails to tell you how to copy videos from your pc. All these setbacks aren't too major & can get some getting used to and are definitely worth going thru.Updated
The Archos is truly the underdog of Digital Devices out there. Once you get a look at is vast capabilities, you'll be saying to yourself "iPod who?".
Pro: At about the same length of an iPod (iPod's praised for its size), it plays music just as well, doesn't freeze or sound muffled.
Con: Cannot Autosynch as well as the iPod, and not as easy to manage. Library isn't as good either.
Pro: Video. Who else has video & music in one device that can be stored & viewed with ease?! Playback's great. Superb quality. Manage video files by thumbnails or name. And recording is easy. Like having a little DVD/VCR on you, you can record movies, tv shows you name it
Con: recorded movies can take up a lot of space. Speaker volume is low, so expect to play it on tv for loud effect. When playing on tv, quality is kind of blurred (maybe it has to do w/ resolution). Not all formats are accepted.
Pro: Photos are viewed great, good slideshow, can use them as wallpaper.
Con: can't be used as screensaver, takes a little more space than expected, but not too much. cant view them while playing music.
Overall score - 8
Its the best device out. what more can you ask from it? There's even the pma 430 that does all of this AND internet connection!