I’m excited about this product. It launched early in the year and I finally saved up enough pennies to get one. If you’re looking for an mp3 player, this is not for you….but…if you’re looking for a complete Video & Musical experience…

I present to you the ARCHOS AV500.

Now check out what this “BEAST” does…

The Archos AV500 is a miniature entertainment centre capable of playing both audio and video files. It’s controlled through an easy-to-use menu system, with icons to select all of the different audio and video playback functions. There are two control pads, which takes a little getting used to; one to control the main menu and playback and volume, and the other to control the sub-menu for system and playback settings. av500 1There are also two ways to get content onto the AV500. In hard disk mode, the player simply appears as a hard disk in Windows, and you can drop your video or audio files into the corresponding folders. We found the AV500 would play DiVX and XViD files at the standard DVD resolution of 720 x 480 pixels, but it would crash if the files were too large – 700MB was the biggest file size it could handle av500 2

The AV500 also plays WMV files, but only at a maximum resolution of 352 x 288. Strangely, the common MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats are not supported. Video quality from DivX and XviD is impressive, and is good enough to enjoy a film on the bright and high-contrast screen

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If you are not a video-encoding expert, there is an easier way to get video onto the AV 500 and making sure that it plays. If you set the player to ‘Windows Device’ mode, Windows Media Player will recognize it as a media player. Now all you have to do is choose a file to synchronize with the device and Media Player will automatically convert the file to a format compatible with the player and copy it across. The AV500 will also record video directly from a composite video source using the supplied A/V cable. The player records in real time, and while the picture is slightly grainy it is certainly good enough to catch up on last night’s TV on the commute to work. av500 4The AV500 also works well as an audio player. The player supports MP3, WAV and WMV files, and you can organize your music by artist, album, title, genre and year, and also create your own playlists. Audio quality from the supplied headphones is reasonable, but music will sound much better through a good pair of headphones.av5oo 5

To simplify the connection of the AV500 to your TV or home stereo, Archos supplies a TV docking pod. This disc-shaped unit provides A/V-in, A/V-out, S-Video-in, power, and IR-blaster ports, the last of which is used for attaching an included sensor to your VCR or cable/satellite box. However, the dock doesn’t cradle the AV500, and its curved top makes a poor platform for the unit. Cowon’s new A2 PVP also records video but doesn’t require the A/V breakout pod. Whether or not the dock is connected, you can control the AV500 via the included full-size remote, which seems almost comically large compared with the AV500 itself.

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Archos will soon release the $200 Mini-Cam, a lipstick-shaped video camera that plugs into the AV500’s main A/V socket. The camera’s cable has an in-line remote control for easy MPEG-4 recording and a built-in microphone; the camera itself is mountable. The Mini-Cam, despite its cost, is way cool; it can be used in a variety of situations, such as extreme sporting activities. In terms of sharpness and low-light performance, video quality on this color CCD camera is decent too.

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