As an audio player, the 605 has excellent sound quality. Its general warmth complements most music, leaving the highly customisable equaliser free to enhance whatever parts of your favourite music you want boosting. Playlists and ID3 tags are supported as standard, but there's no FM radio.
Video playback is outstanding and the 605's screen is incredibly sharp. We played some DVD-quality MPEG-4 files and were really impressed with the performance. Once we'd installed the optional H.264 and MPEG-2 plug-ins, we were highly impressed with video quality. Playback is smooth and various aspect ratios let you choose how to scale each video to fit the screen. You'll need to get used to the touchscreen in order to avoid using the traditional navigation buttons, which are a little clunky. Menus are fluid, enjoyable and self-explanatory. You can also access the system's root directories, should you want to.
After installing the optional Web browser -- a version of
Opera -- the entire Web is at your fingertips via Wi-Fi. We browsed
sites such as Flickr, read some news in Google Reader and even watched
full-screen video on YouTube. Penning an email in Google Mail was easy
and the 605's page zoom worked well. When zoomed in on a page, it's
easy to drag it around in any direction. Browsing is fairly fast too.
Remember the Net on a 128kbps ISDN line? It's a little like that --
we'd like to see pages loading faster.
A virtual keyboard appears on the screen when you want to type and works just like the one on Apple's iPhone. Widgets such as games and weather apps will be available in autumn this year, and will sit on top of the Opera browser.
You can access the Archos Media Portal through the main menu on the 605. It offers plugins, online streaming video from DailyMotion.com and various other content providers, including CinemaNow if you live in the US. None of these were available at the time of our review, but at the recent press unveiling of the new Archos devices, representatives of Archos and DailyMotion spoke about the partnership, so expect it soon.
The 605 WiFi does so many things, it's difficult to think of decent competitors. The Nokia N95 springs to mind on the phone front, and the iPod in the media player camp, but neither of them can play video or browse the Web in the same way.
Overall, this is one of our favourite media gadgets. It impresses with its beautiful screen, great hardware and its ability to play even very high-quality video -- although we're annoyed that if you opt for all the extras, you'll have to shell out an extra £50.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide