The Archos Gmini 402's video interface is one of the best we've seen in a portable player. First up is a two-pane window, with your movie list on one side and thumbnail stills on the other. When you're watching a video, you can pause and scan forward or back and pressing the right-most soft key turns on the player's info display, complete with filename, volume and battery-life icons, the current time, and time remaining/elapsed/total info and a progress bar. The soft keys, meanwhile, let you slow the video to one-half, one-fourth or one-eighth speed, change the screen format from full-screen to 16:9 or squeezed (no overscan) mode, set a bookmark or delve into the player's settings menu. Finally, the Resume function in the main menu lets you pick up a movie where you left off after powering down -- very nice.
The Archos Gmini 402's MP3/WMA player also benefits from a slick interface, which includes artist/album/track name info, the name of the next track, file type and bit-rate info, elapsed/remaining/total time and a progress bar, and, in an especially nice touch, album art. The navigational keypad gives you the usual fast-forward/back/pause functionality, while the bottom soft keys let you tweak the player settings, set a bookmark or edit a playlist, or browse your music by album, artist, title, genre or year. You can also sync your PC's music library -- including any DRM-protected WMA files purchased from MSN Music -- with Windows Media Player, a welcome improvement upon the Gmini 400. However, we do have a couple of key complaints about the music player: There's no support for AAC or open-source Ogg Vorbis music files, and there's no equaliser for tweaking the sound, just bass, treble and bass-boost sliders -- a disappointing omission for an otherwise impressive music player. In fact, the 402 is the best MP3 player-like PVP we've used, since it's so compact. It's great for music, but you also get video playback thrown in.
The Archos Gmini 402's photo viewer has the same two-pane browsing interface as the video player, with filenames and directory info on the left side and thumbnails on the right. Once you've transferred images from your digital camera via the 402's USB port, just click an image to see it in full-screen mode, or you can view four or nine images at a time using the left soft key. You can also zoom and rotate images or view your photos as a slide show, but you can't tweak the slide-show interval or play music in the background -- too bad, given the Gmini's ready and willing music player.
The Archos Gmini 402's voice and line-in recording capabilities are decent, if slightly limited. You can make recordings only in WAV PCM or ADPCM formats at sampling rates ranging from 16KHz to 48KHz -- perfect if you need the best recording quality possible but problematic if you're running low on disk space. We also missed such handy recording features as voice-activated recording and the ability to detect track breaks when recording LPs or cassettes.
Gamers will get a kick out of the Archos Gmini 402's support for games running on the Mophun gaming engine. The player comes with eight demo games, including Golf Pro Contest, Dog City, Icebox Plus, Joe's Treasure Quest 3D and Lock 'n' Load. Don't expect PSP-quality action, however -- these games are closer to the ones you'd find on a mobile phone.
We were mighty pleased with the Archos Gmini 402's video quality -- our movies looked sharp and smooth, with plenty of colour and few, if any, dropped frames. Again, our only serious complaint was with the LCD's mediocre viewing angles, especially from the left.
The Archos Gmini 402's sound quality was good, with nice high-end detail, plenty of bass and almost undetectable hiss. There's only one problem, however: the sound isn't that loud, even when we cranked the volume all the way up. We also found that sound levels were low for voice and line-in recordings, even when we turned the volume up on our audio source. There are no preset or custom equalisers, much to our chagrin, but the bass, treble and bass-enhancement options did help mould the sound to our liking, especially the extra bass.
We were also disappointed by the Archos Gmini 402's so-so battery life. We were able to squeeze 9 hours, 49 minutes from the 402 in our audio drain test, which is subpar for a 20GB MP3 player. For video, the 402 lasted nearly 5 hours, which is good enough for a couple of films.
Edited by James Kim
Additional editing by Nick Hide