Watch your back, iPod Mini -- the Gmini XS 100 is nipping at your heels. Archos's new svelte, eye-catching music player is like a smaller, lighter version of Apple's colourful and popular portable. While the 3GB Gmini XS 100 (£130) doesn't come packed with extras such as an FM tuner and line-in or voice recording, it boasts an intuitive interface, great music-management features, compatibility with subscription-based music and excellent sound quality. Music lovers looking for an alternative to the iPod Mini should give the XS 100 a serious listen.
The Archos Gmini XS 100 bears a striking resemblance to the iPod Mini. It's small: 43 by 92 by 14mm, making it the same height and thickness but noticeably narrower than the Mini, and at 79g, slightly lighter. It also comes in vivid colours, which include the none-too-subtle Volcanic Black, Techno Blue, Ice Grey and Funky Pink (pictured). Once we'd spent some time with the eye-catching, lightweight and easy-to-hold XS 100, the iPod Mini wasn't looking so mini anymore, although the Mini does come in larger capacities, both in 4GB and 6GB.
Just below the Archos logo on the front of the player is the 38mm (1.5-inch), 128x128-pixel monochrome LCD. The display is on the small side but makes the most of its available real estate, packing in artist, album, song title and file/sampling info, as well as time elapsed/remaining/total, a progress bar, play and repeat modes, volume and battery indicators, the current time and even the title of the song that's up next. Our only complaint is that the display is sometimes slow to refresh, especially when skipping from one song to the next.
Beneath the display lies the five-way navigational control and the stop/back and menu/power buttons (all within easy reach of our thumbs), as well as indicator lights for hard-drive activity, all embedded in a handsome but easily smudged silver panel. We had no trouble with the Gmini's intuitive controls -- we were zooming around the player's various menus within a few minutes.
Along the top of the Archos Gmini XS 100 sits the USB 2.0 port, a headphone miniplug jack and an AC port. Unfortunately, you'll have to buy the AC power separately, although you can charge the battery via the USB port. Also missing is a hold slider, a small but crucial omission. Instead, you can freeze the keypad during playback by pressing and holding down the menu key. Holding it down also disables the power-off feature.