But high-capacity video and Internet devices aren't the only strings to the Archos bow; the 105 is a cute little music and video player that lacks any kind of pretension. What's more, at just £59 for 2GB, it's exceptionally well priced.
Instantly, we noted how lightweight the 105 is. Archos has kept this player slim and weightless, without compromising its generally rugged feel. It's encased in a peculiar matte-finished plastic that feels like a sort of pseudo-metal. A standard mini USB port sits next to a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the player. We were sad not to see a physical hold switch -- you'll need to press and hold the power/menu button to lock the plastic keypad.
The only out-right disappointing aspect of the 105's design is the screen -- it's seriously low-resolution. It does its job but it's hardly putting its back into it. This was obviously a corner seriously cut in order to keep the player's price below £60.
The 105 sports the same simple icon-driven interface used in other 5th-gen Archos players. Navigation is easy and menus are laid out intuitively. Music is sorted in the typical album>artist>song format, but can be browsed by genre or release date too. Videos and images are sorted in the same text-based way. While this is simple to work with, thumbnails would've been a nice touch.
Audio format support is quite average; only music in MP3, WMA or WAV is supported. Again, while this is understandable considering the player's low cost, AAC or FLAC would've been appreciated. Videos in WMV are supported at 160x128-pixel resolution. There's no software provided so you'll need to handle conversion yourself through Windows Media Player. JPEG images aren't restricted -- even a 2,304x1,728-pixel photo didn't look too bad on the small screen.
On-the-go playlist creation is pretty simple to use after some practice. If embedded into your MP3 files, album art is displayed alongside track information as a song plays. If you're an audiobook or podcast fan, you'll appreciate the bookmarking option that lets you mark your playback position for future listening.
We started our test by playing the lovely Kate Nash. Her lyrically unusual track, Mouthwash, sounded fairly average. The overall brightness of the recording is lost with this player; cymbals lack their crystalline tones and the subtle sparkle of tambourines don't shine like they do on competing players, such as Sony's NW-E013. On Dream Theater's Endless Sacrifice, the general muddiness across the audible spectrum was disappointing. Even for £59 we'd expect better performance.
A 160x128-pixel video running at just over 200kbps is only ever going to look very average. For such an affordable player, the video performance is acceptable; it's not great, but it'll do. The odd music video or downloaded YouTube clip will look fine.
Files can simply be dragged and dropped through Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, or using Windows Media Player. Thanks to poor data transfer speed, the whole process will require you to sit around twiddling your fingers. Battery life is a little below average at 18 hours for audio, but we got an acceptable 4 hours and 20 minutes of video playback.
The Archos 105 is certainly affordable and it looks smart, but it's extremely obvious where corners have been cut. Sound quality is very average and video performance, while acceptable for a cheap player, is still pretty low-grade.
If you're on a tight budget and want video, you'll be fairly happy. But if you don't care about video, consider opting for one of several better-performing alternatives, such as Sony's NW-E013 or even Creative's cute little Zen Stone Plus -- its sound quality is unrivalled.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire