This portable video player is the replacement for Archos' well-loved AV 500. It's a lot cheaper -- £270 rather than £340 -- but the price reduction comes at the cost of a few potentially important features, the most notable of which is the ability to record from the TV (this requires an optional £70 extra).
Still, there's much this device can do out of the box. It will play videos, play music and display photos, all of which can be stored on its 30GB hard drive. It is compatible with a wide range of popular file formats in all three media -- but you'll need to connect it to a computer in order to move files over.
Our initial impression of the 604 was that it was smaller and lighter than its predecessor, but a quick look at the spec sheets reveals that there's very little difference between them. In fact, the 604 is the larger of the two (by a few millimetres here and there), despite being ever-so-slightly lighter in weight.
Whatever the dimensions, it's certainly a ruggedly handsome device. There's an uncluttered feel to the grey and silver block, as there aren't lots of different-sized buttons popping up everywhere -- just a couple on the top and five to the right of the 109mm (4.3-inch) widescreen TFT display.
These five buttons are actually two-in-one controls, as they can be rocked to the right and left. Using them takes a little getting used to, but it's a vast improvement on the baffling button layout of the AV 500. And, unlike the AV 500, these buttons usually do what you expect them to -- pressing the 'up' control will increase the volume, pressing the 'right' during music playback will skip to the next track, for example.
There isn't much in the way of connectivity here. As well as sticking in a proprietary port for hooking the device up to your PC or Mac, Archos has dispensed with the USB host feature that was part of the AV 500's line-up (so you can't hook up a digital camera and move files back and forth directly -- unless you buy an optional Docking Adapter). Naturally, there is a headphone socket, but if you want to connect the 604 to a television for recording and/or playback, you'll need the optional DVR Station, a £70 charging dock that features a host of in and outputs.
The device also has a removable battery, which can be popped out and replaced with another. Like the DVR Station and Docking Adapter, the replacement battery is an optional extra.
Next to the battery you'll find a kickstand, allowing the 604 to be propped up on a desktop. This was a notable omission on the AV 500, so we're happy to see it included here.
Features-wise, the 604 is very similar to its predecessor. One big difference is the user interface -- we've already mentioned that the button layout and design is superior, but the on-screen menu has also undergone something of a revamp to make it clearer and easier to navigate.