Browsing for and finding a file is now a very straightforward process. It's not quite as simple as, say, selecting a track on an iPod, but anyone with a hint of common sense will have few problems navigating the various menus. You can even turn the display into a simple file browser should you wish to open a particular folder.
Getting your files on to the device is easy. You simply connect it to your PC or Mac with the supplied USB cable and then drag and drop files, creating extra folders if you wish. On a PC, you can also transfer media files over using Windows Media Player 10's sync function. The 604 is a 'Plays For Sure' device, so protected movies and audio tracks are fully compatible.
The only out of the box recording you can do here is with the built-in microphone. As mentioned above, anything else will require additional gear. We managed to get our hands on the DVR Station, and found it to be a decent, well-made add-on (as you'd expect for £70). You can record from an AV device via S-Video, composite video and analogue stereo in good quality, as well as play back material from the Archos' hard drive on a larger display or better quality sound system.
Like its predecessor, the 604 provides excellent video quality if you give it a good source video. We loaded some XviD episodes of Lost on and were disappointed to see them juddering slightly due to the frame rate not 'agreeing' with the Archos' codecs. Still, an XviD version of Napoleon Dynamite ran more smoothly and looked excellent, boasting bright, strong colours and some of the best detail we've seen on a portable video player.
Audio quality is also a plus point. You can adjust settings to your own preference, but even in its default mode the device certainly acquits itself well against dedicated MP3 players, including the iPod. All things considered, it's an improvement over the AV 500.
The external speaker is mono and very much on the quiet side, so we'd certainly recommend investing in a good quality pair of headphones, as you're going to be using them a lot with this device.
Battery life is rated at four hours when watching video and around 15 hours for audio playback only (with the TFT display switched off). This is about the same as the AV 500.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield