Of the numerous models in the new Archos 04 series, the 30GB 604 WiFi is definitely the most advanced. Basically, the 604 WiFi is the 604 (read the review) with integrated Wi-Fi and a touchscreen.
We were impressed with the touchscreen aspect of the 604 WiFi -- the sophisticated icon-heavy GUI has clearly been designed for touchscreen use. The standard button interface is good, but not out-of-the-box intuitive, and the touchscreen does wonders for navigation. Web browsing worked well, though users should be aware that in general, sluggish load times mean click-and-wait surfing.
We like this gadget a lot -- on paper. It has a removable battery, a kickstand, the same gorgeous 109mm (4.3-inch) widescreen display and overall excellent playback of a variety of media file types. But the performance hit on the processor -- whether opening files or even navigating between menus -- turns this able gadget into one that could run faster.
Barring the words 'WiFi' on the front and the contoured little bump on the unit's upper-right spine, the 604 WiFi from the outside is the 604's identical twin. Technically, though, the 604 WiFi is a fraction wider (thanks to the 'bump' that houses the Wi-Fi antenna), taller and thicker (132mm by 79mm by 18mm), and it weighs about 30g more (290g).
The screen isn't as shiny as the 604's due to its thin touchscreen layer, which adds a measure of protection and anti-glare, but also negatively affects sharpness and colours (blacks aren't as black). Regardless, the large widescreen is still a winner for viewing movies and photos, though imaging nerds may not be so satisfied.
The 604 WiFi is bundled with the usual sparse set of accessories: a proprietary USB cable, earbuds and the docking saddle. In addition, it ships with a hard case and two styli. There are numerous accessories that will expand the 604 WiFi's capabilities, including the at-home DVR Station dock, the travel kit (with the smaller dock that enables AV recording) and basics such as an AC adaptor kit.
The bundled styli are easy to use, especially when you're stationary. In most cases, you won't even need to hit a button to operate the device.
One problem we found with the 604 WiFi is that there's nowhere to stash it, unless you have the case. While we recommend using the case for this luxury gadget, we found we didn't use it as often as we should.
If you're bound to lose your styli, it's nice to know that the touchscreen works okay using your fingers. Minor interface updates, such as scroll wheels that enlarge as you touch them, help those using their fingers to navigate.
Overall, the body is just too big and heavy to go running with, for example, but it is pocket-friendly -- just not with the case. The 604 WiFi is an awesome digital audio player/recorder, but we'd definitely prefer a smaller digital audio player for mobile music needs. Also, we'd like to see an Archos 604 WiFi with a bigger drive -- 30GB is puny these days for hardcore users.
The 604 WiFi arrived with the latest firmware (1.5.53). It goes without saying that the device can do nearly everything a portable media maven would want, and it does most things well. The excellent screen, compatibility with most common formats (including MPEG-4, protected WMV, DivX and H.264, and MPEG-2 with optional and downloadable codecs) and precise playback control ensure first-rate video playback. Add a digital camera or the cool helmet cam from Archos (plus the required DVR Travel pack), and you've got a hard-drive-based camcorder.
It's a good MP3 player, too, with MP3, protected WMA, WAV compatibility, plus AAC and AC3 as optional codecs. It also supports album art, podcasts, gapless playback, useful playlist creation and management. We'd love to see OGG, Audible and decent equalisers, but the audio experience here is outstanding. The voice recorder is fantastic, and with add-ons you can record line-in video and audio (as well as schedule TV recordings) into the 604 WiFi with ease and generally excellent quality.
Photo viewing is strong, with a gorgeous thumbnail library where thumbnails magnify as you pass over them. Images look crisp (though not as crisp as on the 604 unit), and zooming, rotating and skipping photos is quick and tidy -- with the Docking adaptor accessory, you can even offload photos from a digital camera. But the main reason you'll buy the 604 WiFi is for its integrated 802.11g, which adds Web browsing and Web-based email, as well as the ability to use it as a file server on your Wi-Fi network.