Enabling Wi-Fi is a cinch. On the main-menu screen, you'll see an enable Wi-Fi option in the secondary set of menu options in the bottom-right corner. The 604 WiFi will scan for networks and give you a list with signal strength, WEP/WPA status and mode info. Within each network, you can opt for Manual IP configuration. The unit also will scan when you hit the main menu's new Web icon (the fourth listed), whereby the Opera Browser will launch. In general, the wireless antenna has good range.
Surfing on the 604 WiFi is surprisingly intuitive and useful. The screen can be formatted to display an entire Web page (as well as zoom in) and though text is small, it's legible. The touchscreen truly helps in this regard. You can drag the screen up or down to scroll, drop-down menus work well (though Flash graphics didn't appear -- we couldn't find a plugin that would run), and a virtual keyboard pops up when you select a text-entry area such as your Yahoo username/password.
Common browser functions such as zoom, navigation (back, forward, reload), browser tabbing, search (via Google), homepage, URL entry and even bookmarking are based in the context submenu. Opera even allows for blocking pop-ups, and deleting cookies and history. The browsing setup is quite good, though performance is another story (more later).
Page two of the main menu features an additional wireless feature called File Server. This allows this 'computer' to be seen (with write- and read-only access) on a network. Enabling the file server allows you to play files remotely off the device, or you can actually play network-based files on the 604 itself.
What's missing from the equation is a way to feed the device content in an easy way. You can download files or applications -- they appear in your Downloads folder -- but many standard apps don't open in this Linux environment. It would be cool to have a dedicated iTunes-like store for purchasing or streaming audio or video -- streaming music (outside of streaming off a Wi-Fi network or downloading a file and then playing it) so far doesn't seem possible (not compatible with PLS files). Visiting sites such as YouTube are a waste since it requires a Flash player. Rhaspody.com, where you get limited music streams for free, is not supported by the browser, and requires a plug-in as well.
The Wi-Fi element is much more appropriate for browsing and email, less for downloading. A dedicated Internet radio option would have been cool on this device. Also, there is no ad hoc mode so you can't connect directly with other 604 WiFi devices, unless you do so via the network.
The 604 WiFi is seemingly the answer to many mobile users' idealistic dreams: video, music and photos packed into a compact multimedia powerhouse, with a screen big enough to surf the Web effectively. The device is impressive, however having used the 604, 404 and 504, we have to say processor performance on the 604 WiFi is disappointing, particularly for Web browsing and general menu navigation, where you'll notice one-to-two second delays across the board.
Video, music and photo playback is good, once you get into those operations -- playback is always skip or stutter free. But you'll notice that for some functions, such as video scrubbing, there is a delay that's long enough for you to question the touchscreen's sensitivity -- in most cases, though, the Archos has received your input.
Web browsing can be a pain when the content hasn't fully loaded and you're trying to scroll up or down. If you're not a patient surfer, you'll get no reaction or a delayed reaction that is much worse than most of us are used to. You'll also notice the Opera browser options can take a second or two to register. Download speeds varied from fast to middling.
Battery life is probably the biggest performance issue outside of the speed of the processor. The unit is rated for 16 hours for audio playback and five hours for video -- not bad, but our experience with 04 devices shows that battery life can be a bit lower than rated. It's also worth noting that using Wi-Fi seemed to run the battery down considerably.
Additional editing by Kate Macefield