The TV+ television recording feature is decent, although most people will have to connect it to their Freeview boxes via Scart or composite. This means you'll get a pretty ropey picture at times. We've included some screenshots with this review that show what the picture quality is like.
You'll probably notice that when you record from composite video, you get some picture jitter, colour bleeding and patterning. We tested the recorder with a Freeview box with component in, and got better results than from composite. We also like the ability to transfer files from the TV+ to your portable Archos PMP or a PC.
In terms of a media streamer, the Archos is less useful than most of the competition. For a start, codec support is lacking. While it does support DivX and XviD, if you have XviD files encoded with QPEL or ones that have a frame size larger than the Archos can handle, you'll get an error message. We ran into this a number of times with our test material.
We're also annoyed by the fact that the Archos supports MPEG-2 but that you have to buy an extra plug-in to activate it. This is diabolical, considering the competition to this product all provide that functionality, and generally for a much lower price too.
You'll also need plug-ins for Apple QuickTime, H.264 and AAC audio support, and if you want to watch YouTube or other Web video, you'll have to buy the Opera plug-in too. Indeed, at the launch of Archos TV the company told us that if you want all the plug-ins, you'll need to shell out a further £50 -- taking the cost of the 250GB machine up to around £300.
All this aside, we didn't find the use of Archos to be an entirely brilliant experience. Getting around the main menus was generally okay, but it isn't a patch on either Apple TV or the D-Link DSM-330. The setup procedure is satisfactory.
To answer to our own question, the Archos doesn't really live up to our expectations. Archos has clearly got a market in mind for this product, but we aren't entirely sure if that market exists. We think that the sort of person who wants a media streamer is likely to want one that outputs HD.
At the end of the day, we don't really think Archos TV+ offers anything that isn't done better elsewhere. If you want to buy or rent movies, Apple TV is a much better choice. If you want a DivX media streamer, go for one of the D-Link products.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday