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Tuesday 5 November 2002

Great New Toy [skeeve]

Recently I went out to buy a new hardrive, I did sort of buy a harddrive. The harddrive I actually bought is a 20gb one in an mp3 player from archos called the jukebox multimedia.

The player comes with a rechargeable Li-on battery that delivers at least 8 hours on a single charge when playing mp3s. As an mp3 player this does its job well, it copes the usual range of cbr and vbr bitrates without any problems and the sound quality is very good. As an added bonus this player can also encode directly to mp3 from either the line in or the builtin microphone, but basically the mp3 part of this player is just like many others, so what does it do to merit the multimedia part of its name?

The first thing that leads to the multimedia part of the title is the ability to display jpgs, either on the small lcd screen or onto a tv via the av-out that doubles as the earphone socket. You can use this feature in combination with playing mp3s to create what archos call a multimedia slideshow, but I can't say it would be something I'd use when running on batteries.

So far, we have an mp3 player with a nice little gimmick but I haven't mentioned the device's ultimate gimmick, the main feature that helps this player deserve the multimedia part of its name is that it plays divx movies! You have probably seen those adverts for mobile phones in the future where you can be watching a film on your phone, to those I say no thanks as I can already do that with my mp3 player. :-)

The player cannot play all divx movies, it requires them to be something called the standard MPEG4 SImple Profile AVI and that means they have a max resolution of about 400x300. If you have taken lurker's advice in his excellent divx guide then you will have divx movies of a higher resolution than that. To make it easier to convert your existing files archos have provided a frontend for virtualdub that has been setup to convert to this lower resolution. If you don't want to mess around with any of the settings then its simply a case of selecting the input file, the name of the output file and clicking start, after waiting a while for virtual dub you now have a movie that will play on the jukebox's little screen or via the tv-out.

In addition to all these features archos have more for this device in the form of the addon modules they have released or plan to release. Included with the device are the first two addon modules, they are adaptors for compact flash and smartmedia. These addons allow you to download images from a digital camera onto the harddrive, ideal for anyone who uses their camera a lot and doesn't want to buy a lot of extra memory cards. I can't really say how well this works as I don't own a digital camera, which brings me nicely onto the next addon module. Archos are about to release a camera addon for the player that will act as either a still camera or as a video camera where it will record direct to mpeg4 onto the harddrive with the lcd becoming a monitor. Another addon that is coming from archos is the video module that adds s-video and composite inputs to allow you to record directly from other external sources.

In addition to these addons archos also sell firewire and usb 2.0 cables to supplement the supplied usb 1.1 cable, personally I haven't bought either of these yet as I tend to copy stuff to the device while I am letting it charge up but either of them would be advisable if you intended to change the whole 20gb on a regular basis.

To sum things up, for your money you get a portable 20gb harddrive, an mp3 player and recorder, a portable movie player that has the potential to also become a digital camera, camcorder and video recorder. It doesn't look quite as nice as an ipod and is a bit bigger, however it is a fair bit cheaper before you take into account just how cool it is to watch a movie on the tube to work. There are bound to be more advanced devices in time, but at the moment this is my favourite gadget ever, and thats coming from somebody who works for a company that makes a wireless email device.


  1. A few additions to this blog. I bought my jukebox from a shop TCR, but the usual suspects are selling them online or you can order them direct from the manufacturer.Also, I haven't got round to running out the batteries while watching a movie, however the batteries hadn't run out after 3 hours of useage.My new toy just got better as they have now released the camera module that turns your mp3 player into a video camera that records =direct to divx.

  2. The url should be this for the camera module.