Thursday, October 27, 2005

Archos Gmini400 - Intro

The moment I entered the world of digital photography, a device like the Gmini400 was on my wishlist.

Why would a portable mp3 player be a gadget a digital photographer would want?

Well, despite the fact that CF card prices have dropped to a fraction of what they once were - the simple fact remains that even a small hard drive has a far greater capacity than even the most expensive large capacity CF card (around 5GB). In fact, you could buy a notebook hard drive for less money than a mega-expensive top of the line CF card. The problem being that you can't jam a hard drive (unless its a micro-drive of course, but please try and follow me here) into your camera.

So the obvious solution was to have a device that copy copy files from your CF card (or other media) onto a portable HD on-the-fly. Hence around 2001/2 devices like the MindStor started to appear. Decidedly geeky looking gadgets that looked like some mad-scientist type had taped together in his shed. Essentially a 2.5in notebook HD in a case, with a battery and some form of interface. The kind of device that would do the job - but would it be worth the money? Yes, you could get a top-of-the-line 20GB model, but for quite a bit of dosh.

Well, naturally, there was quite a demand for these devices. And despite all their design faults and problems, people still bought them because they needed them. Hence, unsurprisingly and yet surprisingly late companies like Epson started to jump on the bandwagon and offer devices that did pretty much the same thing, but for twice the price offered a COLOUR SCREEN! Woohoo! We're not talking about 20 years ago here, we're talking about 3/4 years ago.

Well - I was looking for a device like this. My first trip abroad with a digital camera taught me I needed a ton of storage space, and being shackled to a PC was not the best solution. My trigger-finger twitched and I almost took the plunge with one of these devices. But then, like a sudden flash of logic, the iPod came along. And here, at last, I saw potential. All of a sudden you could get massive amounts of portable storage, for a pretty reasonable price. But sadly, the iPod could only do music (and music is still what it does, indisputably well).

I saw potential. I saw near misses. iRiver nearly hit the jackpot. I saw Apple doing what they do best and I saw other companies struggling to catch up. And then I stumbled across a little French company called Archos. Apparently, they'd been in the game for a while, with a few jukebox devices. And they had a new device coming out: The Gmini400. What was it that caught my eye with this device?

Can you see that, sticking out the side of the gmini? YES! A CF card! "Hoorah!" my inner-monologue cried. What a blindingly obvious yet genius idea! Stick a CF-port on the side of your device! Thank you Archos! Immediately, there was really only one device I could choose from within my budget. The only thing I had to find out was: Is it completely rubbish? I mean, it is French after all...

Well, a few reviews gushed over it. The problem is in this market, any decent opposition to the iPod is often given a very biased look; one way or the other. But at least this player seemed to be able to - well to play music files. And even video files to boot! Plus it would be recognised as an external hard drive (funny that - but maybe the iPod's biggest failing) so would act as a handy digital-flask too!

So I bought it.

Coming up, I'll go into detail about my experiences with my first portable mp3 player - that just happens to take CF-cards and play videos.


At 1:07 pm, Blogger Paul said...

I've used your Archos and the thing that baffles me is the interface. It's a nice size though and seems very well built. Also the case seems quite scratch resistant. Brushed metal generally is better. My battle damgaged Canon S40 is a good example.


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