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Archos 70d eReader review
What is it?
All-in-one colour e-reader and portable multimedia player.
Bright, colourful video playback; wide range of supported video formats; reasonable sound quality.
MP3 audio support only; clunky user interface and controls; relatively short battery life for reading and watching video.
The bottom line
A reasonably priced option for those looking for a decent video player with e-reading capabilities, but awkward controls and the basic music player are major drawbacks.
We're not massive fans of colour e-readers. While e-ink-based readers do an admirable job of rivalling the experience of reading a paper book, colour models (which use LCD screens) tend to tire the eyes much more quickly. They're fine for short bursts of reading, but you'll struggle to bury your head in one for hours at a time.
The Archos 70d does little to persuade us otherwise, with the screen slightly easier on the eyes than a standard display but, even with its reduced backlight, difficult to use for lengthy periods. So, the 70d loses out to dedicated e-ink readers and it's left to its multimedia capabilities to rescue it. Thankfully, these aren't too bad, making it a reasonable option for someone who wants to switch between various activities without lugging around a multitude of gadgets.
First impressions are a little underwhelming: the black, plastic chassis feels reasonably robust, but is a little heavy in the hand. The controls, all ranged down the right-hand side of the unit, are small and awkward to press. It makes navigating the user interface less friendly than it needs to be, a fact not helped by the fact the unit is clearly a colour e-reader first and foremost, with a user interface geared more towards reading books than doing anything else.
Pressing the play/pause button whisks you off to the music screen, which can be set to play on in the background while you're reading. You'll need to supply your own headphones - there's no built-in speaker either - and disappointingly the unit only supports MP3 files. Despite these drawbacks, it produces a pleasant enough sound, and comes with 10 graphic equaliser presets for you to find the perfect setting for your personal tastes. It's understandably not going to compete with audiophile-friendly music players, but the Archos 70d is a relaxing listen and will prove more than satisfactory for most.
If the Archos 70d's music support is limited, its video support is anything but, with a massive range of formats supported, including Apple-friendly formats, AVI and Flash (FLV). Again you feel you're wrestling with the user interface a little - the default playback mode isn't full-screen, for example - but when you do finally start playing back your movies you'll be pleasantly surprised. We found the picture quality reasonably sharp, colourful and bright, and the viewing angles are pretty generous too, allowing two people to comfortably share the same screen.
The supplied 4GB (3.45GB after formatting) of storage space is perfectly adequate for e-books, but you would be hard pressed to fit more than a fraction of your movie and music collection on there were it not for the inclusion of a microSD slot. Despite the specifications claiming it only supports 16GB cards, we had no problem using our trusty 32GB media card in the unit - there's a hefty pause after first insertion as the database is updated, but seeing as it effortlessly finds video and music wherever you put it, we're inclined to forgive it this lag.
The Archos 70d eReader suffers a little from being a jack of all trades without managing to master anything, but if you're looking for an all-in-one device that lets you do a bit of reading, listening and watching video, then it's worth considering, even with the awful controls and clunky interface.
Other budget multimedia players around £60
Elonex PMP-50 - smaller 5-inch screen (same resolution), touch-screen interface, better music support
Samsung YP-Q3 - tiny 2.2-inch screen, super user-interface, excellent music playback
Expansion: microSD, up to 32GB (16GB according to manufacturer)
Screen (size, type, resolution): 7-inch colour TFT, 800x480 pixels
Audio formats supported: MP3
Video formats supported: AVI,FLV, MPG, RM, RMVB, FLV, MP4, DAT, VOB, MKV, MOV (up to 720p HD)
Other features: e-reader (PDF, EPUB - including Adobe DRM, TXT, FB2), picture viewer (JPEG, GIF and BMP)
Stated battery life: 35 hours (audio), 4.5 hours (video, reading)
Dimensions: 125x175x11mm, 280g