Archos has built its fearsome reputation on making portable video players that are bigger, better and more feature-packed than its rivals. So in many ways the new 105, a mini media player with a 1.8in screen, is two parts puzzling, one part reckless.
This is because while Archos's Generation 5 video players have carved out their own gadgety niche, the 105's spec and dimensions pitch it straight into the royal rumble dominated by the iPod Nano and Sony NWZ-A815. And, sadly, it gets eaten for breakfast.
Is this really an Archos?
Yes, it's a cheap as chips PMP, but even with that point fastidiously factored in this is a very unimpressive machine indeed.
Out of the box the 105 doesn't look too bad. Its rubbery shell feels durable and you can choose from black, red or silver casings. But fire it up and it starts to let you down.
The building blocks upon which Archos has founded its reputation as a fine PMP-maker – solid sound and slick visuals – are nowhere to be seen here. Or heard. Drop some video onto the 105 and the viewing results are patchy at best, dire at worst.
Fast-moving action results in image break-up, dark scenes mean a real lack of detail, and there's a paucity of colour. Pretty much everything you don't want to see on portable video is present and incorrect.
Resolution not revolution
The screen is only 1.8in and offers just 160x128-pixel resolution, which, given the middling video performance, is a blessed relief. It only plays WMV as well, so isn't a machine for movie buffs.
This would be closer to forgivable if the 105 could knock out a tune with a bit of conviction, but music sounds laboured, lacking punch and rhythm.
Also bear in mind that to reach these disappointing performance levels you must first navigate a simple but very basic-looking interface. To add insult to injury, the 105 also has a low battery life (18 hours) compared to the Nano (24 hours) and the NWZ-A815 (33 hours).
Oh, and don't even think of loading an OGG file. Or a FLAC file. Or AAC for that matter. This is a 'pie and chips' machine, and will immediately sick up your fancy-pants formats.
On the software side, Archos doesn't supply its own, so you drag-and-drop or use Windows Media Player. Frustratingly, when synching with WMP 11, the 105 hid all our files.
On the plus side the thing feels solid, despite being just 7mm deep, and it's by far one of the cheapest PMPs we've seen. But that's all we can think of by way of redeeming features. Bad Archos.