Archos says its TV+ provides the most advanced features of any of today's digital video recorders. We think not. For starters, the TV+ doesn't include a TV tuner. Duh.
Sure, neither does the Apple TV, but then the Mac offering isn't promoted as the world's leading DVR. Consequently, you must coax the TV+ through some ridiculously rudimentary tasks before it gets into its stride.
The unit is a 'pass through' device, borrowing a signal from your DVD recorder or set-top box. This means that if you only have a TV you're limited to recording the channel you're watching. You've also got to tell it what brand of tuner you own by placing the TV+ fascia so it can 'see' your tuner, then letting it embezzle the unit's information.
When it comes to timer recordings, the Archos replicates your tuner's remote, sending an infrared signal to change the channel. This primitive behaviour means both units must stay in infrared sight of each other.
A further frustration is the Programme Guide. To enable this you must sign up as an Archos owner – entering life-sapping information such as your 'product key' – and even then the EPG menu doesn't include information on all available channels. Oh yes, while you're on the Archos website, feel free to cough up some hard-earned for the cinema sound, video podcast and web browser plug-ins.
Perhaps the most Stone Age moment was when we had to manually correct the Archos' interpretation of our tuner's channel line up – amend channel 101 to read channel 001, etc. We really don't like to do 'manual'.
The above is a dreary process, but skip it and the TV+ will likely record half an hour of Teletext instead of The Simpsons. (The upside was that we booked a bargain holiday on Kefalonia.)
At least once you've wrestled TV content on to the uncooperative little box, you can swiftly transfer said video on to your PMP. And then – oh yes! – you can watch telly while you sit on a bus, plane, train or camel. Performance is impressive, and the recordings looked and sounded good on our Archos 605 Wi-Fi.
But just when we were warming to our parasitic little friend, we again smelt its techno coffee breath. It's possible to wirelessly transfer content from the TV+ to a fifth-generation Archos player – indeed the thought of this feature previously made us come over all giddy – but the online PMP manual makes no mention of how to do it.
Finally we worked out that you had to change the PMP's Wi-Fi settings to 'File Server' status. Thing is, though the wireless method does work, using USB was quicker and simpler. Sometimes you can't beat an ugly cable.
Let us not forget, oh congregation of the Church of St Gadget, our little Archos chum should not be crucified for its foibles: it does enable TV-to-PMP content transfer, it brings web surfing to your TV – though the lack of a mouse means lots of 'paddling out' – it streams and transfers content between itself and your home network, and you can rent movies via Archos' online store.
But the TV+ is not a true saviour for content-hungry PMP owners. We still fervently await the arrival of that particular lamb of the Gadget God.
More after the break...
The concept – watching last night's TV on today's commute – gets our thumbs up, but in action the Archos TV+ is too temperamental