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Archos' AV 400 Nine-Ounce Personal Video Recorder, TV and More

Pocket Movie Theater

The most exciting function is obviously the video reproduction. The AV 400 recognizes DivX 4 and 5, as well as XviD. Unlike other mobile players, it can read encoded files up to 704x480 at 30 frames a second. It can also read the majority of existing encoded file types. The sound manages ADPCM, which means the only sound format it can't handle is DivX AC3. In practice, a few rare files couldn't be read without our being able to tell the reason why, but there were very few of them. Archos also supplies a Virtual Dub encoder for CDs. It is thus possible to encode all types of video files on the PC in DivX before transferring them to another portable device. WMV recognition is in the works and should be available on the Internat as an upgrade for the firmware. For the present, at least, the AV 400 cannot handle subtitles in separate files. The DivX reproduction quality is exceptional. No other portable thus far has been able to reproduce them with such accuracy and such a scrupulous respect for color. Even though the screen is small, it's great to be able to watch a movie without damaging your eyes. Reproduction is just as good as on a TV screen. We performed our test using an 82-cm Sony Wega. The image was crisp, contrasted and it respected the colors. Only the outlines were slightly problematic. That's probably due to the DivX and the Cinch output. An S-Video port would have been preferable but that may be asking too much. Watching a DivX on a TV through the AV 400 produces really good quality, better than you would get from any VHS cassette.

Pocket VCR

Video recording is even more impressive. It can be done through a Cinch or an S-Video connector, although the gain is not significant. The maximum encoding resolution is 512 x 384, which is the ideal compromise for getting it into the right format for reproduction. You can choose between TV (512 x 384) and LCD (320 x 240) to subsequently restore it in the format best suited to the medium in which you're going to view it. If in doubt, choose TV because it will still display very well on the AV400's screen although the opposite is less true. In TV mode, the image will be automatically resized for an LCD screen, though sometimes there's a little interference at the bottom but that's no big deal. In LCD mode in 320 x 240, reproduction on a TV screen isn't really too bad. You could also choose an encoding rate of up to 2,500 kbps. The limitation results from the length of the recording. Each single file is limited to 2 GB, or around two hours, at an input of 1500 kbps. To watch it on TV with the least amount of loss of quality, choose 2,500; the difference will be obvious. Recording quality is simply amazing. We tested it using digital cable with plateau transmission and it was impressive. Deterioration is minimal in comparison with the original and much less than on a VHS videocassette.