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everything but the kitchen sink


I'm not a fan of products that pack so many functions into them that they become a nightmare to use. Yesterday I had the opportunity to play around with one that included an impressive range of functionality: the Archos Jukebox Multimedia. The design of the device is a bit on the bulky side, certainly bulkier than an iPod, and a bit heavy (about 300g, or 10oz). But its functionality is pretty amazing.

First, as other products like the iPod it functions as an external hard drive (20GB) as well as an MP3 player. But it also comes with a tiny 237x234 Color TFT LCD, and it has a DViX decoder as well as an MPEG decoder/encoder. This means that not only you can listen to music, you can watch DViX videos on it, and the 20 GB of space means quite a lot of movies and songs. You can watch videos on the built-in LCD, and the resolution is not that bad, the decoding quality is good and you can actually read subtitles if the video has them. If you don't like concentrating on a 2-inch screen (and who would?), it also has A/V output, so you can connect the device directly to the TV and/or music system and use it directly as a playback device. Notice that I mentioned it can do MPEG encoding, which is useful when using the optional digital camera (1.3 megapixel), which is a tiny add-on that attaches to the bottom of the device that lets you take still and videos, but it doesn't have a built-in flash (so taking pictures at night would be pretty much impossible). Finally you get USB 1.1/2.0 connectivity.

But ... it's too difficult to use, and the UI feels primitive. The navigation buttons up front are confusing, and the menus are, well, a nightmare, in large part a direct consecuence of the amount of functions built into the product, but with better design it could be improved. And while it is still a bit too heavy and bulky for my personal preferences, it is definitely portable. I wouldn't buy this device for those reasons, but at its price ($339) there's definitely going to be some market for it.

What I find interesting about it is the video playback ability and connectivity to TV/audio. This is definitely something that I'd like to see added to a mobile phone. Phones already have playback functionality. This doesn't mean the phones would have to get bigger, they could use boatloads of Flash memory, or a Microdrive (originally designed by IBM Storage, now a Hitachi unit). And it doesn't mean that the phone would have to get more complicated: I could carry my entire collection of movies and music on my phone, backed up from my PC, and it could use Bluetooth to transmit the contents to a nearby device that is better suited for it (e.g., a TV). Everything happening transparently and automatically.

Now, that I'd buy. :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on March 23 2003 at 1:23 PM

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