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There's a lot going on in the premium MP3 player market at the moment. What with the launch of the iPod touch, classic and nano, and a pair of DAB radio-based flash players from iRiver and Cowon appearing in the past week or so, it's beginning to feel a bit like the kitchen in a one-bedroom flat at a late night party.
Just when you thought that no-one else could possibly squeeze themselves in, along comes the Archos 605 Wi-Fi, sidling its way into the room. And it quickly becomes apparent that it's here not just to listen in to the conversation.
The 605 WiFi comes from a long and distinguished line of video-enabled players. In fact French firm Archos has been making hard disk players for longer than most other companies have been selling plain flash-based music portables, and while others are only just beginning to incorporate video into their products, this is its fifth generation of players.
It looks like a product that's evolved over the years, too. Its sharply-dressed aluminium chassis is slim and that brushed finish is a lot more practical than the ever-popular gloss finish of some products. And you'll notice a host of other practical touches before you even turn the thing on.
There's a kick stand built in, so you don't have to hold the player in your sweaty mitts for hours during extended viewing sessions. The row of controls on the right of the player are rocker switches instead of standard buttons, and they're large too, which means they're easy to control without having to use your fingernail to stab tiny buttons. And the headphone socket is sensibly placed away from the controls in the bottom left hand corner.
But the beauty of this product is not just skin deep. The list of capabilities, specifications and abilities you get for your money is simply staggering. The 30GB player reviewed here can be had for a mere £165, which is cheaper than either of the DAB radio flash players we reviewed last week, yet it can boast a gorgeous 4.3in widescreen, with a simply fabulous resolution of 800 x 480. At that size you can watch movies in complete comfort with no eyestrain at all. It's so good you'll even be able to see compression artefacts in highly-compressed video files.
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