- Review Price: £175.00
It seems that the key to a successful digital audio player is high-capacity combined with small form factor. The Creative Zen Micro that we reviewed a few days ago does a pretty good job of combining the aforementioned desirable features, but the 5GB capacity may be too small for some users. Enter the Archos Gmini XS 200 – a device that’s not too much larger or heavier than the Creative, yet it has a capacity of 20GB. Realistically though, I shouldn’t really compare the Gmini XS 200 to the Zen Micro at all – it’s real competitors are the Apple iPod, Sony NW-HD1 and Rio Karma.
Before we get too bogged down with comparisons, let’s cover the basics. When I first saw the Gmini I couldn’t believe it was a 20GB device, it just seemed too small. But then I compared it to the Sony NW-HD1 and realised that if Sony could squeeze 20GB into something so slim, Archos could squeeze 20GB into the Gmini. With dimensions of 73 x 58 x 20mm the Gmini is very pocket friendly, and weighing in at only 122g, you’ll hardly notice you’re carrying it. To be fair to Sony, the NW-HD1 is a much more stylish and sexy player, but the Archos is undoubtedly the better device of the two.
The Gmini XS 200 is finished in brushed aluminium with a chrome band surrounding it – it looks pretty good, but it’s not what I’d call a style icon. The front of the device is dominated by the large 2in (diagonal) screen. The screen is one of the major features of the Archos, and it’s surprising how big it is, considering how small the unit is. You can fit a massive amount of information on the screen, which makes navigating and controlling the Gmini reasonably easy. The 128 x 128 pixel display can display nine lines of characters, while the green backlight makes it easy to use in pretty much any environment.
Below the screen are the main controls, all three of them. Yep, that’s right, there are only three controls on the Gmini XS 200. The right hand button turns the device on, the left hand button switches it off, and the four-way joystick in the middle controls navigation. OK, it’s not quite that simple – when the device is switched on, the right hand button brings up a drop down menu, and the left hand button acts as a cancel control. Also, holding the right button will lock the controls to avoid inadvertent button pressing while the Gmini is in your pocket.
Now, although the control method on the Gmini XS 200 works well enough, it feels a bit clumsy when compared to the iPod or Zen Micro. However, those two devices have superb control methods, and the controls on the Gmini are no worse than on the majority of other MP3 players out there. In the top left corner of the fascia are three indicator lights – the On light shines blue when the device is operational, the HDD flashes red when the hard drive is being accessed and the CHG light flashes blue when the Gmini is charging. On the right hand side is a power socket and a standard mini USB port, and finally there’s a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the top.