In the box you’ll find the Gmini XS 200, a mini USB to USB cable, the headphones and a power supply. There’s a very brief quick start guide, but no manual or documentation CD – the reason for this is that the full PDF manual is sitting on the Gmini itself, so you’ve always got the manual with you. Archos claims a battery life of around 10 hours and I wouldn’t argue with that. This puts it a couple of hours behind the fourth generation iPod, but given the Gmini’s dimensions, this is understandable.
Unlike the Sony NW-HD1 and the Apple iPod, the Gmini XS 200 will playback both MP3 and WMA files, instantly making it a more versatile device. Sound quality is pretty good, but nowhere near the quality of the Sony NW-HD1 playing 256kbit/sec ATRAC3 Plus content. The supplied headphones are nothing to write home about, and investing in a good quality pair of headphones will improve the sound quality no end.
When you’re playing back music, good use is made of the large screen. On display is the artist name, album name, track name, file type, stereo/mono, encoded bit rate, track time played, track time remaining and overall track time. You also get a track progress bar, and left and right channel level indicators. Oh yeah, at the very top of the display is a separate bar that displays battery life, volume level and play/pause status. If there is any more information that you’d want to have on an MP3 player display, I can’t think of it.
Of course the Gmini XS 200 doesn’t come with some of the bundled extras that you get with an Apple or Sony device, like a carry case or a docking cradle, but with a street price of only £175 including VAT it can easily be forgiven for its sparse list of extras.
The Archos Gmini XS 200 may not be as stylish as the Apple iPod, or have navigation that’s as slick. But it is smaller, lighter and a fair bit cheaper. You also get native WMA playback, which is definitely something that will appeal to PC users.
It’s impossible not to like the Archos Gmini XS 200. Despite it’s slightly clumsy navigation and lack of carry case and docking cradle, this is a fantastic little digital audio player at a truly amazing price. For the cost of a 4GB Apple iPod Mini, you can buy a 20GB player that’s about the same size, the same weight and plays back WMA as well as MP3. Ultimately, the Gmini XS 200 is in no way perfect, but when you combine the size, weight, capacity and price, it’s impossible not to recommend this little Archos.