When you turn the Gmini XS 200 on you’re greeted by four icons labelled Music, Browser, Resume and Setup. Music obviously takes you into the music library, Browser allows you to brows the contents of the disk as files and folders, Setup takes you into the setup menus and Resume will continue playing the music from the point where you left off when you powered the device down.
There’s no convoluted music manager with the Gmini XS 200, and music can just be dragged and dropped onto the device. You can decide on the file structure for your music, but you don’t have to navigate it by folder – once you’ve copied music to the Gmini you simply run the ARCLibrary update utility and all the music is integrated into the ARCLibrary. This allows you browse your music by Artist, Album, Genre, Title or Year.
One of the major criticisms that I levelled at the Sony NW-HD1 was that it was near impossible to create playlists on the device, but this is definitely not something that I can complain about with the Archos. Now, although most MP3 players use the bundled music manager to create playlists, the Gmini XS 200 makes it easy to create playlists “on the fly” using the device itself. When you edit a playlist on the XS 200 the screen is split down the middle, allowing you to select the tracks you want from your library on the left and add them to the playlist on the right. This means that you can be sitting on a train creating a playlist, rather than having to be sitting at your computer to do it – the Gmini even has a virtual keyboard so that you can name your playlists, tracks or albums.
When you’re playing music, the four-way joystick will control the playback and volume. Pressing the joystick in will pause/play the track, flicking it left will skip backwards and flicking it right will skip forwards. Pressing the joystick up and down will increase and decrease the volume – the volume level rises from 0 – 99, but strangely it jumps in increments of three, so realistically you have a volume range from 0 to 33.
One thing that I did find a little annoying is the sluggishness of the track navigation – skipping backwards and forwards through multiple tracks can be a slow procedure, and the hard disk light seems to spend a lot of time flashing. This could be because the data buffer in the Gmini XS 200 isn’t as large as an iPod for instance, but I have used the Gmini while jogging and it didn’t seem to have any access problems, even between tracks. There’s also no remote control with the Gmini XS 200, although the supplied headphones do come with an in-line analogue volume control. Unfortunately the volume control has no clip, so it hangs off the headphones – the result being that the ear buds are pulled out of your ears while you’re walking.