18 February 2008

Large capacity PMP roundup

After my considerable disappointment at no news of a 160GB iPod Touch from Apple at this year's Macworld I decided to have a look at what the competition is doing in the way of large capacity portable media players.

My criteria

  • 40GB or greater disk
  • 3" or larger screen (preferably 16:9)

The contenders

Model Capacity (GB) Screen (Inches) Formats Battery A/V (Hours) Price
504 40, 80, 160 4.3" Video: MPEG-4
Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV
17/5.5 £172.21, £258.99, £394.95
704 WiFi 40, 80 7" Video: MPEG-4, WMV
Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV
25/5.5 £269.99, £368.23
605 WiFi 80, 160 4.3" Video: MPEG-4, WMV
Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV
17/5.5 £214.99, £254.64
705 WiFi 80, 160 7" Video: MPEG-4, WMV
Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV
25/5.5 £269.99, £368.23
A3 60 4 Video: DivX, XviD, MPEG 1/2/4, WMV, H.264
Audio: MP3, WMA, FLAC, OGG, AAC, AC3, BSAC, True Audio, WavPack, G.726, CM
25/5.5 £315.95
Q5 60 5 Video: DivX, XviD, MPEG4, WMV
13/7 £409.95
PMC-140 40 3.5 Video: WMV
Audio: MP3, WMA
PMP-140 40 3.5 Video: AVI, XviD, MPEG-4, MPEG-1
Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV, ASF

Archos have the most players meeting the criteria with large disk versions up to 160GB however they are let down by poor codec support although you can add support for more by downloading them from their website (at extra cost).

The two Cowon players offer an impressive list of codecs out-of-the-box but they only come in a maximum 60 gigabyte version and are a lot more expensive than in particular the Archos players.

The iRiver players have small disks, small screens and poor codec support but I couldn't find anywhere stocking them anyway so it looks like I couldn't buy one even if I were interested.


The Archos players definitely seem to be the best deal if you're not bothered about having support for a large number of codecs. One big criticism of them however is that, looking at the overview of for example the 605 WiFi on the Archos site, it seems like you're getting loads of features for your money. Reading the small print, however, will tell you that to use some of them you need to buy optional add-ons and they're not cheap. The DVR dock for recording TV is an extra £60, the web browser is £20, the Video podcast plug-in (read iPod compatibility pack featuring H.264 and AAC codecs) is £15! I'm surprised they are allowed to sell the product based on features it doesn't have out of the box and it certainly puts a sting in the tail of the good deal.

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