Review: Archos Jukebox 20

The Archos Jukebox 20 may look like yet another device in a steadily growing line of hard drive MP3 players, but it definitely has some twists.

The $309 USD machine has been out since late last year however it took the recent death of my last Mp3 player to get me really looking. What caught me eye was that unlike all the other LCD’s on the shelf, this player featured a 1.5″ color screen.

Here is the first twist: Aside from being an MP3 player and general USB drive, the Archos also plays Mpeg 4 video and displays your standard JPEG/BMP images. Now at 4.3″ x 3.1″ x 1.1″ and only 10 ounces it is a bit bigger than an iPod but given it’s extra abilities, you really can’t compare.

I took it out of the box, and simply plugged it into my laptop and used it just like any other USB 1.1 drive (Firewire available). At 1MB per second, I dropped in a few thousand pictures and a healthy dose of MP3 and video clips in no time. The device can only handle certain video bit rates but the included software made converting them a slow but simple process. Once loaded, you simply use the directional buttons to work your way across the folders and pick what you’re into. The sound quality was great and you can get really customize various sound settings. The small color screen was clear however the viewing angle was fairly limited. The unit can be connected to any TV with an RCA jack allowing you to watch it almost anywhere. The video quality at this size was similar to a low grade VHS tape, but viewable. The still photographs looked great.

Now for twist number two. Unlike a lot of the competition, this is both a recorder AND player. There is a built in microphone along with digital (S/PDIF) and line-level analog 1/8-inch stereo input which it uses to record MP3’s on the fly. The unit’s software allows you adjust volume levels to perfection while recording which gives it yet another advantage over the competition. Unfortunately this device does not have a port to be used as a personal video recorder. The optional 1.3-megapixel digital camera module can capture low res 320×240 video along with basic 640×480 stills. I had no problem encoding these videos and watching them on the screen however the low quality keeps them in the “entertainment only” category.

The unit comes with a CF module (Smart Media Available) which allows me to dump all the pictures from digital camera into it. I took it on vacation and had an absolute blast. I only used a 128MB card for my camera, often bringing a laptop is a pain. With the Archos, I simply dropped the card into the module when it was full and transferred the files over. At 20GB, we’re talking thousands and thousands of pictures. I then used the screen to navigate my way through them. Once again, the Archos takes it a step further and actually lets you rename and organize the files right on the spot – no PC required.

All in all, this player rocks. In fact, my only real gripes are the few seconds I have to wait for boot up and boot down, the small screen and the occasional HD pauses when I’m navigating the menus. These are really small concerns and definitely do not detract from the very positive experience I had with the device.

Features and Specifications

Capacity: 20GB Hard Disk
Interface: USB 2.0. Optional interface : FireWire (PC & Mac)
Video playback: MPEG-4 SP with MP3 stereo sound, near-DVD quality. Resolution CIF-352X288 @ 30f/s. AVI file format, reads XviD and DivX™ 4.0 & 5.0
Music playback: Stereo MP3 decoding @ 30-320 Kbits/s. CBR & VBR
Music recording: Stereo MP3 encoding @ 30-160 Kbits/s. VBR
Photo viewer: JPEG or BMP of any size
Display: TV output or built-in color LCD (237×234)
AV Connections: Stereo analog & digital Line In. Composite Video/ Earphone/ Line Out jack. Built-in microphone.
Playback autonomy: Up to 7 hours (MP3)
Scalability: Downloadable firmware updates from www.archos.com.
Power Source: Internal: Rechargeable Li-Ion Batteries. External: AC charger / adapter.
Dimensions & Weight: 110 x 79 x 29 mm (4.3″ x 3.1″ x 1.1″). 290g (10.23 oz)
System Requirements: PC: Pentium II 266 MHz. Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, 64 MB RAM. Mac: 9.x or X iMac, G3 or higher.
Package Includes: Jukebox Multimedia 20, USB cable, AC adapter, Li-Ion batteries (already installed), stereo headphones, AV cinch cable (SCART adapter for Europe), carrying pouch. CD with MusicMatch™, drivers and 5-language manual.

Editorial Note, Fabrizio Pilato – Unfortunatly Archos has a lack of support and warranty.

Their website states that you only have a 90 day warranty on any product, they also say “You must submit a Request for RMA ( Return Merchandise Authorization) form within 7 business day from the day you received the product.

Be sure to provide COMPLETE information or your RMA will be delayed. You must fill out the form below COMPLETELY.” All I can say is how reliable can a portable 3.5″ hdd be. I would assume this is the main reason Archos gives you a short 90 day warranty. In the end it is up to you, dont drop it and you should be fine. -


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