Archos, you've finally managed it! After media centres that were either clunkily robust or massively impractical, you've made something that we can pull out on the train to receive the same sort of admiring glances as the video iPod or Sony PSP.
The AV500 has a far greater premium feel than Archos' other media centres, and sitting inside its silver chassis is a 30GB hard drive (although other sizes are available). The big improvement on the new model is the screen -- it's nearly as good as the PSP when it comes to detail and colour. It's been given a similiar reflective coating as Toshiba's Qosmio laptop -- meaning it's a mirror when used under office lights, but can be viewed much more easily in daylight. We can't get over how much better it is than Archos' past screens, which have offered flickery video and a distinct lack of detail.
Unfortunately, this facelift hasn't exempted the AV500 from Archos' trademark quirks -- the navigation system is still horrendous, the body highly susceptible to scratches, and the interface just plain ugly. Once you've learned how to get around the player, despite the buttons lacking labels, few people will fail to be impressed by the video quality from DivX and Xvid files. Properly encoded films look as good as the original DVD -- we had to tear ourselves away from Sideways to post this blog.
We'll be taking the Archos AV500 on the road for a thorough playtest this week, and we'll have the first review soon. Make sure you check back to see if it should make the top of your Christmas list. -GC
Update: you can read our full review of the Archos AV500 here.