While almost everyone who can afford one has some version of the iPod or another, there hasn’t been that much demand (or at least street sightings) of full-scale portable media players (PMPs) locally (discounting the one time I spied a kid playing with his Archos AV400 at the airport). The latest iPod (with video capabilities) will probably change the scene a bit and will put more of these types of devices into users’ hands, but it will most likely be driven by the popularity of the iPod brand rather than a genuine demand for a real portable video player. Besides, if most reviews are to be believed (I haven’t gotten my hands on a real one yet), video on this latest iPod is more of an add-on rather than its main feature.
Perhaps way too early, I took my first foray into portable media players with the now discontinued Archos Multimedia 20 a few years ago. While it had its share of problems (interface, battery life, format support), it served its purpose in terms of letting me watch video while on the go. The hoops I had to jump through just to get the thing working and the video to play properly however left me dismayed. Because I’m a sucker for hype and watched in envy as the iPod-touting brethren fondled their clickwheels with ease while I struggled just to turn my Archos on, I gave in and got myself one, relegating myself to, *sigh*, just music, dreaming someday that portable video will find its way back into my life.
Maybe it’s about time to take another look, as the soon-to-be or newly released line of portable media players are finally making practical portable video a reality. Most people just want a simple way to watch their tv episodes or movies while traveling, and 2 devices on the market seem to do this well. There’s the Archos AV500, which some people are actually calling a DVR substitute (with its ability to schedule recording of shows), and the Cowon A2, with similar features but a longer battery life (with 10 hours video playback time, looks sexier too).
I’ll let the specs speak for themselves, but bottomline is, both devices are able to do what most people want – play their media without too much messing about and for longer periods of time. The DVR functionality, and the ability to transfer digital pictures directly from your digicam are bonuses, albeit great bonuses.
Good news is that both devices are commercially available already. The only problem is finding the funds to feed the gadget-lust.
* I’ve seen different Archos models on sale locally, but not yet the AV500. The Cowon A2 is available now in the US and Hong Kong, until somebody brings this in.