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Old Jul 8, 2005, 9:12 PM   #1
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Amongst the barrage of mobile hard drive storage devices for digital cameras, I would like to draw your attention to the Archos products and some of their advantages:

(Disclaimer: I don't work for Archos, I don't sell Archos products, and I am not a shill for Archos!)

I have an old Archos AV320 to record and watch TV shows and movies on the plane. Only recently did I discover its use as a mobile storage device. I bought the CF card adaptor (manufacturer accessory), plus a multi-card to CF converter (Archos sells a 4-in-1 converter (SD, MMC, SM, MS) but it does not support MemoryStick PRO; newer third party converter also supports MS-PRO; xD card user can buy an Olympus xD to CF card converter) and I can use the device to store things from my SD card. The AV300 series has been discontinued.

The newer AV400 and GMini 400 series have a built-in CF slot, and you still need to buy the multi-card to CF converter for non-CF card types.

Most people know by now that we cannot just plug an external hard drive into the digital camera's USB port and transfer the pictures this way, because the external hard drive has no operating system of its own, and it (the "host") cannot detect the digital camera (or any other devices) connected by USB as a "slave" device.

The newer Archos PMA430 (combined multimedia player and PDA), and the newest AV700 series (7" LCD screen) can both act as "host" devices, and you can just plug the digital camera (or digital camcorder, external HD ... etc) by the USB cable, just like hooking it up to the computer, and transfer the pictures. If you want to pull the memory card out of the camera, you can use a USB memory card reader (for PC) to transfer - remember though: unless the USB card reader has its own power supply, the Archos has to power both the card and itself, and this decreases battery life.

There is also a flood of mobile multimedia devices (Sony PSP is one, but also many non-brandname ones): most of them have built-in CF/SD card slots, and some may even have host ability for USB transfer. If you are looking into other manufacturers, this is definitely a desirable feature.

Transfer time - my Archos AV320 transfers 1 GB from the SD card to the unit in about 17 minutes. The actual transfer speed is not stated in the manual but I think it is in the order of USB 1 speed. However, you should remember that the transfer speed is usually limited by the speed of the MEMORY CARD: my SD card is a standard card of about 2-4 MB/sec read speed, and the newer high-speed SD cards runs at up to 10 MB/sec, which are far less than USB 2 speed.

Another advantage of the Archos products -

It has a Windows Explorer type interface (what they call "Double browser") that allows you to see the content of folders in the device and the memory card, then pick and choose the file you want to transfer. This is a big advance over the automatic transfer function of some "digital picture wallet" device that transfers everything.

In addition, the Archos recognizes and transfers ALL types of files (image/ music files or not). This is unlike some "digital picture wallets" that only recognize (and transfer) picture formats (JPG, TIFF etc). Therefore, the Archos is truely a "mobile digital storage device".

I bought a Sanyo Xacti C4 SD card camcorder recently, that stores movie in MPEG-4 (MP4) format. Many cheaper digital storage devices do not recognize this format and will not transfer the movies.

The Epson P-2000 does recognize and transfer MP4/AVI format, but with the Archos, virtually ALL file types can be transferred. The Epson can browse the pictures in a memory card in thumbnail forms: the Archos cannot preview pictures in the memory card (it can only read the filenames).

I see that many people already notice the potential of hard drive multimedia players like iPod and Archos as storage devices, and I wish they can post their experience with these devices, because this is now the next biggest thing after larger and faster memory cards for digital cameras.

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Old Jul 14, 2005, 8:07 AM   #2
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I bought and haved returned the Archos 400. To help put my comments into perspective, my reason for buying the Gmini 400 was to download CF cards in the field during trips,etc. so that I could re-use the cards in my digital camera. I base my comments on this need and not for example, the 400's game playing ability.

1. This was not clear to me before purchase, the 400 only reads TYPE 1 CF cards.

2. The CF card slot needs to be used with care (due to design) since once could easily bend the pins if card insertion was hurried.

3. Takes a long time to charge. I had new unit on charge for over 4 hours and it still was not charged.

4. Picture review is SLOW. I shoot .jpg files that are about 5-6 mB each (8 mpixel) and they took about 8-10 seconds to be displayed. This is too long to review 100s of photos. Also, screen quality is not adequate to assess image focus quality, etc.

5. I could not complete the download of even one card, so I can not accurately give download speeds. But, this unit seems slow on downloading.

6. During my first and second attempts at downloading a cf card, I got the same error message - 'failure - error writing to hard drive. Please check hard drive' . Since my reason was photo storage during trips, I was not going to risk a bad hard drive from day one!

Unit was returned for refund and I'm looking at other options. It may be good as a MP3 player, or to watch movies/play games (read other reviews - I didn't evaluate these functions); but I do not recommend this unit for serious photographic usage for downloading CF cards.
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Old Jul 14, 2005, 5:18 PM   #3
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Thanks for the feedback Bob. Sorry you have bad experience with Archos product.

I don't have prosumer or pro hardware and I don't shoot HQ pictures of several Mb sizes. I always use the AC adaptor on the unit when I transfer the pictures/ movies in the hotel, and never on the road relying on the battery. When I am on the road, I concentrate on taking pictues/ movies and leave the transfer till the end of the day. I also don't trust a transfer using just battery power - like transfer process with any storage media, if there is any interruption you risk wasting the time or worse, losing the data because of corruption!

I don't use CF therefore I don't know about the CF II issue. I guess this is a similar compatibility problem for MemoryStick PRO cards until a new multicard-CF adaptor gets onto the market. The principle is: the newer any model of any device, the more formats/ speeds of cards they support. I use SD card (both standard and high speed) and successfully transferred 1 Gb of files (movie and pictures) to my older AV320 unit, without any problem. Remember: the Archos unit only copies the files from the flash card: it does not delete it, so if anything goes wrong the originals are still on the card.

I did mention that it takes about 17 minutes to transfer 1 Gb of files from my SD card (standard speed). This is obviously snail pace comparing with USB 2! I also stress that the transfer speed may be limited by the speed of the flash card as well as the internal speed of the transfer port of the device.

I always use the camera and not the Archos unit to preview the pictures, and I never rely on the little low-res LCD screen of any device (multimedia player or digital camera likewise) to assess picture quality (eg. sharpness, focus). The 4MP pictures I took (finest setting, 5-700 kb size) take 2-4 seconds to load on the tiny LCD screen. I would think devices specifically designed for digital picture storage (like the Nikon Coolwalker or Epson) should have a better video chip to render HQ pictures (large pixels, low/no compression) quickly for show on the tiny LCD screen.

Bottomline is: I only use the unit for storage to reuse the flash cards, and I leave all the tinkering and selecting of pictures/ movies till I get home.

I agree with you on the fact that it is not convenient to use the unit to view the pictures (eg. playback to f&f), either on the LCD screen or playing them on the TV (by RCA cable), because of slow rendering of large HQ pictures: for anything <3-4 MP it is probably acceptable with the Archos. I have a feeling that the AV700 series may fair better, because it has a 7" LCD screen (more pixels, more resolution, better video chip): however, it is also much bigger than the other devices.

I have a feeling you may have interrupted and aborted the transfer, leaving large temporary junk files on the unit, which creates problem next time you try the transfer. I also had a similar problem with my Archos unit at the beginning, after the unit failed to record some TV shows. When I try again the unit tells me the "HD is full"! Mind you this is a little computer with its own operating system, and there are repair (checkdisk) and defrag utilities identical to the PC, that you can use to troubleshoot basic problems. There are also firmware updates if the basic repair utilities don't work. The problems of my unit were solved by a firmware update.

Archos and many other portable multimedia players are not pro camera accessories and not really specifically designed for storage purpose, but some people may find them useful as a stoarge device on top of having some fun as a portable entertainment unit (that can play as well as record TV shows and MP3). I guess you really want to look into specialized pro level equipment to satisfy your photographic needs and give you peace of mind.

I found a brief review of the Nikon Coolwalker and Epson P2000:


It mentions the speed of file transfer and quality of the LCD images, but it does not mention the loading speed of large HQ pictures. Please also note the speed of file transfer of these specially designed units is not stellar either (about 2.7 minutes for the Coowalker, 1.7 minutes for the Epson, for 256 MB CF (speed?)), so don't be expecting lightning performance like your USB 2 or Firewire!
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