Archos is a producer of portable drive devices. These include mini high capacity portable hard drives, CD burners, and multimedia recorders and players. All devices are USB 2.0 compatible and are easy to use with any personal computer platform.

My favorite product at the moment is the Archos Jukebox mp3 player. There are two subcategories: the Studio and the Recorder. Both include a hard drive of either 6, 10, or 20gb (the Studio also comes in a 5gb version) and are identical in size and shape outside of the product name on the casing. To be exact, the size of the Jukebox is approximately 4.5" x 3" x 1" weighing about 12 oz., or for the metric literate, that translates into 115 x 83 x 34mm and 350g (almost exactly the size and weight of my wallet). The hard drive is a standard notebook drive and can be easily upgraded. The only real difference between the two models is the recorder's ability to record on the fly realtime mp3s. Pretty impressive stuff, but I have yet to discover a real need for such a capability. Although only mp3s can be played, any file format can be stored.

The biggest hassle I've found with the Jukebox is the USB cable. Unlike most standard cables which have one square end plugging into the device and a flat end plugging into your computer, the Archos cable is flat on both sides. (Yes, those are technical terms!) The Archos comes with a cable, but when carrying the device one often does not carry the cable. An adapter is tough to find, but can be done with a lot of searching at many different computer supply stores.

Once the Jukebox is connected to your computer, it shows up as an extra drive, so copying files in or out is a breeze. Just click and drag as usual. It's all too easy to forget that the Archos is a hard drive, and files can be corrupted or lost if you don't unplug the device using the proper eject method (i.e. don't unplug the archos without parking the hard drive).

It may seem that 20gb is a lot of storage space at first, but as with all things, it's never enough. It's easy to get greedy, so keep this in mind when you're choosing a model.

The Jukebox battery is rechargeable and lasts for about 10 hours. A car kit is available for about $40. It comes with a cassette adapter, cigarette lighter adapter, stereo cable, remote control, and headphones. It may be worthwhile to some people to buy all of those products, but I just bought the cigarette lighter adapter at Target for about $15 and a new stereo cable for about $2. Who needs a remote control for a portable device that only has 3 buttons to begin with?!

In summary, the Archos Jukebox is cool.

The Archos Jukebox Recorder is a boxy, little mp3 player that is quite useful for storing your entire mp3 library, or even transporting other files (although this is normally impractical if you wanted to transport a file to a computer that doesn’t have the Archos software already on it).

The Recorder allows you to record songs directly off of the radio if you are so inclined, however this is also quite impractical unless you own software to edit the songs at certain points (otherwise you get commercials, DJ voices, etc), but an enterprising person could probably find freeware somewhere on the internet to do it -- I personally got tired of looking.

Now to my important point: the player comes with a warranty that, barring extreme conditions such as using your mp3 player as a lethal weapon, guarantees Archos will repair or replace it with a new one. Well, my first player worked fine for a couple months but then all of the sudden the operating system just wouldn’t boot up: it had some kind of error that froze the machine so after struggling through weak to non-existent technical support we finally sent it back in. Seeing as the player can function as an all-in-one mp3 player library, I had all my mp3s on its hard drive…and when they sent me a new player, I no longer had any mp3s. Luckily, I had backed up some of them, but I lost more than 300 songs and with a worse-than-56K modem that becomes very annoying.

I have had the second player for about 6 months now and…grrr…one of the buttons (there are only 4 or so) no longer responds. It’s the menu button in case you were wondering so I can no longer change the play mode, record songs, nor do a number of other things (I don’t know what they are because I can’t get there anymore)!

I have friends who have the Studio edition and they do not seem to have problems --oddly enough theirs is older than mine. The hassle of sending in my player and waiting for months for them to send me another wearies my resolve so I am just going to keep this one until it completely breaks. I suppose most of Archos products may be perfectly fine and I just happened to be unlucky, but if and when I decide to invest in a new mp3 player I plan to buy from a different manufacturer.

I guess this brings me to two main points:

1. I do not necessarily think Archos is a poor company, except for the fact their tech support had some 21 year old girl who didn’t know anything and couldn’t refer me to anywhere else, just avoid the particular Jukebox Recorder 6000 I have been unlucky to come across. (I’m not sure, all recorders may be 6000’s because they all have the same memory capacity).

2. More obviously, always backup your mp3’s instead of trying to make room on your computer for other memory-intensive games/programs/whatever.

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