Archos 404 Camcorder review

Price when reviewed

After the Archos 604 WiFi comes the 404 Camcorder (part code: 500850), sharing its predecessor’s styling and operating system. But the 404 Camcorder is around £50 cheaper and, in spite of having just a small 3.5in TFT (compared to the 604 WiFi’s 4.3in screen), some of its features make it a unique addition to the portable market.

The standout feature is the tiny camera lens on the rear of the unit, although quality isn’t brilliant, with a minuscule lens and low 640 x 480 resolution. Colours are a little washed out and detail is generally lacking, but then thinking of the 404 as a way to archive precious moments for commemorative DVDs is to miss the point. The 404 Camcorder is a great tool for a video blogger, capturing swift two-minute video clips for later upload.

Inside, there’s a 30GB hard disk; plenty for the comparatively low bit-rate 1.5Mb/sec clips you’ll be capturing, and we actually ran out of battery life long before the hard disk was threatened. The 404 Camcorder recorded a 2hr 40min clip from a single charge. The device is also a decent music player, supporting ID3 tags as well as album art, plus Windows Media Player DRM via PlaysForSure.

The screen is high quality, despite having a 320 x 240 resolution, and the OS has large icons, making navigation easy. The directional controls are laid out over three vertically stacked buttons, with the buttons for left and right on the same rocker switch. It takes a little getting used to, but we had no problems with misinterpreted key presses.

Video compatibility is good, with MPEG4, AVI and WMV files catered for. DivX files are also compatible and, with a well-encoded library, you’ll be able to fit in plenty of films or television programmes. Watching videos takes its toll on the battery, though, and we saw a maximum of 3hrs 7mins.

But the 404 Camcorder is unique – the hard disk, large screen and camera take it far beyond the media capabilities of the most advanced phones and portable media players. Not everyone will find a use for it – if your needs are met by just one of the 404’s functions, you should look elsewhere, as it doesn’t do any one thing with particular panache. If you’re likely to make a habit of posting to YouTube or a video blog, though, the 404 is an intriguing product at the right price.

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