A couple days ago I posted my Holiday Guide for MP3/audio players and a couple of commenters asked where ARCHOS and Cowon were on the list. I tried to stay focused on audio focused devices in that guide, although many digital media players today can play both audio and video. This guide focuses on devices that have the primary function of video playback, that similarly can also play audio.
While the iPod touch and even the Microsoft Zune are very good digital video players that many find better than a dedicated personal video player, I am not including them in this guide because the focus of those devices is music first so you can check them out in the MP3 player guide if you are interested in them.
The digital video players covered in this guide have good multi-format support, compelling hardware, and some other unique features. These video playing devices are good devices to have for commuters, business travelers, and those that want to enjoy video content away from a large TV at home. Keep in mind though that you can also use your iPod, Zune, iPhone or even PSP for enjoying video on the go too.
There seem to be two main companies focused on leading the digital video player market and the one company who has devices that I have personally seen and used for a bit is ARCHOS. Their newest devices is just now hitting the streets and is actually marketed as an Internet Media Tablet. The ARCHOS 7 is the premier product in the ARCHOS lineup. The device has a large 7 inch 800x480 pixels display with 16 million colors and provides support for WMV, AVI, MPEG4, DiVX and Flash video formats. You can stream video content stored on your PC to the ARCHOS 7 via WiFi. YouTube video support is also included.
The ARCHOS 7 comes with either a 160GB or 320GB hard drive, runs a Linux OS, has an integrated 802.11 b/g WiFi radio, USB 2.0 port, supports music playback (MP3, WMA, OGG, and AAC) and image viewing (JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF). You can also use it to browse the web with the integrated Opera browser and Adobe Flash player. The integrated kickstand and stereo speakers allow you to enjoy video content on the go.
There is an optional DVR Station available that lets you use the ARCHOS 7 to schedule and record TV shows right to the device hard drive and then playback on the ARCHOS or a larger TV, which could be useful in a hotel room.
There is also a 5 inch display model with the same features, called the ARCHOS 5 that comes in 60GB, 120GB, and 250GB hard drive sizes.
Price: $449.99 for 160GB and $549.99 for 320GB
Last year at CES I saw the ARCHOS 705 and 605. The 705 is the highest end portable media player in the ARCHOS lineup, considering that the ARCHOS 7 and 5 are labeled as internet media tablets. The 705 has a 7 inch 800x480 pixels touch screen display and comes in 80GB and 160GB hard drive sizes. The device has integrated WiFi, stereo speakers, and kickstand.
You can purchase/rent content from the ARCHOS Content Portal right to your device if you don't have other digital media already stored on your PC.
The ARCHOS 605 is also available with a 4.3 inch display and smaller drive capacities. The 605 GPS includes an integrated GPS receiver so you can get navigation and entertainment in one device. The 405 has a 3.5 inch display.
Price: $449.99 for 160GB and $399.99 for 80GB
The COWON 02 has a 4.3 inch 480x272 pixels touch screen with 16 million colors support. The O2 comes in 32GB, 16GB, and 8GB flash drive capacity size. A SDHC slot is also included for additional memory expansion needs. Supported file types include AVI, WMV, ASF, MP4, DivX, XviD, MPEG-4, H.264, WMA, OGG, JPG, PNG, TIF, RAW and more. There is even a text reader, voice recorder, and notepad.
I've read review where the ARCHOS devices may be outstanding video players, but the battery life may not be as long as desired. The COWON O2 has a stated 8 hours of battery life for video viewing.
The COWON O2 looks to have support for the most audio and video file types and is actually reasonably priced. You may not need to go for the highest end model either considering that SDHC card prices continue to drop and you can add significant capacity for quite a low cost.
Price: $299.99 for 32GB, $250 for 16GB, and $220 for 8GB
The high end hard drive-based COWON portable video player (PVP) is the Q5W that features a 5 inch WVGA (800x480) 16 million color display, 802.11 b/g WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, 1.8 inch hard drive in 40/60/80 GB capacities. The device is based on Windows CE 5.0 and supports a large number of video, audio, and image formats.
With the WiFi radio you can browse using the Internet Explorer web browser and more with the Windows CE OS that makes this a media player with handheld PC-like capabilities. With the Bluetooth radio you can connect and stream audio wirelessly to your Bluetooth stereo headphones.
The COWON A3 is also a bit older device available with a hard drive and 4 inch color display that you may want to consider.
Price: $379.99+ for 80GB, $370+ for 60GB, and $278 for 40GB