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We've seen major MP3 innovation from Archos before -- the <A href="http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/review/18/1/1719.html">Jukebox Multimedia 20</a> hard drive-based MP3 player comes to mind. So it makes sense that the company would eventually release a flash-based player that stands out from the pack. The elegant, feature-packed Ondio encodes MP3s on the fly without a PC, records songs directly from its built-in FM radio and has a couple of ground-breaking features. You might expect a device such as this to be one of the pricier flash-memory players around, but the Ondio costs about the same as most of its 128MB competitors.
A study in stylish minimalism, the Ondio's blue-and-silver fascia sports just an LCD, a four-way navigation pad for controlling most playback functions and a Mode button that accesses most of the player's settings. Although it's plastic, the Ondio can withstand a fair amount of abuse. At 81mm by 47mm by 25mm, the 60g device is small enough to fit in your palm and light enough to be unobtrusive when carried in a pocket or on your belt in its padded neoprene case (with Velcro strap). Holes in the case give access to the controls and eight-line LCD, but you'll have to remove the unit if you want to use the internal microphone for voice recording. We do have one gripe about the Ondio's LCD: although it's large and includes a few graphical elements, it lacks backlighting, which makes it impossible to operate in the dark.
The Ondio is a mostly rectangular affair except for a circular indentation on its lower-right side that houses an extra MultiMedia Memory card, allowing you to expand the player's on-board 128MB capacity. However, we should note that you can listen to either the songs on the on-board memory or the card -- not both. If you want to hear the songs stored on the device itself, you'll need to remove the card. A USB port on the unit's right-hand side is vulnerable to damage when the device is without its case, but this is fairly normal.
Like most earbuds, the ones included with the Ondio are nothing to write home about, but they do have an attached, in-line volume control. A full-function remote would have been nice, but most flash-based players lack this feature.