1 April 2005 | 0
On paper the Archos Gmini 120 seems like a really good idea. Setting itself up as a challenger to the iPod, the Gmini goes one step further than the standard MP3 player, with various software add-ons that turn it into a photo wallet, audio recorder or music composer. Sounds great, right?
In practice, the Gmini runs into one little problem. Ever hear the phrase ‘a jack of all trades and master of none’? Well the Gmini fits this old adage perfectly. On the surface, it performs most of its tasks adequately. But what if you don’t want to settle for adequate?
Don’t get me wrong, the Gmini has got some good features — the 20Gbyte hard disk for one. But the trade-off is its size. Forget the simple, clean lines of the iPod; the Gmini is more reminiscent of its more powerful cousin, the Archos AV 300 series.
As an MP3 player, the Archos doesn’t do a bad job. But creating playlists is frustrating, mainly due to the controls, which are less than intuitive. Because this is not a dedicated MP3 player, only the play/pause button is labeled, so even skipping tracks or changing volume becomes a trial and error process. The instruction book explains the controls clearly (a bonus) but you tend to forget and hit the wrong one more often than you’d like.
If you have thousands of MP3 files, chances are you’ll want to create a few playlists so you can get to your favourites quickly and easily. This should be a simple process; simply choose the tracks you want, add them to the playlist and save it, ready to be accessed the next time you switch on the device. However, I seemed to encounter nothing but problems when trying to save the lists; not only did it take a long time to save the list to the device’s hard drive, but as soon as I switched the device on again after a break of a few hours, what was I greeted with? A blank playlist and an empty playlist folder.
However you can also use the Gmini as a store for photos or other data. With the software add-on, you can pop a CompactFlash card into the device and copy over your images. This will free up your card for more images. And with the audio recorder software add-on, you can convert all your analogue music to digital MP3 files and finally ditch those cassettes that are gathering dust. A built-in microphone allows you to record your own sound files, but you’ll need the extra software to take advantage of this feature.
The device shows up as a removable mass media drive on your PC, so you can drag and drop data files to take home to work on.
If you can master the difficult controls and get over the device is frustrating navigation system without throwing the Gmini at the nearest wall, maybe this device is just which you need, if you want something with a bit less effort involved try a different product. To give the device its due, the capacity and modular nature of the Gmini do make it an attractive option. However we found the device simply to frustrating to use, especially for beginners.
Storage capacity: 20Gbyte
Interface: High-speed USB 2.2 (USB 1.1 compatible)
Screen: 128×64 pixels, black and white LCD, five lines of text and icon bar
Ports: CompactFlash Type I and II; mini USB 2.0 (USB 1.1 compatible)
Dimensions: 13 by 78 by 26mm
Live verdict **
The poor navigation system scuppers is an otherwise useful product. It won’t win any prizes for a sleek and slim profile either — it’s a heavyweight contender.