Zune Killer?

The latest media player from Archos deserves a long look

November 6, 2006—Will Microsoft’s long-awaited Zune steal some iPod thunder this holiday season? Beats the hell out of us. While that’s all getting sorted out, allow us to call your attention to a far less publicized alternative, the Archos 604 Wi-Fi. Pick one up and the first thing you’ll notice is its relatively massive 4.3-inch, DVD-quality display (at 480 X 272 pixels, it trumps the 320 X 240 resolutions of the iPod and the Zune), all the more impressive given that the gizmo is slightly over half an inch thick. Just as attractive, the 604 also features across-the-board media compatibility: Unlike both the iPod and Zune, which require you to filter your music through copyright-friendly file-management software on your computer, the Archos syncs directly to your cable box, DVR, or audio system, allowing you to transfer any kind of file—however you obtained it—to the player. Wireless capability is currently limited to Web and email, but that’s mostly a non-factor, given how long it can take to download a video file over most Wi-Fi networks. All in all, it’s one impressive package. However concerned Steve Jobs & co. are about Microsoft, it may well be Archos they should be worried about.

Archos 604 30-GB Wi-Fi, out today, $450, www.archos.com. Microsoft Zune, $250, www.zune.net, available November 14.

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