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Review: Archos 104

The Archos 104 digital audio player sports lots of attractive features, but somehow all those good features don't add up to a compelling device.

The good stuff includes a low price -- at $160 for the 4 GB model we tested, the Archos 104 is the better part of a hundred bucks less expensive than a 4 GB iPod nano. It's also about $30 less than the SanDisk Sansa e260, which we previously reviewed and which the Archos 104 resembles.

Despite the low price, the Archos 104 has a crisp, 1.5-inch color display, which is larger than the nano's screen and smaller than the Sansa's. Also exemplary is the device's navigation, which is Windows-like. Depending on the context, the system first displays either icons or a text list for basic items such as music, showing images, data and setting up the device. From there, you navigate through folders and subfolders much as you would in Windows. And, like most other players, you also can navigate through your music by factors such as artist, album and genre. It's easier to do than to explain -- it's really is quite simple.

Also exemplary is the sound quality, which is crisp, balanced and clear, and the volume is strong. Another admirable feature is the ability to listen to changes in how the music sounds as you select either the pre-set equalizer settings or create custom equalizer settings. The Archos 104 also supports PlaysForSure subscription sites --we tested it without a glitch on both Yahoo! Music Unlimited and AOL Music Now.

We also liked some of Archos' smaller design decisions. While SanDisk, like Apple, uses a proprietary USB connector on its new generation of audio devices, Archos uses a standard mini-USB connector, so cables are easier to replace.

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