We've been patiently awaiting the arrival of the Archos Gmini 104 for months, and here's the problem with waiting so long for a product: Technology begins to pass it by. In fact, technology was already ahead of this cute, sleek little MP3 player when it was announced in March. The Creative Zen Micro Photo, which features double the capacity and several more features than the Gmini 104, had already been out for four or five months. And the iPod Nano had already started the trend for 4GB flash devices several months before that. So, seeing this colour-screened, 4GB microdrive player now is more than a bit anticlimactic. Still, it is an Archos, and since Archos so often puts out fine portable audio and video devices, we decided to give the Gmini 104 some face time.
Along the top of the Gmini 104, you'll find the headphone jack, USB port, and power input.
Having spent some quality one-on-one time with the buffed black Gmini 104, which also comes in metallic grey (or, silver?) and pink, we remain unimpressed. The device honestly feels like a throwback to 2005, and in the ever-evolving world of consumer electronics, that's practically the stone-age. It's not all bad, of course -- after all, it is an Archos. The player's smooth, largish body (it's like two Nanos stacked back to front) feels good in the hand, the controls are well laid-out and of ample size, and the graphical interface is simple to navigate. The OLED screen is attractive, displaying its wallpapers and images -- though the screen could be bigger, considering the size of the device. Mac-compatibility is a plus, as is the Gmini 104's ability to play subscription tracks from services such as Urge.
Unfortunately -- and especially in terms of design and features -- the negatives cast a shadow on our overall impression of the device. Aside from the aforementioned, outdated technology, the Gmini 104 also has a rather unimpressive -- though not horrible -- 12 hours of battery life, which was confirmed in CNET Labs' testing. Transfer times of 1.8MB per second over USB 2.0 were also nothing to write home about. And we couldn't browse photos while listening to music, so what's the point of the photo-viewer? You also don't get any extra features like an FM tuner or voice recording. Finally, we can get over the fact that the player's microdrive makes it less durable than its flash-based counterparts, but the whirring and clicking sounds emanating from the device about every third process are just a bit old school.
So is the Gmini 104 a total wash? No. It's certainly no slouch when it comes to sound quality, even pumping out rich and clear tunes through the included earbuds. Of course, swapping in our Shure E4cs certainly didn't hurt, especially when it came to bass response, which was already pretty decent. The sound-isolating 'buds also helped significantly in the volume department, which we found to be lacking through the included earphones.
All-in all, the Gmini 104 is a decent choice for first-time users looking for a cheap, simple MP3 player. But for most people, we recommend something with more up-to-date technology, such as a Creative Zen V.