Archos Jukebox FM Recorder 20GB MP3 Player

Archos Jukebox FM Recorder 20GB MP3 Player

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The Archos to have,

Jul 3, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Sound:
  • Ease of Use:
  • Durability:
  • Battery Life:
  • Portability:

Pros:Interface, Simple Directory Browser, Size, Weight, Rockbox

Cons:Side-facing headphone jack. Oops!


All was well in the land of the Archos Jukebox Recorder 20GB! It had a fresh copy of Rockbox installed, 12GB of tunes on board, and brand new batteries. I loaded up with my headphones, got comfy and powered up.
The battery meter! It was about 1/10 full! Rockbox indicated there was about 5% left, or about half an hour of play time. So I reached for the AC adapter’s cord to pop into the Archos. Upon inserting the cord, however, I did not see the miniscule “plug” icon next to the battery meter. This confused me. I unplugged it and replugged it, and nothing happened. I checked that it was fully plugged into the outlet. Still nothing. I wiggled the cord up and down and side to side frantically. Nothing at all. No plug icon! No charging! Dead batteries! And an un-backed up Archos MP3 player!

I did have an outdated backup on my computer, so the Archos had a couple new CDs and a lot more songs on it. I had to copy over the new stuff from the Archos to the computer. As I expected, however, the low-charged batteries only got me about 150MB into the backup. I then replaced them with some batteries lying around (the only ones I had to spare at the moment) and they had about 30% of a charge left. So much for “charged”. Hrrumph.

The power cord still appeared dead. I rummaged for the Archos box, and found the plastic container in which everything fit, but never could find the outer cover. I scotch-taped the plastic case and took off for Best Buy, hoping to make use of my extended 3-year warranty with the “we’ll-replace-it-with-a-better-model-if-your-current-model-is-discontinued” guarantee. Mostly all that was going through my head at the time was, ‘Please let there be no Recorders. Please let there be FM Recorders!’

I walked into the store and checked to see if they had any Archos models. It appeared there were only FM Recorders in the display. So far so good. Now if only they don’t just give me a replacement AC adaptor. To make a long story short, they verified twice that the next closest replacement was the FM Recorder, and they returned it all for me, and I walked out of Best Buy with a shiny new FM Recorder, and a big grin on my face.

Right off the bat, let me tell you, the FM Recorder is better than the Recorder in more ways than the fact that it plays FM radio. It uses a Lithium Ion battery (2200mah, no replacements available – yet), it has built-in alarm functionality (so it can wake up on it’s own to wake you up on time) and it’s got a different form. The buttons are flush with the unit so they are hard to accidentally press while the Archos resides in your pocket. The FM Recorder is 4/5 the weight of the Recorder – and what a difference it makes! It feels 10X lighter, each time you pick it up. And the FM Recorder is marginally smaller than the Recorder – by about 5 millimeters.

The unit itself has the same keys as the Archos Recorder models – four “arrow” keys for navigation, a center PLAY button, a STOP/OFF button and an ON/MENU button. Plus, there are three multifunction keys along the top. The unit has the same LCD screen as the Archos Recorder, and the same backlight, but there are a few other differences including the ones previously mentioned. I don’t like the newly placed ports – on the bottom left side there are the headphone and line in jacks and on the right are the DC IN and USB connections. I didn’t like them at first, and still don’t like them that much. They are easier to cope with once you get used to them, however. All other improvements are welcome, though, such as the ribbed back of the unit, making it easier to hold and slip-proof. It’s about 100 grams (Archos Recorder: 120 grams, Apple iPod: 60 grams) and it’s pretty small and fits in you pocket pretty well.

WHAT A NIGHTMARE! Though compared to the Archos Recorder’s standard firmware this one is better, it still is sluggish and most annoying. Anyone who has used “Rockbox” will put it on immediately (and fortunately, Rockbox builds for FM Recorders too!) and I must say, it really does make this unit shine. The only nice thing that the Archos firmware can do that Rockbox CAN’T is that it makes the backlight fade out after the set time, and not just cut out immediately. Linus, a Rockbox developer, however, says that it’s more of a bug than a feature, and Rockbox cannot duplicate it. I don’t really care, though – I leave my backlight on all the time, as it barely sucks any juice but lets you see the screen under all conditions.

I don’t mean that the Rockbox firmware rules, I mean that there is a new plugin loader build in to the Rockbox firmware as of 6-30-03. This means that you can develop an application or game, or demo of some sort, compile it to a .ROCK file, and “play” it on the Archos. This “opens the door for a bucketful of new applications”. It’s not got much going for it yet, but soon the place will be swarming with ROCKs.

The sound is exactly the same as the Archos Recorder, as the FM Recorder uses the same MAS chip, and has basically the same version of Rockbox. Sound is great, and volume is excellent, and it all works together great. Rockbox improves the sound greatly, so if you haven’t picked up on the face that Rockbox rocks, then you should – get a copy for your Archos already!

The hardware is the same stuff used in the Archos Recorder 20, and the software is similar. Hopefully this will clear up most of the questions you will come up with about this model. It has a 20GB Hitachi drive inside, for storing all your music. It can record from the internal microphone, a line in port, a digital input or the FM radio. Possibilities added if using Rockbox: It can play games. It can play demos. It can use custom fonts. It can show custom song info when playing. It can load plugins. It can wake up on its own! It can automatically adjust the volume during loud or quiet passages. It can do lots!

The FM Recorder uses a USB2.0/1.1/1.0 interface (though USB2.0 is recommended personally) and you transfer files simply by dragging and dropping and copying and pasting in Windows Explorer. This opens up another door, enabling you to transfer files between computers and use it as an external hard drive. So far, that’s about a 10-in-1 device (alarm clock, recorder, mp3 player, fm tuner, external hard drive, primitive game boy…).

The FM Recorder really shows the couple flaws in the Recorder (weight and looks) and really just tops off the Archos line. This model shows that Archos is really getting into what I would call the pro-music line (for the enthusiast). It’s a great model, and it far outweighs any iPod crap. Get it. Try it. Be Happy.

I’m BACK! Hehehe! Hahahahaha! More reviews to come very soon.

Recommend this product? Yes

Amount Paid (US$): 279.99

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