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New Archos AV Portable Adds TV Time-Shifting

Irvine, Calif. — Archos plans early-July retail availability for its second-generation portable A/V recorders, said to be the first hard disk drive (HDD) portables that can be programmed to time shift TV programming when connected to a TV tuner in a home A/V system.

Archos’ AV400 series portables, initially available in 20GB and 80GB models at respective suggested retail prices of $549 and $799, come with TV docking station/recharger; built-in timer; and ability to control a TV tuner, VCR tuner or satellite receiver. With these features, consumers can time shift by manually select days and start/end times or by using a PC-downloaded Yahoo! TV Guide, which provides program listings up to a month in advance.

In contrast, Archos’ current-generation models, and an RCA HDD model, require consumers to be at the TV to begin recording a program.

Prerecorded VHS and DVDs can be transferred to the device, but the video content can’t be transferred to another device, nor can the video content be displayed on any display but the devices’ color LCD screens, said Chief Operating Officer Brad Wallace. Screen sizes are 3.5 inches and 3.8 inches, respectively.

The devices also display videos transferred from a PC, and they sport multiple audio features. They store MP3, protected-WMA and WAV music files transferred from a PC, and they encode in MP3 format from any audio source.

Improvements over the current series include size and weight. The new models are 40 percent slimmer than the current generation AV300 series models and weigh less than 10 ounces. The new models also add removable lithium-ion battery pack in lieu of an embedded battery, an external [mono] speaker, more intuitive user interface, and ability to play back DVD-quality video on a connected video display. Near-DVD quality is available in the first-generation models.

Battery life has also been extended to up to 12 hours for audio from up to 10 hours, and up to 4.5 hours for video playback from 3.5 hours, Wallace said.

In the second half, consumers could find more HDD models that store both audio and video if supporters of Microsoft’s Portable Media Center platform get their products off the ground as planned. The PMC platform, however, is PC-centric and focused on displaying video transferred from a PC.

Archos will ship its first AV400 series models to Good Guys and multiple e-tailers, including Amazon and J&R, Wallace said. Circuit City will offer it in September.