Roughly the size of a large paperback book, with big, bright screens and excellent picture quality, and available in a range of compact, aesthetically pleasing designs, portable media players are “the next big thing” in digital technology.
One of the most important features of video device is the size of the screen; the screen must be large enough to allow digital images to be displayed to their maximum potential, and to accommodate a practical user interface.
Portable media players typically have screen sizes of between two and four inches (as in the case of TV screens, it is customary to take a diagonal measurement), but some larger models, with screen sizes of up to eight inches, are available.
Larger screens are usually, but not necessarily, better – brightness, resolution (in particular), contrast ratio and viewing angle are all important considerations.
The Archos 604 30Gb model, for example, features a features a 4.3 inch, LCD screen, which allows particularly easy navigation.
Portable media players are, basically, of two different types – flash memory or hard disk.
Flash memory players are the smaller of the two, with typical storage capacities of 1 or 2 Gb, although many have the facility to extend the capacity by adding memory expansion cards. One of the great advantages of this type of player is that it has no moving parts, and is therefore suitable for use during physical activity.
Hard disk players, on the other hand, are very much like hard disk MP3 players, and have typical storage capacities of, perhaps, 20 or 30 Gb, although some huge capacity, advanced models (80 Gb, or even 160 Gb, is not uncommon) are available at the higher end of the market. The Archos 504 80 Gb model is an example of this latter type, with capacity for 20,000 music tracks, or over 200 feature length movies.
Battery Life and Charging
If you are going to be using a portable media player away from home – which, after all, is the whole idea – you will need it to offer adequate playing time.
Flash memory players require less battery power, and generally operate quite satisfactorily on standard AA, or AAA batteries, although some do have the option of rechargeable batteries.
Hard disk players are usually supplied with rechargeable, lithium batteries, and some have the option for faster recharging, via a USB 2.0 cable. The Archos 404 30 Gb model, for example, offers typical playback times of 12 hours for music, and 4 hours for video.
Increased power consumption and the accommodation of a screen make portable media players slightly larger and heavier than an average MP3 player, but not enough to be of any great concern. The technology is still emerging, so make sure that you shop around for the player with the features and functionality that are right for you.