I was not living up to my reputation as a technogeek recently, so I went ahead and got myself one of these:
It’s the Archos 605 WiFi media player, which is basically what an iPod Touch would be if you pumped it full of steroids and took away a lot of its sexy. What it has in common with the iPod Touch is a touch screen, the ability to play music and movies, show pictures and to surf the Web via wifi. What it offers as a premium is significantly better screen resolution (800×480, which is the same resolution as your average TV), a Web browser that can play Flash, a tiny onboard speaker, the ability to stream music and video off your home network, and 160GB of memory, which is 10 friggin’ times what the most expensive iPod Touch offers, for pretty much the exact same price. And — get this — if you spring for a couple of accessories, it turns into a full-fledged DVR. Wacky.
What you don’t get is the multitouch screen (it’s merely single touch), that swoopy thing the iPod Touch does when you turn it, Apple’s general one-touch ease of use, or, of course, the immediate “oh God it’s so hot” technolust thing people get with iPods. I can live with that, however, since the practical benefits to the Archos 605 are self-evident, and I’m enough of a geek that I don’t mind drilling down an extra interface level to play a song. No, it’s not as sexy as an iPod Touch. But I think of it a little bit like the plain Jane who isn’t arm candy, but has a good personality and a nice laugh and then goes home with you and rocks your world.
Which is not to say I wasn’t tempted by the iPod Touch. We got one for my niece recently and before we gave it to her I played with it, ostensibly to stuff it full of music and a couple of movies so she could have fun with it out of the box, but really so I could see if I wanted one for myself. And it is indeed a sweet device, and I indeed wanted one. But before I could stampede headlong to Amazon to buy one myself, I started enumerating the issues: the most memory it has is 16GB, you’re locked into the iTunes closed ecosystem (a problem for me, since I have a Rhapsody subscription), every stupid goateed art-dick has an iPod, and etc. Fact is, at the end of the day, no matter how cool and stylish every Apple product is, I sort of resent that they all drive you to suckle exclusively at Steve Job’s hairy manteat.
The Archos solves that problem for me. It’s not as aesthetically pleasing as an Apple product, but it’s a hell of a lot more open, and I can do more with it without having to bow towards Cupertino every time I switch the damn thing on. And it makes me feel geek-smart. The Archos 605 is not a media player for hoi polloi; you’ve got to have at least a smidgen of geek skillz to get the most of it. This pretty much condemns Archos to scrabbling after Apple’s scraps, market share-wise, but I suspect there are enough people like me out there for them to get along fine.
Anyway, that’s the new toy. Fear my geekitude, y’all.