Review (January 2007) - PocketDISH
The PocketDISH AV700E initially caught our eye when we found out that it could be used to download video content from our Dish Network ViP622 DVR and take it on the road, all without being charged extra for downloading the content. Over the past few months we have become addicted to our ViP622, which allows us to easily record any standard or high definition program we subscribe to using the program guide. With so many business trips lined up this year, it was nice to know that the some of my favorite programs could be viewed whether it be on a plane or while sitting in my hotel room. With the exception of high-definition (HD) content, the AV700E could download any show stored on my ViP622 and it is all done with a simple to use interface. It would be great if in the future there is a way to convert the HD content to the player, but we have not heard of anything in the works.
However, the AV700E is more than just a video player for the Dish Network DVR. It also has the ability to record and/or playback video content through the analog cables as well as play video clips from other sources when converted to MPEG4 files using the included translator software. The AV700E can also record and/or playback audio files. The unit supports MP3, WMA and WAV music files. Photos can also be downloaded and displayed. There are even games available on the AV700E. The ones included have limited capabilities, yet can be upgraded to the full versions for a fee.
The AV700E is designed and manufactured by Archos, a company well known for its portable media devices. The unit weighs a substantial 21 ounces (almost 1-1/2 pounds), and measures 4.2" x 8.2" x 0.8" (HxWxD). It is not light by any means, but certainly manageable for carry-on luggage. Some may choose the smaller AV500E or AV300E, which offer a smaller size, smaller storage capacity and are less costly. The large 7" LCD screen on the AV700E takes up most of the surface area of the unit with the remainder occupied by navigation and control buttons and a pair of small built-in speakers. The AV700E is a solid unit with an attractive brushed silver metal chassis. It is easy for the unit to slip out of your hands, so care must be taken when removing it from the carrying pouch. The IR remote included with the AV700E makes operating the unit much easier since dedicated buttons are available for volume and mute control.
The back of the AV700E has a rigid kick-stand that keeps the unit at a convenient viewing angle. This works well on airplanes when the tray table is flipped down or on an office table. Also located on the back is the 3.7-volt Li-Ion-Polymer battery pack. The battery has six contacts that mates to the unit and then locks into place with the side lever. The charging indicator on the front of the unit will illuminate when charging starts and flash once the battery is fully charged, which can take up to four hours. The high capacity battery provides the AV700E with up to 4 hours of video viewing time or up to 12 hours of audio playback time depending how much the user uses the LCD screen. Our screen was set to time out and blank after 30-seconds of no use. This is an adjustable parameter in the Setup menu.
Several PC applications are resident on the hard drive of the AV700E including a utility for translating video files to MPEG4 for PocketDISH compatibility. The Archos MPEG4 software requires the VirtualDub and the DivX codec to be properly installed in order for it to operate. All our original videos required the MPEG4 translation before they could be played on the AV700E.
The Setup menu allows the user to control several system parameters including Display (Language, TV settings and Video output), Appearance (Look and feel of the screen menus), PlayMode (How to play the audio and video files), Sound (Equalization and Balance), Clock, Power (Backlight, Hard drive and standby times), Locks (Movie ratings and passwords), and System (Firmware versions and available hard drive space). The unit we received had the latest firmware revision (Version 1.1.60) found at the Archos website.
The AudioCorder is used to record from an analog audio source. The screen displays the audio filename, destination folder, file format, audio source, and sampling rate. The user can specify the filename and choose PCM or ADPCM WAV data format with sample rates of 16kHz, 22.05kHz, 24kHz, 32kHz, 44.1kHz or 48kHz.
Similar to the AudioCorder, the VideoCorder is used to capture video content from analog sources. We found out the hard way that power to the docking station is required when capturing analog video. The AV700E will not detect a video signal until external power is applied to the DC input jack. Once video is detected, the user can adjust a variety of video parameters including brightness, contrast, color and hue. The user can also select the aspect ratio (4:3 5:3, 16:9, 2.35:1, or auto) of the incoming video. This will determine how the video is displayed on the screen of the AV700E. The catch is that the video must be played from the source as if it were intended to be displayed on a 4:3 TV. Interestingly enough, the AV700E has a very wide aspect ratio close to 2.35:1. Video compression is also adjustable from 500kb/s to 2500 kb/s. The tradeoff here is less space on the hard drive versus better picture quality. The audio level can be adjusted from the source while viewing the real-time VU meters.
The AV700E can also be used to transfer files from a mass storage device such as a digital camera or flash memory. However, we didn't have much success when we tried it with our two digital cameras (FujiFilm S602Zoom and Kodak v530) and received an error message on the AV700E. We were able to use our laptop computer to transfer images to the AV700E with no problems at all.
Transferring video content from the ViP622 DVR to the AV700E is simple with the on-screen interface. The AV700E connects to the DVR using the USB-B cable provided with the unit. Once connected, the ViP622 issues a pop-up on the screen to the user for content management. Under the My Recordings section of the ViP622, the user can select what recordings to download into the AV700E. The screen displays both the available capacity in the AV700E as well as the size of the selected content to be transferred. Once the content is selected, the user presses the Send Video button and the transfer begins. The transfer time takes approximately 5 minutes for every hour of video content sent though the USB 2.0 interface.
The video programs downloaded from the DVR into the AV700E use a DPD file extension, which according to Dish Network incorporates data encryption to protect the content. File size averages approximately one gigabyte for each hour recorded. The AV700E holds the largest amount of data (up to 40-hours of video from the ViP622 DVR) with its 40GB hard drive, so it is unlikely you will run out of material to watch on that next business trip. Since the 40GB drive is shared with other media such as music and photos, the available drive space for video will vary depending upon how much other media is stored on the player.
Audio playback offers a rich display of data including cover art and complete track information of the artist and album being played. The artist, album and song names are displayed on the screen along with the current track time, remaining track time and total track time. A progressive bar shows the relative track time and the volume bar show the volume level setting. There is also a set of VU meters that display the output level of the audio in real-time.
The photo viewer accepts BMP and JPG (except progressive) files. This is a simple and convenient way to show off your photos to family and friends. Due to the limited resolution of the AV700E display, there is really no benefit to having a high resolution source files. We recommend using images no better than 640x480 to save substantial space on the hard drive. We could not tell the difference between a source file having 640x480 or 800x600 with this player.
Priced at $399, the AV700E is easy to operate and has an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) for selecting the modes of operation. The included IR remote greatly simplifies the operation of the AV700E when it is being used as a media player. The unit can also be connected to a larger display when traveling as long as you are willing to bring the docking station and the associated A/V cables. Even though the screen size is a 7" widescreen display, we found the resolution to be somewhat limited, but certainly not objectionable. The wide horizontal viewing angle allows more than one person to watch the screen if needed. In our case, our two young children can both see the picture without a problem and the 7" screen is a huge benefit. The comprehensive set of cables and the docking station included with the AV700E completely take advantage of the features this unit has to offer and doesn't require the user to purchase additional accessories. This is one of those products that spoils you so much that once you have it, you will justify keeping it.
- Kevin Nakano
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