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Archos' AV320 mobile media player polishes the product

Posted: 10 Jan 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:portable media player? mpeg? usb? switch fabric? motherboard?

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Riding ever-cheaper storage and slowly increasing multimedia content, the Archos AV320 is a 2G portable media player from the company that arguably created the category. The Archos AV320 was released in mid-2003, upgrading electronics, LCD screen and industrial design to smooth some of the original's rough edges.

The 20GB hard disk provides for up to 40 hours of MPEG-4 video, 300 hours of MPEG-3 music and thousands of JPEG photos. A USB 2.0 interface keeps data flowing smoothly in and out. Along with playback of downloaded content, the unit can record video source via an included input adapter, while an optional digital camera plug-on supports live still/video capture. A/V output ports allow playback over external equipment when the built-in 3.8-inch QVGA (320 x 240-pixel) LCD doesn't quite cut the mustard.

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Bottom line: Just about any sights or sounds can be grabbed, played and portedassuming a somewhat hefty box (roughly 29.35g and 20cm3) is acceptable as a mobile appliance.

Electronics for the AV320 reside primarily on a main motherboard, which supports some rather awkward hand-soldered and stress-prone connectors to an I/O daughtercard. Multimedia engine horsepower comes from a Texas Instruments TMS320DSC25 DSP, supported by SDRAM chips from ISSI and a flash device from SST. A Cypress USB 2.0-to-ATA/Atapi bridge links the USB and hard disk I/O interfaces into a common port on the TI DSP, while a spaghetti bowl of bus transceivers forms a switch fabric between various I/O storage and ports.

Consistent with moderate-volume-product expectations, custom logic comes in two plds from Atmel and Lattice, which serve for data I/O control and LCD interface, respectively. The LCD controller is from Sanyo, which also makes the tft lcd panel. Given that the AV320 lacks a touchscreen, the choice of a TI TSC2003 touchscreen controller is odd, though one would assume the device's battery-monitoring and temperature-sensor functions are the primary reason for component selection.

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Estimated cost of goods sold for the Archos AV320 is about a third of the sizable $550 retail price tag, much of it driven by LCD and hard disk rather than chips. The growing number of competitors to Archos suggests a growing market view for mobile entertainment "superboxes," but price drops and online content growth will be essential to achieve mass-market appeal.

- David Carey
Portelligent Inc.

David Carey is president of Portelligent Inc., a company which produces teardown reports and related industry research on wireless, mobile and personal electronics.

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