Top 10: the best portable video players
23rd Oct 2007 | 23:00
What's the best way to watch movies on the go?
What if we'd told you ten years ago that in 2007 we'd all be walking around with portable video players with colour screens and 60 gigs of storage? You'd have looked at us with the sort of contempt reserved for those idiots who shout "I'm on the bus" into their mobile phones.
If you're in the market or a portable video player (PVP) there are a number of factors to consider. First, the bigger the screen size, the better your watching experience is going to be. The flip side of this visual comfort is that the bigger devices are far less convenient to carry around.
It's also important to consider the resolution of the screen, whether the storage is HDD or solid state. And also whether you want the added extras like a digital TV tuner or recording facilities. So we've put together our top ten portable video players rundown - and it's not an Apple love-in.
10. Apple iPod nano, £129
The new batch of Apple's iPod nanos are equipped with video playing functionality for the very first time. And thus for the first time, the nano qualifies as a personal video player. Its 2-inch, 320x240 screen is not the most convenient for watching videos on. But with dinkyness comes immense portability. Not only is the nano a brilliant audio player, it's also extremely thin at just 6.5mm. That means it'll slip into almost any pocket that's not sewn shut.
9. Apple iPod classic, £159
The trump card of the iPod classic is that, with a maximum capacity of 160GB, it can store many hundreds of movies. And while the small screen might be a problem for some video purists, the classic is a brilliant MP3 player as well as a video player. This flexibility will be enough to convince many to buy it.
The main problem with all Apple iPods is that they are very limited in terms of the files they can play. Unless your videos are in H.264 or QuickTime, you'll need to use the supplied software to convert them before you can put them on the iPod. If the iPod supported every video format, this would be a no-brainer buy. Video conversion is easy, but inconvenient if you just want to copy a file and go.
8. Creative ZEN, £TBC
The new Creative ZEN has exactly the same brilliant screen at the Vision:m, but that's where the similarity ends. It's a 16GB flash player so it's light and very thin, much like Apple's iPod touch. The screen is the biggest feature, with the controls placed on a small panel on the right hand side. It trumps all three iPods in this list (as a video player) because it natively supports widely used video formats like DivX, Xvid and WMV. This looks a promising player if you're on a strict budget.
7. Archos 405, £109
The baby brother of the brand-leading Archos 605 WiFi, this is a good-value budget version of some of the more expensive models in the range. For the money, this is a very tidy little video player. It's got a 3.5 inch LCD for a start, although some will find the 320x240 screen resolution very disappointing. But really, just over a hundred quid, what do you expect?
It does support DVD-quality videos too, although the resolution of the screen obviously makes that a slightly pointless feature when travelling. You can, however, hook the Archos up to a TV and play back higher-res files that way.
6. Archos 704 WiFi, £270
The first thing you have to say about this 704 WiFi model is that it's bloody enormous. The screen measures a full 7 inches across the diagonal it has an impressive resolution of 800x480 pixels. The size and resolution aren't the only impressive things about the screen either; its touch sensitive so you can navigate through your files without having to press any actual buttons. The one drawback is that the player is 182mm wide, so it's far from being a pocketable device.
5. Sony PSP, £129
The PlayStation Portable is not only a great handheld games console, it's also a pretty handy video player too. Now available in a Slim & Lite model, it obviously plays UMD discs, as well as MP4 video files which can be read from its memory card reader. Once again, if you have videos in WMV or DivX format you'll need to convert them first but if you're after a video player with a decent screen size and resolution, why not make it a powerful games console too?
4. Apple iPod touch, £269
The iPod touch's screen is probably the most advanced in any portable device out there. It sports Apple's multi-touch touchscreen technology and its generous 3.5 inch screen has a decent resolution of 480x320 pixels. As a portable all-rounder, it's a good choice, although the 16GB of flash memory is somewhat limiting for video. Like the other iPods, most video files will need to be converted before you can play them, and that just might be the other big drawback. Other than the price of course.
3. Creative Zen Vision W, £280
You could do a lot worse than to plump for the Creative Zen Vision W. It's the big brother to the awesome Vision:m and has a 4.3 inch 480x272 colour screen. Not too big, not too small, it's available in 40 and 60GB capacities. If you're familiar with Creative reviews, look no further. It's got a composite-out plug too so you'll be able to okay your videos through your television. And it supports most open video formats like WMV and DivX.
Archos were always good at putting together portable video players. But the AV700 TV goes one step further: it's got a built-in digital TV tuner in it. That means you'll can use it to watch Freeview TV channels whilst on the move, as well as your own movie and audio files. This is an oldie PVP, and it's a bit pricey compared to its rivals. But when you think how much the a portable TV would cost separately, if you want the flexibility of both, the AV700 TV is still well worth it.
1. Archos 605 WiFi, £199
Top of our PVP tree, the Archos 605 WiFi is simply brilliant in every way. It looks great, it feels great. It's not too big, it's not too small. Hell, it even smells nice. It's 4.3 inch screen kicks all comers to the curb thanks to the ridiculously good 800x480 pixel resolution. Providing your videos are good enough, they'll look absolutely magic on it.
Like many of Archos' PVPs, the 605 is Wi-Fi enabled so you can load it up with your videos without even having to plug it into your PC. It'll also support practically any video format out there. Right now, it's the finest portable video player you'll find on the market.