Archos launches modular MP3 player

Plus: O2 names the XDA II release date

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MP3 Players

Archos has introduced a pair of portable music players that can be customised to better reflect the user's needs. One of them, the Gmini 220, is the world's smallest player with a 20GB hard drive, Archos claimed.

The Gmini 120 and 220 essentially allow the user to bolt on a series of accessory modules, including a voice recorder (including a built-in microphone), a photo viewer (essentially a memory card adaptor), music composition software and an FM radio receiver. The idea is that buyers can pay for the features they want rather than fork out for functionality they don't need.

Archos is also providing the players with a new icon-based user interface which can be customised too. The UI allows users to manage songs on the device without having to connect it to a host computer.

The Gmini 220 weighs just 170g (6oz), which is actually fractionally more than the 20GB iPod. Archos did not provide other dimensions for the device top back up its 'world's smallest' claim. However, we'll find out when the 220 ships next month.

The Gmini 120 is available today, and apparently contains a 20GB hard drive too, but not as compact a model as the one in the 220. Archos said the difference between the two Gminis is form-factor and screen size. The 220 is smaller and has a 2.5in blue-backlit greyscale LCD. Archos didn't specify the 120's screen size. Both players offer MP3 and WMA recording and playback, and work with Windows and the Mac OS.

The 120 costs $250, the 220 $350. The latter comes with all the available accessory modules bundled - 120 owners will have to buy them separately. The voice recorder costs $20, the 'Photo Wallet' $30, the MadWaves Interactive Music Composer $10 and the FM Remote Control $40.

Wireless PDA

Cellular network provider O2 will launch its second-generation wireless Pocket PC, the XDA II, on 1 November, the company said today.

The device was launched earlier this year, but until now, the company has not said when it will offer the product to customers.

The XDA II is based on a faster, 400MHz Intel XScale PXA263 processor and contains 128MB of SDRAM - twice that of the original XDA - and 64MB of Flash ROM. It has a 3.5in 16-bit colour transflective LCD screen. The device runs Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC, tweaked to add voice telephony features. As a phone, the XDA II is a tri-band GSM handset with GPRS support for data.

In addition to the new OS, the XDA II incorporates a 640 x 480 digicam and supports multimedia messaging - both missing from the first XDA, as was Bluetooth, now included. The new model also sports a removable battery and an SD/MMC card slot.

Having seen the XDA II, we can report it is a big improvement over the original.

O2 will initially offer the XDA II in the UK for £349, including sales tax and 12 months' subscription fees. O2 quotes a battery life of up to five hours talk time, and 180 hours standby time. ®

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