The Archos Multimedia Jukebox blurs the line among portable audio players, digital imaging products and personal video recorders. Enabled by mobile-friendly mass storage and purpose-built multimedia ASICs, the Jukebox speaks to a future of multimedia digital vaults while displaying a few quirks inherent to low-cost manufacturing.
From a common hard-disk platform, the Archos Jukebox is capable of capture, storage and playback of MP3 audio and JPEG still images along with playback of MP4/DivX movies at a modest CIF (352 x 288-pixel) resolution. Housed in a 110 x 78 x 28-mm enclosure and weighing 290 grams, it's highly portable, though not exactly pocketable.
A Texas Instruments TMS320DSC-21, a dedicated digital-imaging DSP engine, handles coding and decoding for MP3, MPEG-4 and JPEG. An external camera option for the Archos presses the TI part into additional service for still and video acquisition.A Micronas MAS3587 audio chip supports audio interface functions, while flash storage from SST and SDRAM from ISSI constitute system memory. An Atmel CPLD device takes care of controller and interface duties, and an Epson part implements the LCD interface. A cluster of bidirectional bus interface chips creates flexible data paths among external memory cards, the internal hard drive and the primary electronics. The Jukebox model analyzed for this column used Hitachi's 20-Gbyte ATA100, a 2.5-inch notebook hard disk.
Sporting a metal base, heavy plastic top case and hard-rubber reinforced corners, the Archos Multimedia Jukebox 20 takes on an outward appearance of ruggedized construction. But a peek inside revealed that the backlight/diffuser and LCD panel were simply piled up on the mainboard, secured with tape and held in alignment by a gasket on the display window. Space between the mainboard and the hard drive provided a channel in which two 1,100-mA-hr lithium-ion prismatic cells resided. A complex set of hand-soldered header connector blocks was used for vertical interconnect among the mainboard, hard drive and external interface connector.
Estimated cost of goods sold (COGS) for the Archos Multimedia Jukebox 20, including accessories but absent the hard drive, was around $100. The 20-Gbyte drive bumps the total COGS to nearer $160 at the time of writing. It would appear that the hard drive has plowed over all competitors when it comes to cheap, deep, rewritable storage. Neither semiconductors nor optical drives can yet compete with it as a place to put your collection of movies, pictures and music in a palm-size box.
David Carey is president of portelligent (www.teardown.com). the austin, texas, company produces reports and research on mobile, wireless and personal electronics systems.
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