the Archos Gmini 220 and the Apacer Disc Steno CP-200
on a trip to Thailand and Cambodia
by Stephen Voss
Any tourist guide will tell you that now is the worst time to go because of the weather and it was certainly very hot and humid the whole time we were there. But it was made manageable with a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen and plenty of fluids. We had a fantastic trip and we brought home some great photos and experiences.
My Gadgets - Why Not a Laptop?
the Apacer Disc Steno CP-200
In Fast Burn Mode from a 512MB Lexar 32x Compact Flash card, the burn took just over 5 minutes, while in Secure Burn Mode (where the CP200 verifies that the data has been copied) it took 8 minutes, 45 seconds. Given the time difference, I always used the Fast Burn. I burned a new CD for each card, though the manual seems to suggest you can use multiple cards on the same CD, until the CD is full. I imagine that we'll eventually see a DVD version of the Apacer though I'd be wary of having thousands of images on a single disk.
Archos Gmini 220 - First Impressions
The Gmini I got had a sticker on the product manual that said "Special Offer, Photo Wallet & Recording Plug-ins Preloaded." In reading about it, I learned these plug-ins may cost money at some point but were loaded free for the time being. I'm not sure how happy I'd be about having to pay more just to load some software to activate features that were already available on the Gmini.
The OS of the Archos is well-responsive and easy to use. Copying CF cards over just takes 3 quick button pushes, and playing MP3s is just as easy. It's simple to navigate the file system on the Gmini - not dissimilar to a Windows Explorer interface. Clicking on an mp3 file will begin playing the mp3, and clicking on a picture will immediately display the grayscale preview. The interface certainly doesn't even approach the quality/usability of the iPod but it works well for what it does. I did note a slight pause if you press a button after not doing so for a while, probably due to the hard drive spinning up.
I turned off the blue backlight for my entire trip to save batteries, though the battery life seemed good overall. I charged the Gmini once on the trip at about day 5 and never had any problems. I shot about 10 gigs of images and also used the mp3 player on the plane to and from Thailand and Cambodia. Having the ability to play mp3s is one of the major advantages this player has over many of the other hard drive-based photo wallets on the market (notable exceptions being the Visonic X-Drive and the SmartDisk Flashtrax, both of which look interesting as well).
The screen on the Gmini is mediocre - it gives a grayscale low-res version of the image. This may be enough to ensure that the image copied correctly, but you certainly can't check focus or exposure with it. A color screen would be nice (as well as a Histogram and EXIF tag viewer), though I imagine this would take up significantly more battery power.
20 gigs is decent, but I'd like to have more space than this for longer trips or large photo shoots. The manual does mention a Gmini 240 that has a 40 gig drive which will presumably be out soon.
The transfer time from CF cards is unremarkable - it took 8 minutes to copy a 512MB Lexar 32Mx Compact Flash card. It'd be great to have transfer speeds comparable to the Delkin 32-bit reader.
The Compact Flash slot has a rubber covering which feels a little flimsy and is quite hard to open. A nice latched door would be a welcome addition.
the Field & Workflow
One day I backed up my images as we rode over bumpy paved and dirt roads on the way between temples of Angkor Wat. I never had a problem with the Gmini the entire time - it held up admirably.
Most days, I backed up all the images I shot at night in our guesthouse. Each card would be backed up to CD and to the Gmini. The devices would be in different places during the day, with the Gmini in my bag, and the Apacer and media in a locked suitcase in our room (usually in a closet or otherwise tucked away). This ensured that I always had at least one copy of the photos on me.
I used electrical converters to charge both devices, though I only needed to do this once about midway through the trip - and even then each device was at about half charge.
4/9/04 Update - To answer a common question I've been receiving - Canon RAW (.CRW) files can be copied over to the Gmini (and Apacer) but not displayed.
Comments are appreciated and can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos and Words Copyright © 2004 Stephen Voss