May 12, 2009 When it comes to ultra-compact portable music players, for many the choice "du jour" has been the ubiquitous iPod Shuffle. Apple’s minute MP3 players have consistently offered an attractive price point and ever diminishing size with each generation of Shuffle, which has allowed the pocket player to claim the lion’s share of the market. Here to give them a run for their money is the Archos 2 portable music player, which packs a punch with size, specs and price.

While bigger in size than the latest-release Shuffle, the Archos 2 still fits comfortably in the palm (84mm x 41mm) and manages to cram an impressive list of features into its tiny frame. Not the least of these is a memory capacity of either 8GB or 16GB, with a MicroSD card slot allowing further expansion.

One gripe many have had with the Shuffle is the lack of a screen to navigate music choices, although Apple understandably did away with the screen to build a smaller product. The larger storage capacity of the Archos 2 really necessitates a screen to browse content on its 1.8-inch color display (with 128 x 160 pixel resolution).

As well as the now fairly standard ability to view photos and video, the Archos 2 has at least one point of difference. It has an in-built microphone. As well, it is compatible with lyric–display software and runs for 10 hours on a single charge.

However, where the Archos 2 really tackle Apple's product is on price. The 8G model retails for about US$60 – very competitive when considering that the latest generation 4G iPod Shuffle sells for almost US$80. For the consumer, it comes down to a question of size or specs?

More information is available on the Archos website.

Mike Webb

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