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Portable storage dEvices are growing in popularity, fueled by memory-intensive 6MP-8MP digital cameras and larger RAW file formats. But why settle for a plain vanilla backup device when you get so much more with the Archos AV400-series Pocket Video Recorder? This multifunction device is compact (only 5×3.2×0.8 inches), includes a CF slot for copying image files from memory cards to its internal hard drive (the AV420 shown, $499 street, has a 20GB drive; 40GB-100GB models also available), and sports a QVGA-resolution, 3.5-inch LCD monitor that lets you show off your favorite JPEG or BMP photos in style. To reach an even larger audience, you can place the AV420 in the included TV Cradle, hook it directly to a TV or projector, and run a digital slide show.

In still-image playback mode, you can also zoom in and rotate images on the display screen. But the AV420 rises above the pack with its built-in, programmable, MPEG-4 digital video player and recorder. It can be set to control your VCR, cable box, or satellite receiver using an included IR cable connector and acts just like a pocket TIVO-recording TV shows directly to MPEG-4 format in a variety of screen formats and settings-even while you’re away.

The AV420’s advanced MP3 music player lets you listen to MP3, WMA, and WAV music tracks, and the audio recorder lets you convert your favorite analog music from records, CDs, or FM radio into stereo WAV audio files. Attach the AV420 to any modern PC or Mac computer via its Hi-Speed USB 2.0 connector, and it automatically appears as a hard drive, so you can download MP3 files from the Internet, or copy and paste video, photos, and data onto the hard drive.

Archos claims that the AV420’s rechargeable lithium ion battery has enough power to play back four hours of video and sound, 12 hours of MP3 music, and display hundreds of still-photos. It also charges in its cradle.

With all of these features, it may be time to trade in your Apple iPod for something with more visual appeal.

For info: www.archos.com.