back to article Ten... sub-£150 PMPs

Budget PMPs are the missing link between a high-end video job and a standard MP3 player. With modern devices so advanced, some would class these PMPs as cell-phones without the option to call, a view I generally shared. However, without the distraction of ringtones and txt msgs, they have space to focus on getting the rest …

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Silver badge

All these toys

doing more or less the same thing - pmp, phone, ipad

What I want is to pay for my portable PC once, only once and not have to pay two or three times for the same drm'ed music to be copied amongst them and listed by the same ears.

One Life, One Pocket!

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Unhappy

Wot No FLAC?

I think the likes of Sony et al that don't include FLAC should have 10% deducted from their ratings.

It's strange (or is it?) how the old school big money boys like to exclude free codecs from their players.

Deduct from their ratings and if that affects their sales then maybe they'll grow up!

FLAC - what's not to like - a taggable, lossless compression, CD quality file format.

Boo to Sony - I won't buy any player that doesn't support FLAC.

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I guess it means

that they don't have any nerds who care that much about such things bringing down their brand name :)

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FLAC

Agreed - I was thinking of upgrading my excellent and cheap Fuze at some point and the Sony looked good, but lack of FLAC support kills it for me.

The old version of the Fuze is better than the new one - that's why I was conidering jumping ship - that crappy 'touch' interface bandwagon is one I want no part of: with my Fuze's mechanical wheel, I leave it in my pocket and can navigate next and previous tracks, pause/play and adjust the volume with a single thumb. None of the touch-screen/touch button interfaces allow this.

Sometimes older and crappier is much better!

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Silver badge

Audio quality

Is it just me who thinks the primary function of an MP3 player is to play music/other audio (actually I listen to a lot of Audio books - but that is another matter).

I would have thought that the sound quality of the player and also the supplied headphones should be the main thing when selecting a player. So why so little about it in the review? The iPod review doesn't even mention the sound quality.

The other key issue, to me, is how easily you can load content. To me, ease of use here is that the player just shows up as a disk on my computer and I can just copy over the files without out having to dance through any moronic manufacture s**t program that thinks it knows what it is doing.

On the subject of playing audio books, I can't find a modern player that isn't a total PITA, my ancient 4GB MuVo2 just uses the filename so is easy to merge 30CDs worth of story into one folder and just play it without having to phaph about changing albums or building playlists. All the new ones want to use MP3 tags which are so much more of a pain to edit particularly when there might be 1700+ tracks. Unless someone can point me a tool that will auto rewrite the track numbers.

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iPod

"The iPod review doesn't even mention the sound quality."

That would be against the Apple NDA that journalists have to sign when they get a review copy.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: iPod

There is no such NDA.

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Anonymous Coward

Tag'n'Rename

Been using it for a couple of years - has very handy "take filename and create IDv3 tags using mask" option (and visa versa).

One thing I don't get is the step back in technology we seem to have in .mp3 players.

I remember with fondness my old Sony Mini-Disc portable (third portable MD I had iirc - possibly called an MZ-N10 without looking it up) which had a handy desktop dock to sync up to the PC and charge (though horrible software and you could only "checkout" a track to three mini-discs, thank god those days are over...oh..), an inline "remote" with display so you could skip to the track you wanted without getting it out of your pocket (dropped and killed a Creative Zen VisionM with that, hd it in a case but the drop killed the disc drive :( ) and probably the best thing, a bolt on AA battery compartment - it's sleek finish not ruined by having to fit a battery compartment but also giving you the option to resort to the trusty duracells when you run out of charge on its onboard li-ion cell and are away from a socket.

In fact I may go and dust it down and see if I can find some of my old "tapes" to listen to :D

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Jobs Horns

Re: "There is no such NDA."

Second clause of the Apple NDA: "Always deny the existence of the NDA".

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Sansa Fuze+

They've dropped the timed FM recording that the original Fuze has, and have not implemented folder navigation even though they provided that on the Clip+. The touch interface got a serious kicking on the Sansa site forum, although nearly all the critical messages have now been removed.

I can't see any advantage over the original Fuze, and won't be buying one.

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Double A

Any of these that take AA or AAA batteries? I only ask as I'm about to embark on a two week trip without access to mains electricity, but very likely access to a store selling batteries...

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Anonymous Coward

PowerMonkey

I got the PowerMonkey Explorer (monkey & solar attachment) and didn't have to plug my camera, phone or ereader into a mains charger for three weeks in Florida. Check it out.

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Grenade

whats the point?

seriously, whats the oint with these devices? they are mobile phone form factor/size and yet they can just play video and audio.

my smartphone does that - and a whoel lot more too. AND it was less than 150 quid.

I really cant see the future for these devices - as i said, smartphones do all of this - and have 3.5 or 4 inch screens, OMLED , can play all kinds of formats.... or you get an App installed which does more. and he prices of such devices are coming down. eg ZTE Blade - under 100 quid for Android phone

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Battery Life

The main reason I go to work with my Creative Zen in my ears and my Desire Z in my pocket.

Yes the 16GB MicroSD card in it can hold many tunes but when the bus or trains balls up I can still make a call and glad I didn't lose out because of my love of loud metal..

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Stop

But...

"However, without the distraction of ringtones and txt msgs, they have space to focus on getting the rest right and your phone doesn't suffer from a low battery life."

But now you have twice as many things to carry around and clutter up the house with chargers for. Also, the reason I've not had a PMP or MP3 player since I got a phone which could play music (I still have a Neuros III in the basement somewhere, my last one) - if you're using a separate player, when your phone rings, you have to get player out of pocket, pause player, remove earphones, get phone out of pocket, answer phone, finish conversation, hang up phone, put phone in pocket, put earphones back in ears, unpause player, return player to pocket.

If you use a phone with a headset, your music pauses, you press a button on the headset, finish your call, and your music unpauses.

I'm really not dealing with that bloody faffing about.

Someone once very briefly made a range of PMPs with bluetooth support so you could pair them with your phone and get the convenience you get if you just use your phone to listen to music. But then you lose battery life on both phone and player by having Bluetooth turned on all the time.

Really, it's a lot less hassle to just use a phone with good music/video (if you care about video) capabilities.

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Silver badge

Depends what you're using it for.

While your argument that two separate devices is a faff when they both live in a pocket and music is listened to on headphones makes sense, that usage pattern doesn't fit everyone.

For example, my mp3 player is mostly used in the car. This is somewhere where I'm unlikely to answer a phone call, and even if I did pressing the power button on the car stereo isn't much hassle (and exactly the same as if I'm listening to the radio or a CD I've not yet ripped).

Alternatively I might use it as for background music at a party (not letting drunk guests near the computer!). If my phone rings then I certainly don't want music pausing automatically, I want to be able to give lost late guests directions without pissing off the ones who've already arrived.

Then there are times when all I want with me is the phone because I'm somewhere where there is already music. On those occasions I'd much rather have a small dumb phone, not a relatively big smartphone.

There might even be times when I want music, but not to be interrupted by calls. Its much easier to switch your phone off and leave the mp3 player on when they're separate devices.

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mostly fair points

mostly fair points...I don't drive, so that one's out, and I have an HTPC with all my music ever loaded into it (and a big, dumb remote control) for parties. I want a big smartphone with me even if I'm not using it to listen to music so I can work...alright, so I can read El Reg...and use Google Maps, without which I'd permanently be getting lost somewhere in Kazakhstan.

"Its much easier to switch your phone off and leave the mp3 player on when they're separate devices."

That one I'm not going to give you, because it's *really easy* to do this on any modern phone I've seen: it's called flight mode, and it's usually about two button presses. Because, hey, you need it when you're on a plane.

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Fair point

I'd forgot flight mode.

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FAIL

Now hold on just a minute...

That's rather an unfair slating of the Cowon iAudio 9, and in some instances inconsistent with the "reviews" of some of the other devices.

I realise some of this is subjective opinion, but...

> The casing is extremely lightweight

Being light means it doesn't disconnect from my earphone lead under the force of gravity. Whilst it's not the usual mode of operation, this is a /good/ thing.

> The diagonal-scrolling menu system is illogical.

The diagonal orientation gives a longer swipe than up/down or left/right would. The direction you swipe on the front panel is the same direction the cursor moves. Illogical how exactly? Compared with running your thumb around a donut to move up and down?

> EQ settings bring a needed oomph to the audio, which is mild without the bass boost

Do you want it to apply an artificial bass boost as default, with more EQ on top or play the audio as the artist intended and offer myriad EQ options you can use or not as per your whim?

> [audio is] average at best

Absolutely not the case. Tried some decent earphones?

> This becomes irrelevant when you use the built-in speaker, which rivals the irritating noise of a hungry mosquito.

What were you expecting? At least it has a speaker, unlike most (all?) of the rest. Useful for playback of voice recorded directly onto the device. Oh, didn't you mention that?

> Limited file support

Audio support WMA, MP3, Flac, Ogg, Ape, Wav

Video support Xvid, WMV

Limited to every popular codec except Apple's DRM nonsense. Is that what you were trying to say? Needless to say this device isn't aimed at iTunes users.

> video remains a predictably poor option on its 2in screen

Not an option at all on the Nano you reviewed, you even griped a little about it's lack of inclusion. Doesn't seem like you're happy either way.

> To top it off there’s no memory card expansion

A feature present in very few devices (when buying recently, I looked ... hard) so hardly a fair "down mark" for any of them.

> It’s poor value for money really

£100 delivered for a 16GB on a popular specialist site. Oh wait a second, it's the same one you've linked to in the article.

> for that price I’d expect something with a more robust feel.

Doesn't feel remotely tatty to me. Are you basing this solely on weight? Just tape a pound coin to the back. Bling.

Oh and as you also failed to mention it, the battery life is great. Not timed it end-to-end, but I managed a 8 hour journey on <25%.

And a built in FM radio. Which you can record from.

And a picture viewer.

And Flash support (though I've not tried it).

And a text file reader.

And it mounts as a mass storage device.

Did you actually use the thing for more than 5 minutes before launching into this invective?

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OK, what about

The PSP? Yeah, i know, its primarily a games machine BUT, it plays superb video, has a browser, has mp3 player, photo viewer etc etc.

In every respect its a PMP.

And when "unlocked" is even better...

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Getting it right

"However, without the distraction of ringtones and txt msgs, they have space to focus on getting the rest right and your phone doesn't suffer from a low battery life."

If manufacturers put a decent sized battery in their phones (say, about the size of a standalone MP3 player) then my newly chunkier phone would still be far easier to carry around than two separate devices. Then I'd be able to ring people *and* listen to music without fear of my battery running out.

They could even use the extra thickness in the case to fit in a decent compact camera lens. Genius or what? Honestly, convergence of these devices is the way forward. They share so many components in common (processor, screen, storage...) that I'd feel stupid carrying around more than one device.

If only these companies would do their job and create one device that did everything *well*. It's almost like they *want* us to carry on buying lots of expensive gadgets...

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ZTE Blade (orange SF)

Blade FTW. Stick an 8/16GB micro SD in it, Stick a T-mobile £20 for 6month internet SIM, switch on Aeroplane mode, use it as a sexy OLED screened pocketable PMP with good battery life.... and added emergency internet access whenever you get bored watching films or playing Android games.

Install a Modaco Froyo ROM and take advantage of wireless tether when you do have your laptop travelling with you.

£99 + £10 Orange SIM (punt on ebay at cost), + Free T-Mobile sim + £20 top up coverted to data, +£15 on an 8GB Micro SD = Pocketable PMP+ for at most £144.

Or stick with Orange and you get £10 credit + 4gb Micro SD bundled = £190 until you can afford to upgrade.

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Re: the blade

The blade doesn't make a good music player.

Sound quality - not exactly good. It has a regular "pause" or break in the playback. Video playback is extremely bad - if you shut down absolutely all non-essential background processes it can sometimes just about cope with xvid playback.

Good battery life? If you use it as intended it doesn't last more than a day.

Gaming on the blade? It can't even cope with Angry birds. 600mHz on Android is just too slow.

Despite those gripes, its still darned good value for money.

Oh, and the latest variants don't use an OLED display - they just use a regular TFT (price cutting)

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Anonymous Coward

the ipod....

..... doesn't even have an off switch. So the battery will undoubtedly always be flat as a pancake when the missus attempts to fire hers up next time she catches a train......

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Happy

iPods, Androids and chinese PMPs

To be fair to the iPods, they have stunning battery life, and even without an off switch, they can last for weeks when left in a drawer - I've left my iPod Touch sitting next to the bed for over a month with it still holding a charge.

Regarding the Orange San Francisco (aka Blade): it is a very smart piece of kit - I had one for a month or so before migrating onto the HTC Desire HD - the bigger screen makes it better for ebook reading. And while the battery life isn't great as a phone, it does last for ages if you take the sim card out and use it as a PDA - after switching to the HTC, I left the SF in a bag for over a week without the sim in, and the battery levels barely twitched.

Anyhoo: personally, I'm using a 32gb iPod Touch as a music player (partly because it's got huge storage and I can hook it up to the car stereo via bluetooth) and the HTC as an ebook reader - with around 2 hours a day reading on the train, the HTC can justabout last a day before needing a charge.

However... if I was looking at a sub-150 PMP, I'd be looking to China - for instance, I picked up an Ainol V8000 device a while ago. 5", 800*480 screen, plays pretty much any video format under the sun, 8GB internal memory (and can take up to 32gb micro-SD), supports up to 1080p video *and* has both HDMI and component output. Plus the speaker quality is reasonable and the battery life is pretty good - I've left it playing music overnight several times without draining it to nothing.

(advice to anyone who does buy one though: suspend mode appears to simply turn the screen off; it'll still lose about 20% charge every day unless physically switched off)

At the time, I think it cost around £100 from a UK seller on Ebay: now, a similar model looks to be down to about £80 and an upgraded, touchscreen-capable model clocks in at £105! All told, the Ainol range absolutely pwns the reviewed models on both price and features...

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