What do you get from budget ($12) mp3 players?

11 04 2009

Pretty much what you pay for…

For several years now, I’ve been using my Tungsten Palm for listening to MP3s. I liked being able to test out a few software players, and find one that matched the features I was looking for (I used a combination of pTunes and TCPMP – I especially liked how each would hold my place, so I could pick up where I left off on more than one audio playlist).

Problem was, I went through several Palm devices, mostly because the audio jack was not cut out for extended use, and I’m no good at soldering. The most recent time I lost my MP3 capabilities, I turned for the cheapest solution I could find. I looked online, and found the least expensive 2GB player I could find in Israel (it’s actually gone up in price since I bought it). At about $12, at least I got an inexpensive 2GB stick, and if the MP3 part works too, well I’m good to go.

Here’s my rundown:

  1. Size
    At a little bit larger than my top thumb knuckle, this little sucker is a breeze to carry around without thinking (the ear-buds are the inconvenient part of this mini wonder). Since I’m used to my bulky Palm which I now leave at home most of the time, I’d say I’m ahead here. And with a street name (there’s no branding on the device whatsoever, but I did some research and found some similar looking things online) the Clip, it often stays snugly hanging off my front pocket.
  2. Storage
    It’s got the same space as the SD Card in my Palm. But not all memory is created equal. The player connects to my computer via USB, no problem, but the write speed is atrocious. I think it slows down my computer in general when it’s connected, but certainly any disc access suffers. Deleting and copying data takes at least 10X the equivalent SD transfers using my built-in card reader.
  3. Power
    I use both outlet and USB charging for both devices, but the Clip won’t let me listen while it’s plugged in. Charging goes quite quickly (15-30 minutes for a full charge), but only lasts about 2.5 hours. That means when I’m listening to my 4 hour radio shows, I get more than halfway, then I have to stop, charge, and go again.
  4. Interface
    I already told you about the software on the Palm – the Clip has no screen, and what looks like a wheel, but is actually just 5 buttons for play/pause, volume up, down, forward, and back. And since advancing forward is so common, such as when I want to skip to a track I like (click, click, click) or fast-forward (click and hold tight), that forward button is almost dead. The most frustrating part is when dealing with that forward button – if I accidentally double-click when in the middle of fast forwarding, I skip to the next track, and need to click once to go back, and hold it down all over again. And the fast forwarding is maybe 2X, so you can forget about scrolling to the end of a 4 hour show. I have to pre-slice these recordings every 10 minutes, just in case I lose my place.

After a few weeks, I feel that I already got what I paid for. Maybe I’ll splurge soon on the $25 devices with a screen and see how it goes.