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Reviewed by: Bryan Pizzuti [06.11.02]
Manufacturer: Imation
MSRP: $250



Holding this thing in the hand feels fairly natural, though smaller hands may need to stretch a bit. Though it's wider, it's contoured along the lines of the new Palm M-Series PDAs. I'm not sure why, but it appears to be as small as it can get, from the weight...I'm fairly sure the components are packed into the device as tightly as the device was packed into the box.

The major controls are on the top, except for the eject lever, and a hold switch, which disables the top buttons (for when it's sitting in a pocket). The LCD is a 4 liner, with indicators for track title, track time, track time elapsed, play/pause, volume, battery meter, equalization mode indicator, bit rate, sample rate, and a WinAMP-inspired levels display. And yes, that almost sounds like it would be information overload, but it's arranged quite nicely and logically, as shown below.

The light at the bottom/front of the device is the standard CD-drive activity light, which shows scan, read, and write operations with different colored for writing, scanning is in orange, and green for reading. On the left side is the eject lever, as well as a backup pinhole for emergency eject. On the left is the "hold" switch, which disables the buttons on the top of the device. This is nice ergonomics and design, since these two levers can be operated with the hand holding the device, and the buttons can be pressed with the other hand, while still seeing the display. Unfortunately, the line out/microphone out switch is on the bottom of the device, which isn't very ergonomic, and probably just removes a small in-line amplifier from play.

The first order of business, according to the quick-start guide, is to charge the battery pack for 3 hours. So this would be a good time to install the software that comes with the device (as well as the drivers if you use Windows 98; anything later already has drivers built-in and will auto-install).

When I played my first mini-CD in it, my first thought was one of horror. When spinning up and doing seeks, this device is LOUD...and I don't mean the music. The seeker head can be CLEARLY heard moving around, louder than any other CD drive I had ever encountered. It can get annoying after a while, especially in shuffle mode. Luckily, the CD spinning in normal playing mode is so unobtrusive, I'm not even sure it's spinning at all (and according to the indicator light it isn't; it plays from memory).

Be prepared for a lot of trouble finding individual tracks...after all, 185 MB can hold a lot of MP3s and WMAs...about 50 or so, depending on length and bitrate. Luckily, you can arrange them as normal files and folders. Using the forward/back and volume up/down buttons, you can navigate the file system stored on the CD, subfolders and all, and pick the track you want to start with.

The RipGO organizes by alphabet starting at the root directory. So if you have 3 tracks, then a folder containing tracks, then a bunch of other tracks, then it will play the 3, then the tracks in the folder, and so on. It's good to keep in mind if you want them played in a certain order, though with so many tracks, I just like to have it shuffle, and leave it alone, which is great for those long car trips. Also, the player supports playlists, so you can choose a particular subset of songs to be played if they're scattered across folders...though this takes a lot of planning ahead. The easiest thing seems to be to organize the files you would want in a list in a specific folder, and just play the folder. If you play a single folder, by the way, the Shuffle function will shuffle just that specific folder.

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