All In One = 4 in 1
We tested all four modes of the All In One unit which include
We'll get the two easy ones out of the way first. As a USB Pocket Drive/Media Card Reader, the All In One unit performed exactly as expected. When plugged into a computer running Windows XP it was automatically picked up at two removable drives, one for the internal 128MB and one for the expansion SD/MMC memory slot. Transfer rates were only at USB 1.1 spec (950Kbps/520Kbps) but ran without any problems.
If we wanted a simple USB flash drive though we'd save our money and pick up a smaller key drive. The advantage of the All In One unit is that it also doubles as an MP3 player and voice recorder, so lets check out these two features.
Here's where things really start to go downhill. As an MP3 payer, this unit is basically up to par with one I bought five years ago when they were first being released. Navigation itself is easy enough using the basic stop, play, fast forward and rewind buttons, however the unit lacks pretty much anything beyond the very basic MP3 file playing function.
As you can see the LCD display is basic at best. You are shown the track number and track time and that's pretty much it. The LCD itself is not incredibly bright, but is adequate. There is also a faint light backlight which can be used for darker lighting conditions.
Back to the basic display though, needless to say the unit does not support ID3 tags. Also the unit does not support any other file extensions other than MP3, neither does it support subdirectory navigation. Also, no matter how files are copied onto the device, files will always be played in alphabetical order.
In short, the device plays MP3 files, and that's it. Unfortunately though it doens't even do that well.
Say hello to the worst pair of earbuds EVER! Listening to and MP3 using these earbuds allowed me to understand what music was like back in the age of the victrolla. Tin-y, Echo-y, and basically all around brutal. No matter which of the 5 EQ modes I selected (Normal, Classic, Rock, Jazz and Pop) things still sounded like crap. Thinking that there was no way a unit claiming "High Quality Playback" (32Kbps to 320Kbps) could sound this badly I switched over to a pair of decent headphones and relieved to discover that were are in fact still living in the digital age, and that portable audio playback can in fact be crystal clear.
Just as another quick knock on the earbuds which helped garner them worst ever. Notice the little circle at the base where the input tip is in the right hand photo. When I first say this, I though, "Hey, what a great idea, a retractable cord". Nope...wrong, it's just a bulky little circle used for tranforming from an regular audio cord to a braided audio cord. Also note that the ear buds are very short at around 3 feet completely stretched out, so if you're taller than five foot five, don't expect to be able to place the unit anywhere other than a breast pocket comfortaby.
Although Voice Recording is a feature included in many portable devices such as cell phones and PDAs, it is also one of the least used functions on most of these units. Many manufacturers I'm sure just throw it in as a feature because they can, and well, 4 in 1 just sounds so much better than 3 in 1 doesn't it?
In terms of actual voice recording, the LCD display is again quite basic displaying the recording number and the recording time elapsed. Playback of recorded files looks exactly the same.
The recording quality is what you would expect from any analog unit and is acceptable, however only if the units microphone is placed directly next to the recorded source, meaning you pretty much have to eat the thing for it the recorded audio to be understandable. This shouldn't be a problem for those who like to constantly record "notes to self", however recording meetings, lectures or concerts is pretty much out of the question.
Well, what more can I say. We here at HCW always endevour to give a fair and honest review to every piece of hardware that comes accross our test bench. It's unfortunate that every now and then we're given a real stinker to review and as is our policy we have to let you, the consumer, know just how bad things really are. The good news is that Geoff hasn't been getting much for good eatings lately so this should help him make it through the long Canadian winter.
As a Pocket Drive and SD/MMC Card reader the unit performs well, although slow at USB 1.1 speeds. However it really falls flat on its face as an MP3 player/voice recorder, having a limited mic recording range and absolutely none of the features standard on virtually every other MP3 player on the market today (except maybe the Ipod Shuffle, but it's Apple, so they're allowed to make half-assed products and sell like crazy).
Needless to say I cannot in good conscience recommend this unit with numerous other similar units on the market at around the same price point offering a wider array of features. Some may say that I'm being too hard on the Ultra player, especially considering it can be had for under $70. However a unit such as this one which is smaller, includes multi format and ID3 tag support.
The one thing the Ultra unit does have going for it is the expansion SD/MMC slot which can be worth a lot in terms of a portable player, however they completely ruin any practical use that might come from having the additional space by including absolutely no sorting or filing options. Hey that's great that you can fit 500 songs on your expansion disks, but how frustrating would it be trying to find that one song you want to hear when all you have to go by is a number?
...Or you could just leave it on 'Shuffle'....?
Chow Down Geoff Ol' Boy...
Final Score: 44%
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