Ultra Products has sponsored a few reviews at BigBruin.Com, but to date all the items have been for the inside of your computer system... memory, coolings fans, lighting, and a power supply. Today we take a look at another Ultra Products item, but we won't be cracking open a computer case to do so. Up for review today is the Ultra Products 256MB 8-in-1 MP3 Player.
Devices serving multiple functions seems to be a popular trend, and why not? Cramming several functions into one device can be economical, practical, and may free up some space on an already cluttered desktop. The eight functions handled by the 8-in-1 MP3 Player are listed below:
• MP3 player
• Thumb drive
• FM tuner
• Voice recorder
• SD/MMC card reader
• E-mail client
• ID3 tags
• Language learning function
I would actually call it a 6-in-1 device, as the last two seem to be less like functions, and more like features of some of the other functions. ID3 tags are only necessary for the MP3 player, and the language learning feature seems to be a reference to its support for multiple languages on the LCD screen. Regardless, the 6 functions alone should make for an interesting gadget, lets see if that is the case.
Before taking a look at the device and its accessories, lets take a look at the packaging. The 8-in-1 MP3 Player sells in the plastic blister packaging shown below. The packaging should ensure that everything arrives safely, as the device is suspended inside a dome of plastic, but I just really dislike packaging that has to be destroyed in order to get at the product.
The shape of the device is sleek, and the blue and silver color combination adds to the aesthetic appeal. The outer shell is mostly plastic, but the black portion of the back is actually covered in a thin layer of textured rubber. It looks cool, but should also provide some extra grip if it is used while jogging, for example. The back of the device also features an expansion slot which can accept an SD/MMC card with a capacity of up to 512MB. The 256MB onboard is decent, but being able to triple the capacity is a nice feature!
The device itself is quite compact, measuring roughly 3.6" long by 1.5" wide and 0.7" thick. The display looks oversized on such a small device, and measures about 1.5"x0.8" in size. With such a large screen, data should be easy to read while in use. My concern with the large screen is keeping it in good condition. It is a large area that will be prone to scratches, which could be reduced by something like a raised lip around the edge, or perhaps by the inclusion of a protective case.
The end cap of the device is removable, and exposes a male USB connector. Although I have not had a problem with the cap falling off, it would be nice to have a confirmation that it is on tightly, such as a clicking sound as it pops into place. The other end of the device features the 1/8" stereo headphone jack and the battery compartment.
In addition to the MP3 player, the items pictured below are also included. The below left image shows the miniature driver CD, the user guide, and the warranty card. The below right image shows the USB extension cable and rechargable AAA battery.
The extension cable makes it convenient to use a port on the back of your computer, without having to fumble with the player back there every time. The battery is an even more convenient bonus... The battery charges inside the player while connected to your computer via USB!
The kit also includes a set of headphones, which are pictured below. I am a fairly intelligent guy, but I have to admit that I was stumped by these for a minute or two. I have never seen headphones like this, and don't really understand the overly complicated design. You have the 1/8" stereo jack at one end, and a typical wire runs a few inches to a silver plastic disc. At this point, the wire splits into left and right channels, which are run inside a braided cord fashioned into a loop. Ten inches or so later, the wire is exposed again and goes straight to the fairly rugged earbud style headphones.
By my deduction, the MP3 player is meant to be attached to the small string loop attached to the silver disc. There is an area on the player to make this connection, and then the player is secured to the headphones. The loop of braided cord then seems to be intended to go around your neck, which places the earbuds in good proximity for use. The problem is, the player is now hanging around your neck on a length of wire too short to reach your pants pocket or to be held in your hand (unless you keep that hand against your stomach at all times). The design seems like it needs some refinement. using the headphones means having the MP3 player hanging just above your waist, and banging into things constantly as you move about or bend over. Headphones are pretty cheap though, so if these don't do it for you either, they can be easily replaced.
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