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There are a lot of really good - and expensive - MP3 players out there, but I needed one that wouldn't cost a fortune if it fell out of my pocket. I picked this up for around £15 about four years ago. For a cheap little widget it's done me well.
Unlike, say, an iPod this isn't rechargable - instead you stick in an AAA battery. While this has its disadvantages, one cheap battery lasts me for a couple of weeks usually and it means that there's no issue with me forgetting to charge it. In comparison, I also own an iPod shuffle which is great until the battery dies but then stays dead for weeks as I have no memory.
A GB of memory isn't a great deal, but I tend to deal with it by ripping songs at lower quality so I can stuff more on. I can usually get, again, a couple of weeks out of a music selection that way before it starts annoying me. A button allows you to skip through songs you hate, and there's a small screen to tell you what you're listening to. Occasionally it chokes on a song - I'm assuming because the format annoyed it, but I can never work out which songs when I remember to go back to a computer.
You put music on by plugging in to a USB drive then using Windows Explorer to drop songs into the folder. This has the advantage that I don't have to install proprietary software to use it (itunes, I'm looking at you).
It won't win me any trendy points, but for the price you won't do much better than this.
I had been looking into the idea of buying an MP3 player for a while, and a recent journey which meant that I was on a train for almost ten hours pursuaded me to make a purchase. All that was left to do was to make a decision as to which player. The advantage that these players have over traditional Walkmans is that I would not have to carry cassettes, and that the units are small and easy to transport, and can hold a lot of music.
I looked at the full range of MP3 players in my search for the perfect one for me. There were fancy Ipods, and frankly, I didn't like the shape of these, and looking at the price label was not convinced that shelling out this amount of money for a player could be justified. The rectangular shaped MP3 players looked a bit too new-fangled for me, and I was left with looking at the price range that I could afford easily and seeing which best suited my needs. When I found the Neo, I was actually quite startled at the price tag of 35 Euros (27 GBP approx). I questioned its' value for money factor and wondered if the quality of sound would be good enough, since I really do like my music undistorted and clear. The Acer was a close competitor, but when I weighed up the pros of cons of each system, researched on the net and actually asked all the questions I needed answers to, there really was not much difference between the Acer at 60 Euros and the Neo. The shop were so convinced by the quality of the sound that they actually demonstrated it to me, and this is rare since the player comes wrapped in a sealed pack, and it was just by chance that one of the shop assistants had her own player with her. The quality of sound was superb, although her choice of music was questionable at best.
What you get for your money.
Getting the pack home, I opened it to find that it included a software disc, several snippets of music to try out, earphones and neck strap but no battery. The player takes a standard AAA Battery and I bought a pack, anticipating that my use of the player would wear them down quickly. What you don't get, and this rather disappointed me is adequate instructions on the use of the player. The small manual that comes on the software disc is not sufficient for a person like me that has never used a gadget of this nature before. It needs improvement, though I am adequately stubborn to try things out and to find my way around the machine, since I had no intention of wasting the money spent.
Installing the software.
The software is suitable for all Windows from 98SE, and also for Mac. I installed the software and here was shocked to be alerted to a Trojan by my anti virus program. This really was not a good start. Having had a brief look at the software provided, I was not at all impressed. It's basic and very badly thought out.
Using without the software provided was much easier. I simply chose to recognise the MP3 player as a storage device, which I opened via the My computer icon having plugged it into the USB slot, and dragged the songs I wanted to install on it to the device. It was simple, although I later improved upon my method by dragging songs of a certain genre into playlists that reflected my mood, each accessible from opening the device file where the playlists are shown. It was simple, and meant that not only could the device store music, but that I could sort it into types of music which was much more satisfactory than just playing random songs. The device uses USB1.1.
Size of storage of MP3 Player.
The player holds 1GB of information and in simple terms this means around 250 songs, dependent upon the length of songs. My first attempt held 240 though some were long tracks, and I expected them to take more space.
There is no removeable memory on the player, which means that there is no possibility of extending the amount of space by the addition of a card.
Kind of files that work on the MP3 Player.
Will take data files, although I have not used it for this.
Dimensions of player : 83 x 32 x 22 mm
Weight : 29.3 gr.
This impressed me. Small enough to be discreet, large enough for me to see the screen which is lit up by a blue backlight, and very easy to read.
Build : Extremely solid with good sturdy switches.
Using the player.
This was where the exciting part was. I wanted to use the player and it took me a while without instructions to work it all out. When you press the on switch, you have a choice of modes, and for the music mode, this is followed by choice of playlist and the tracks are listed, a small button at the top of the player allowing you to flip through the tracks in order to choose the one you want to play. The earphones were fun. They are the modern kind which really have no visible fastening to the ears, and I found that I was constantly irritated by the damned things falling out. The quality of sound was amazing, and there's quite a clever little gizmo which they call an equalizer, although in fact the choices available in variance are limited to choosing the style of music you are listening to, and the equalizer has limited function. I really could only just notice a slight variation in sound jumping from one to another.
The volume adjustment is amazing. This is a rocker switch on the bottom of the player and you really do have control between exceedingly low volume and extremely high volume, easily adjusted, and extremely clear and giving sound of a superb quality. There is a button that you can press to keep the player in play mode so that even when it is jolted accientally, the player carries on playing, and when travelling, I think this is an important feature since in my initial stages of using the player, I had not used it and was annoyed by the player cutting off because I had accidentally knocked the switches.
The screen on the player is clear although you need to keep the button pressed to have the backlight stay alight. The menus are easy to follow and not at all complex.
I had not realised when I bought the machine that it has a built in dictaphone, accessed from the menus and although I have used the function, thought that the quality of playback was limited, that there was too much crackle for it to have been of any real use. Holding the record button and talking into the player was simple enough though I believe that if you need a dictaphone for anything other than small aide memoires or reminders, then this really isn't the player for you.
Another feature that this player misses badly is that you cannot input music from other sources, and although this limitation doesn't bother me, since I get all my music from my computer, another user may find the lack of an input socket irritating.
Repetition of songs.
I like this feature very much. You can repeat the same song as many times as you like. Sometimes, I do want to listen to music over and over again, although I found that using the small switch at the top which jumps forward and back through the tracks works just as well and gives me more control over my choices. If I like what I am listening to and want to listen again, I simply tap the reverse button and it plays a second time.
Here I was amazed. The specs said to expect 10 hours of listening. In fact I had 13 hours constant listening without any trouble at all, and would suggest to users that using good quality batteries is always the key to success. I don't use rechargeable ones, since the batteries available in the shops are not costly.
My overall thoughts.
I really am impressed at the sound quality of the player, though less impressed with the instructions and the software provided, and feel they could have done a better job of supporting their clients with good information. The Neo site was not that helpful either and I kept getting messages about installing language add ons, and in the end gave up, and decided that I had to tackle the machine myself or give up. I am glad that I persevered, as it really is a super machine. I bought a new headset since the small ear plugs would not stay in place, and I found that the Phillips range was good with clips that go discreetly behind my ears. This appears, from talking to friends, to be a common fault. You can either support the modern earplugs or you can't, and it was not costly to upgrade to earplugs that worked better for me.
Would I recommend the player ?
Yes, I would. It's fantastic value, even taking the irritations in getting used to the player into consideration. If you simply want to listen to music, it's super. If, however, you have the need of a dictaphone, this would be the wrong choice to make. The makers offer an impressive Two year guarantee as against other makers who were more expensive and offered a mere year.
I never thought I would use the MP3 player as much as I do, and find that it really is a useful gadget that allows me privacy of listening, as well as allowing those around me peace and quiet, and actually means I can listen to the music I want to listen to without disturbing others.
Good machine for the money and one that I would recommend.