And now the race is on to shrink the MP3 player as well. Small is in, but with much more storage space. The Philips GoGear MP3 player has 2GB storage space and a host of other features. At an extremely affordable price of Rs4,990, it’s definitely a good buy.
It’s small, compact, fairly ergonomic, and minimalistic in many ways. The GoGear is very user-friendly as well: There aren’t too many buttons or panels as there are in many other products in the market. The front control key design seems to be influenced by the iPod’s, with its concentric circle layout. But it doen’t function like them.
The other two buttons in front are for ‘menu’ and the ‘playlist’. The left side of the player has the ‘mic’ access buttons and the volume controls are on the right. There is nothing on the top, and the headphone jack (a standard 2.5mm one, thankfully) and the Universal Serial Bus (USB) connector at the bottom round off this well-designed player.
The earphones that come with the player look good. Even the audio quality is pretty good. But they can be quite uncomfortable. Philips almost got it right except for a minor ‘dent’ at the bottom where it fits into the ears. After about 20 minutes, it starts to hurt.
A critical piece of hardware missing is the charger. You can charge the player only through a computer, using a USB. There isn’t even an adapter where you can plug the USB and use an ordinary wall charger. It’s kind of hard to figure out why Philips would insist we charge the player only through a computer (that too, only Windows), but that’s the way it works.
Once you have moved past the exterior and switch the player on, its features make up for the missing hardware. For instance, its easy-to-navigate interface and the button layout on the front does offer an intuitive user-experience. The only gripe we have is that when choosing a feature, you need to press the right arrow, whereas instinctively, you would go for the central button (that doubles up as ‘power’ and ‘play/pause’). Your music is sorted by genre, artist, album and other ID3 (tagging standard for MP3 files) data you have associated with your music. There is also a nice ‘shuffle’ option that plays songs randomly from the collection. Although we created a folder in the ‘music’ section, it did not show up in the player: We would have liked to have our English and Hindi music separate. Incidentally, GoGear comes pre-loaded with a few songs.
All the folders are arranged neatly and welcome you once the unit is switched on. There is a software installation that’s quick but unfortunately requires a Windows reboot. The music player is identified as a Mass Storage Device and you cannot access it to add or remove music through any other software. In short, you need to look in Windows Explorer and locate the player listed as E, F or G drive (depending on what’s available). Transferring music, to and from, the player is then a simple matter of drag-and-drop. Be warned, though, that it is a slow process. For instance, it took us nearly an hour to transfer about 1.7GB of songs to the player from the computer. A trifle slow, if you ask us…. The same transfer mechanism is used for photos as well but transferring videos is a different matter altogether.
The Philips audio/video player has an inbuilt software that compresses and optimizes videos before transferring them to the player. The playback quality is fine and that’s more because of an average screen. But if you simply must have videos to play back, it’s a good feature to have. The size of the screen is also too small to really enjoy photos. With no Bluetooth or any other connectivity options, there is no way to even share these with anyone.
The radio is good and the ‘auto tune’ is impressive. It picked up all eight stations in Bangalore and all the nine in Mumbai. Unfortunately, one cannot rename these and you need to navigate using only the frequencies. The recording is another neat feature that is incorporated into this player and is helpful when taking notes or recording minutes of a meeting. You can transfer the files back to your computer as audio files and decide how you want to use them.
The battery life is satisfactory, with about five hours’ playback despite our endless fiddling. On the whole, this is a great value proposition. If you want a good music player with some additional features, your search probably ends here. Just remember the bit about the earphones and the charging…