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MP3 Players: Size, Style and Sound

Philips GoGear Jukebox

Dimensions4 x 2.5 x .7"
104 x 64 x 16.8mm
Weight150 g
Power SourceLithium ion battery
Display220x176 pixel, 2" TFT
Memory30 GB hard drive
RecordingMicrophone, line in with extra dock
PlaybackMP3, WAV, WMA, WMA-DRM, FM radio; JPEG
Screen Orientationlandscape
AV Connections3.5 mm headphone jack, line out, USB camera and TV via optional dock and cable
InterfacesUSB 2.0 with custom connector
Battery Life18 hours

When it's turned off you can't see where any of the controls on the GoGear are, apart from the volume controls on one side and the power/hold slider on the other. The metal back curves in at the top and bottom, and looks almost as sleek as the plain black front, though it's much more practical because it doesn't show finger marks. Turn the GoGear on and the electroluminescent controls light up on the perfectly smooth case, just inviting you to tap the play button or scroll up and down the central control to zip through menus.

It's a fairly logical layout, with previous, play/pause and next across the top of the control pad; forward, back and scroll in the middle; and menu at the bottom. It's not initially as intuitive as a wheel layout, but it's actually very flexible when you start using it. There's no feedback, but the controls are sensitive enough that if you press down harder in a long list of tracks you'll zip through them at high speed (Philips calls this "SuperScroll"). And there are no confusing shortcuts to remember; if you want to add the current track to the 'playlist on the go', rate it for the automatic playlist or turn on the EQ, you press the menu button.

The GoGear runs Microsoft's personal media player software, which looks nothing like a version of Windows. The features you want are right there on the main menu: music, radio, photos, recordings, settings and now playing; this is a welcome change after the way the Vibez hides the photo viewer under Features. You will notice the hard drive spinning up when you switch between music and photos and when you select large playlists, but otherwise everything is speedy enough. You don't get as many ways of choosing music as with the Vibez, but artist, album, genre and playlist get you to your music quickly, especially with automatic playlists based on how you rate tracks. We do miss the quick A-Z scroll of the Vibez here, even with the SuperScroll. One nice touch: as well as telling you how much free disk space you have, the Information section of the menu lists Web links and numbers for the Philips call center.

Again, the GoGear comes with a pair of headphones that are good enough to keep, with clear, rich tones and sufficient bass - although fellow travelers will get to hear your music too. The sound quality of the player is very good, with plenty of detail in the music, crisp treble tones and more bass than an iPod. The SRS WOW enhancement does improve the music, rather more than the other nine equalizer presets. The controls make it easier to adjust the five bands in the manual EQ than on most other players too.

You can use Windows Explorer or Windows Media Player to transfer music and photos from your PC. Buy the right cable and you can also transfer photos directly from your digital camera to the GoGear. Annoyingly, you also need to buy an extra dock to use the line-in recording instead of the microphone, because Philips has used a custom connector. Worse still, this has the power plug on the same cable, so it's too big to easily carry around, and you can't top up your charge on another PC.

A full charge takes 4 hours, but you can get up to 70% in about an hour. The promised 18 hour battery life is only a little optimistic: we measured a little over 15 hours running continually (with the equalizer turned off) and up to 17 when listening to the unit on and off over a couple of days.

Early reviews of the GoGear family found crashes, hangs and slowdowns; we didn't experience any of these, and the current firmware seems to have ironed out those problems completely, leaving a stylish and capable player.