Oregon Scientific MP120 review

Why walk when you can run? That seems to be the motto of the Hong Kong-based technology firm Oregon Scientific. With the launch of the second of their new MP3 players, we ask ‘Will it live up to the laurels Pocketlint awarded the MP100, the world's smallest player?'

A good started point is that second model is another ‘world first', with environment being the onus, rather than size, this time. The MP120 is a waterproof MP3 player. Before you budding Jacques Cousteau's start getting any ideas, ‘waterproof' means that you can fully submerge the thing to a depth of 1M without it going ‘phufff'. The manufactures are quite specific about the guaranteed limitations on the depth, so anything beyond this threshold is at your own risk.

The small body is made of tough black plastic, cornered with shockproof rubber, coming in at a compact 69x50x20mm. The headphones jack is integrated into the detachable bottom section, which is released via a screw, exposing the mini USB 2.0 port and the headphones socket. This means that you have to use the headphones supplied, to make the MP120 waterproof. No vast problem, except the soft rubber lugs on the headphones, which make them waterproof, are impossible to get in your ears. Their design is reminiscent of a shooters ear-plugs, only larger and softer and inserting them is rather like trying to get a marshmallow into a coin slot. If the lugs aren't in, the headphones aren't waterproof, and go ‘phuff', which I imagine they will very quickly, and since they are integrated into the housing, their goes the waterproofing of the MP120.

Besides that, the basic functionality is almost exactly the same as the MP100. The player is 128Mb flash and supports both MP3 and WMA file formats. Once connected to the desktop you can simply drag and drop music files to the device. The battery is internal and charges via the same USB 2.0 cable through which data transfers. Songs and menus are displayed via a blue backlit ‘HiGo' LCD screen. When the menus are accessed you can select various equalisation presets, playing formats and manage the data. A music player is supplied on a CD-ROM in the box, for those PC's bereft, the firmware is upgradeable keeping the player in step with the players evolving technologies.

A new feature is the FM radio capable of storing 30 channels. The frequency range goes from 87.5 to 108.0MHz, and I received a couple of the larger stations clearly, but not that many. The charge on the battery affects the reception as well as untangling the headphones cord, which offers a better antenna. Once a strong signal has been located setting the station, as one of the presets, is easy though. Sadly when in the ‘FM mode' none of the equalisation options are available to filer out the background ‘fuzz', these only come into effect when in ‘Music mode'.

Verdict

Overall this makes an ideal music player to take on holiday or into the great outdoors. Whether on the beach, trekking or camping this would be an ideal choice to keep the elements at bay and save on space as well. I'm afraid the water-tightness of the headphones doesn't fill me with confidence, so the waterproof nature of the player, is downgraded to just plain water-resistant.