Philips 512MB Wearable Digital Audio

With mp3 players being the hottest things since, well, the sun, it’s top dollars and world fame to the company that can come up with the best player. Philips is attacking from the bottom as well as the top. Their Wearable Digital Audio range comes in various capacity - we tried out the 512MB version. Also known as ‘Key015’ and ‘Solid State Player’, it seems to suffer from a lack of identity. Where the top end players have lashings of style, this little MP3 player doesn’t really have a name of its own.

However, it does have a reasonable capacity, which is some compensation. At 512MB, its boasts to hold 16 hours of WMA or 8 hours of mp3 files. Of course, we didn’t get anywhere near filling it, but it is possible. Ok, it’s not competing with the 15Gb devices, but it’s only a fraction of the price. It’s more of a portable player, rather than complete storage solution. The basic concept is simple, but not exclusive - it’s a pen/key drive, with USB1.1. You simply plug it in and fill it up - either from Media Player or just dumping files in there. Because it is mass storage compliant, you can stick anything on there - your Excel files, porn clips or whatever, it doesn’t care.

The sound quality was remarkably good, the bass options were well represented in our test track N.E.R.D’s Lapdance. If you are choosy about your set up, then there are no options here. But that seems to be the key - simplicity, it does what it says on the box. We also struggled to see how you could change the order of songs on the device as it seems to play them in the order they were loaded on. If you are transferring files from Media Player, this won’t be a problem, because you could arrange them in groups. However, this will take some fiddling to get the result you want.

The USB cable also charges the internal battery, taking about 4 hours to charge and returning 6 hours of music playback. There is also an external battery clip, which will allow 8 hours playback from an ultra-thin AAA battery (not included!). The backlit LCD display on the device will show 2 lines of text, basically the artist and track title, so long as you have the IDs included with the files, with a track countdown. However, the backlight turns off quickly, saving power, but it means that you don’t always get to see all the song title. Moving on, the controller plugs in and then the headphones jack into the controller. Both jack plugs are standard.

Control itself is actually very simple affair of play/pause/power on/off on one key, then forward and back skip buttons and volume control on the other. The buttons have a responsive feel to them and the controller is sleek and well designed. There is a clip on the back of the controller to clip to your jacket. The unit comes with a neck strap, and after fiddling with various pocket options, hanging it round your neck seems to be the best option - besides, it’s only 30g.

With no cable in the box, it means you need an accessible USB port, but other than that, no extra software is needed (unless you are in Win 98 land, in which case they provide all you need). Talking about accessible USB ports, the Dell we have sports two front USB ports, but the thickness of the device means they won’t plug in - so it was round the back under the desk. Again, if you have the normal row of three ports in the back, this critter needs to be on the end, or it won’t fit, because of the thickness that combined with the slow transfer speed of USB1.1 means the USB isn’t, like some of its competitors, its saving grace.

Verdict

This is designed as a small and portable music device, rather than a centre to store all your music. The lack of identity makes it feel a little unloved, but that seems to be the Philips approach. Being a pen drive is useful, and as a commuter makes it easy to carry around other files as well. Of course, lots of other people are doing the same thing, but for some reason (price usually), they shy away from the 512MB size - 128, and 256 are both very common. For the fitness junkie it is totally shock free and light enough to be used at the gym or out running.


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