Packard Bell AudioDream MP3 player
The AudioDream is lightweight and sleek, has a square body with convex top and bottom, is 88 x 31 x 21 mm in size, and weighs just 30 grams. It's another converging MP3 player; stores voice, music and files via USB to 256MB of flash memory all via direct input.
As with the Packard Bell Audio Key, it arrives in 128Mb and 256Mb variants and this model also has an FM radio plus internal mic and recorder, so you can record up to 16 hours of voice. The built in rechargeable Lithium-ion battery sets it apart from cheaper flash players that rely on AAA batteries however the additional charger is a hindrance if you plan to travel with the unit but with around 10 hours of continuous playing time it should be able to get you the office and back comfortably.
It runs quickly, thanks to a 75 MIPS DSP processor and records direct from the built in radio, or using the internal microphone. Direct input is never the best method for file transfer, likewise a built in microphone for voice recording, but each are done to the expected level.
Unfortunately, playback volume isn't great and this can cause a problem if you're on a noisy train. A change of phones helped counter this, but not by much. Sound can be adjusted via the 6 mode graphic equalizer, featuring X bass, which adds a little more to the sound level, than the rest do for the quality. Packard Bell players are designed for PC, XP in particular, and this plays only MP3 and WMA formats.
The multi-use up/down keys means an extra three clicks are required to flip between search/skip and volume. A shame on what is otherwise a faultless control system all shown on an eye-catching screen. The backlight Dot-Matrix LCD display lends this unit a professional look, featuring a two line scrolling display for track name, artist and album, complemented by static battery, volume and time information.
The in-ear headphones are a little on the large side, but the support cord works really well, thanks to the strong chrome plug fixing and the clever use of separators to keep the player well supported as it dangles from the neck.
VerdictEven at the £100+ price, a favourite among flash players to have hit the market so far, voice recording and direct input are no better, but no worse, than alternatives in this sector of the market. Yet the overall look and feel of the player is more HDD than flash stick.
The build quality is right up there and the screen gives the AudioDream a touch of class. Its players like this that steal the iPod market rather than direct Hard drive based competitors.