Philips GoGear Opus MP3 player review

3.5 out of 5
£99 (8GB)

For

Good bundled headphones, good quality audio, easy to use, supports BBC iPlayer

Against

Lack of format support, especially for video, size, not terribly exciting

If Philips are guilty of one thing, it's overlooking a decent product name. That trend seems to be changing, which is a good thing considering the GoGear Opus could also be known as the SA1OP08K. So what we have here is the latest 8GB version of their GoGear MP3 player with video.

The Opus bears more than a passing resemblance to the previous generation of pocketable music and video players from the company. The front is dominated by the screen with controls sitting across to the right. The controls are kept basic, with a power/play button sitting in the centre of a four-way navigator, accompanied by "Options" and "Back".

The Opus itself is slim, measuring 107 x 57 x 11, which means that it's about the size of a mobile phone, if not a little larger. The black and silver design is attractive and it feels well constructed: the plastics feel ok and it is free from creaks as you grip it. At 95g it feels weighty enough in the hand to feel like a quality product.

We like the brushed back of the Opus as it keeps it free from fingerprints. Around the sides you'll also find a volume control and a "Hold" slider which is strangely located on the bottom alongside the Mini-USB and 3.5mm sockets.

But the real interest is in the 2.8-inch 320 x 240-pixel LCD display on the front. It isn't the highest resolution, or the latest OLED technology, and we'd like something a little sharper. Colours are vibrant, but it struggles against some of the sharp mobile phone screens we have seen recently.

Power on and the Opus always seems to need to "update", something we found previously with Philips' players. The menus are clear but basic and break down the main functions (music, video, pictures, radio, recordings) and then giving you access to a folder view and settings.

One thing we like about the menus is that they'll pickup a background image from the cover art or video thumbnail, so it is fleshed out a little better than a straight texted-based menu, but doesn't have the wow-factor that you'll find elsewhere.

Navigation and control through the menus is easy, although one minor niggle is the length of time it takes to get from power on to listening to music. Not only do you have to wait for that update/startup cycle, but you then need to click through the levels of menu before music starts, because the play button doubles as the ok button – you can't power on and press play like you can on an iPod.

The bundled headphones themselves are actually very good and capable, which is a positive point over some of the leading MP3 players out there. You get a choice of three different sized rubbers. Find the right fit and you'll find the performance is impressive: good rich bass that is characteristic of Philips headphones, which is great for pop and dance music, but can be a little heavy for voice or classical music.

Philips are pushing their FullSound technology in the Opus, as they have in other players in the past. We've seen a number of devices featuring FullSound and generally it is a good system, enlivening music somewhat. We found FullSound to be preferable over the other EQ presets and the best setting for general listening.


Format support on the audio front is reasonable with MP3, WMA, AA and FLAC, but a little restrictive on the video front, only supporting AVI and WMV, but you will be able to download BBC iPlayer content and sideload it. The bundled software will convert other common formats for you, but in this world where simplicity rules, we'd rather see more support in the player itself to save uses the time spend in the conversion process.

If you are a Mac user you'll not benefit from this software (although you could easy download a free video convertor) and then simply use the drag and drop approach to load-up content.

The GoGear Opus also comes with a 30-day free introduction to Napster To Go and is AudibleReady. An FM radio and voice recorder are also present.

Battery life is pretty good at 30 hours of music and 6 hours of video, although you don't get a charger in the box, although the Mini-USB connection will work with many last-generation phone chargers. A short USB cable is supplied, as is a cover to stop your player getting all scratched up.

Verdict

The audio quality is something that we liked, working well with those better-than-average headphones: it’s rare to find an MP3 player where you are happy to stick with the supplied headphones and we were luckily enough to find a perfect fit with those supplied. Yes, we did find better results with higher quality headphones, but uncharacteristically, we'd recommend giving the bundled ones a go first.

The Philips GoGear Opus doesn't do anything drastically wrong but it doesn't really excite either, and priced at £99 for an 8GB (or £129 for 16GB) it finds itself in close range of the Samsung YP-P3, the iPod nano and Sony Walkman NWZ-S638F, against which competition, we think it struggles as an overall package.