Olympus is a camera company isn’t it? Well not if its latest product can help it. Deciding that perhaps the MP3 player market is the place to make a quick buck, the imaging company that has in the past brought us gems like the One system and the Mju is now trying its hand at the MP3 player market as well. Pocket-lint flew to Germany to find out what its all about.
Called the M:Robe, the unit is a MP3 player come digital camera come picture viewer. Based around a large 3.7in touch screen display and a 20Gb hard drive this is Olympus’ take on the Media Centre.
The interface is simple in both design and usability. The menus have a retro feel to them and Olympus feels that pixelating the graphics will make the unit automatically look cool.
There are three main options Music, Photo and Remix. The Music does what it says and turns the slim line unit into a MP3 player with all the usual functions you’ve come to expect including the ability to display the album cover. The interface works just in the same way as other players and on our brief initial testing (we were forces to listen to hardcore Germany techno) the sound came across good if not a little tinny.
The Photo option allows you to either view images pre loaded on the device or actually taking them via the included 1.2 megapixel camera. Like Olympus’ other forays into multitasking models (mainly the W10 voice recorder with camera) the unit’s camera is basic. According to Olympus man who showed us the unit it’s there “as a gimmick, merely to keep the company hardliners happy” God forbid that Olympus might stray too far from the cause. Still at least it’s not a VGA camera - that would be very bad.
Digital cameras and music aside the player doesn’t really offer much more. There is a slideshow option whereby you can select images, music and special effects similar to those found in iPhoto or Adobe’s Photoshop Album.
Sharing your images can be done either via the 3.7in screen or by connecting up the unit to a VGA display or the TV screen. Unfortunately you can’t download images directly onto the unit from your digital camera when out and about nor has the unit got a xD slot for viewing images with other cameras. The only way you’re going to get images on this is by connecting it to your PC.
Software is basic and you must rely on Olympus’ own proprietary software to manage the device.
Olympus admits that it's only dipping its toe into the world of music players and that is evident here. But there is dipping your toe with a really good product and dipping your toe in with a product you are hoping will fail. With this in mind we can't but help feel that Olympus is confused over what it wants to achieve. On the one hand the large screen the easy to use interface and the 20Gb of storage certainly make the m:robe 500i a good offering.
On the other the lack of connectivity with any camera let alone an Olympus on is rather disappointing. So too is the 1.2 megapixel camera which quoting the man from Olympus is nothing more “than a gimmick” and more importantly the price of £349.
I think Olympus has missed the trick and like the much awaited Nikon Coolwalker than is yet to see the light of day, giving photographers the chance to view there images in the field would have turned this from a forgettable expensive MP3 player with a camera into a must have item for photographers who want to store there images but also listen to music on the side.
A toe-dipping experience but one that is only likely to leave you wanting more.