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(Pocket-lint) - No matter what people say, gadgets are expensive, especially the latest ones. It's no surprise then that a face of horror would come over your face if you saw a small child playing with your latest £400 portable media centre. These things are supposed to be robust, but come on who are we kidding here.

Whether it's because it's seen a gap in the market, or just seeing kids as an easy target, Mattel has launched the Juice Box, a portable media centre aimed at kids.

The Juice box sports a 2.75in screen, offers video and MP3 playback and costs £80 meaning that you won't be so terrified when you see a little one with their mitts all over it. The video playback quality is poor, but then feedback from the kids and parents we showed the unit to didn't seem to mind this. Kids were kept quiet and as one parent said, “Cartoons don't need to be hi-res to work”. It's a good point and one that has obviously allowed Mattel to keep the price down.

Aside from the player, that comes with the usual pause, play, fast-forward, and rewind you get a cartridge with which to load up more content. The cartridges are small and will probably get lost in a matter of minutes.

Also in the box, is a MP3 starter kit that comes with software, a spare cartridge, a 32Mb SD card and an SD Card USB reader. It's a stroke of genius in our minds and means that you can decide what content you want your kids to use. The software is straight forward and the fact that its SD makes it all the easier to use. Of course some might say it's just more bits waiting to be lost, but it certainly beats the Video Now system where you're tied into purchasing content on proprietary disks.


This isn't a player you'll want to borrow for yourself, but then its not supposed to be. What we like most is the fact that this device doesn't insist you sign up to any particular format that only they sell at an inflated price. Think kids' videos, think audio books, think you having the control as to what goes on the device and for that, this device scores highly in our books.

Writing by Stuart Miles. Originally published on 26 January 2005.