Review: The iPlayMP3 Moveman

By Richard Menta- 4/07/00

The Moveman MP3 player by iPlayMP3 is the first A' la Carte unit we have tested. Targeted, it seems, to owners of digital cameras who already have some compact flash memory and related supplies, it allows the buyer to purchase only what they need. That's a good thing for those who don't wish to pay for the cost of a card reader when they already have one.

As for those who need the whole package, the company offers several of them including a top package which gives one of the best bangs for the buck.


You can order the new 64 MB Nomad II from Amazon for $269 here

The Hardware

The unit we tested comes with 80MB, a notable number when compared with 64MB units selling today. We found that extra 16MB to be quite nice as it allowed us to space out our reload trips to the PC. There is no onboard memory on the unit, all of it comes from the flash card.

The Moveman uses both type I and type II CompactFlash memory. Of the three types of memory cards available, these cards are the largest physically. They also have the highest capacity. Where the SmartMedia cards max out at 64 MB and the tiny Multimedia (MMC) cards max out at only 32 MB, the CompactFlash cards have a recent top end of 224 MB. It is this capacity that makes these units most popular in the digital camera market.

The unit came with a CompactFlash card reader that hooks up via the USB port. This is superior to the parallel CF card reader that came with the RCA Lyra, both in speed and in the fact that it makes the unit compatible with Macintosh computers, another plus. The player runs on two AAA batteries.

Total list price for the 80MB unit with card reader is a very competitive $299.95 ($270 if you already have a flash drive). Best yet, if you order a second 80 MB card with your original purchase, you can get it for only $113 more! 32MB cards sell for about $100 now and San Disk's 96MB card alone sells for the same $300 as the Moveman unit itself. For a little over $400 you get a unit with 160MB of memory. This presently makes it one of the best buys in the MP3 player market, especially when it comes to convenience.

Getting started: A-

It only took us a few seconds to attach the USB flash card reader to the PC. In general, we prefer units that bypass the need for a reader and load directly into the machine, but the advantage of a card reader is that once once it is connected, you can upload files to as many cards as you want without losing the services of the player during the duration. The card reader worked flawlessly and file downloads were quick.

There is no software interface to download your MP3 files. Once the reader is connected, a drive icon appears on your system. Simply drag and drop the files you want on the card into the icon as you would copy on a floppy disk.

To some, such a transfer process may seem crude, but we applaud the stripped down simplicity of it all as we did with the similar loading I-Jam. In contrast, the convoluted interface on the Rio 500 turned out to be more of an annoyance as we had to jump through several hoops every time we wanted to download a song.

Our player did not come with any compression software to convert CD tracks into MP3's. Even though there are dozens of software packages on the Net that will do this for free, and most MP3 listeners already have such software, we thought this was an odd omission.

That card slid into the player without any problem. It is removed by pressing the eject button with a pen or other pointed object.

Controls: B

The contols on the Moveman worked as a good panel of controls should, with a sharp crisp feel and without any of the unsure numbness found on some competing products. The Repeat, Equalizer, and Random/Intro buttons were a little small but worked fine.

The unit has a hold switch and can scan within a song by holding down the Forward or Rewind buttons, a nice feature that is fortunately showing up on more players.

We did have a problem with the hold switch. When activated, sometimes an incomplete MP3 file would cause the buttons to freeze requiring, us to shut off the restart the player. Loading only complete MP3 tunes or leaving the hold button off solved this.

The Display: B-

The display is clear and we had no trouble reading any of the information on it, though the equalizer display setting was a little small. There is no backlight for the display but we rarely needed it.

Most conspicuously missing are the track titles. Whenever a song plays, the display shows a track number and the elapsed time of the song. The unit does not read and display ID3 tags. It doesn't even display the file names. The absence of this feature is the only thing that disappointed us about this player. The ability to show song info is one of the features that MP3 players have over CDs and cassettes. With 80MB, we consider this a high-end unit and one that should include such a useful feature.

Sound: A

Excellent. There are 4 tone presets; Jazz, Classic, Rock, and Normal, which work ok, but we prefer either a Tone/Bass control or, even better, a full equalizer like in the RCA Lyra.

One of the options for the Moveman is a set of Pro-Luxe 'wrap-around' BackPhones for $7.99. Get this set of phones!

Most of the manufaturers we tested package their usually expensive players with inexpensive earphones. We recommend upgrading the ear and headphones on almost all of the units we have tested so far, and rather than count against it in the scores, we simply suggest buyers incorporate the cost of a better pair for about $15-$20, when pricing units.

So far, only the makers of the RaveMP and the Moveman have acknowledged that the weakest link in the aural experience is not in the electronics but in the wires going to the ears. For that they score points.

Conclusion

Right now, iPlayMP3's $413 package that includes the Moveman player and drive with 160 MB flash memory is the best value of any portable in the high-end of the market. Before you plunk down $300 for Sony's Music Clip player - a 64 MB unit that is not expandable memory-wise - you should seriously consider spending another $100 for the Moveman. It's a fine overall player and, for once, offers a unit that doesn't require us to constantly run to our computers to keep the tunes fresh. The display can use a little improvement, but the convenience of its ample memory and good sound more than compensate.

If you don't have $400, the 80MB unit sells for what most 64MB units sell for and will do quite well.

Final Score: B

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