By Richard Menta 9/18/02
What struck me most about the photo of the Mambo Digital Media-X PhotoBank Jukebox on the right is the ability to insert an MMC/SD memory card into what is a jukebox style portable. When you think about it the idea makes quite a bit of sense.
As almost all other electronic products matured in the market and prices dropped, most households ended up acquiring multiple VCR's, TV's and cassette players. It stands to reason that the same will happen to newer digital products like cameras, MP3 players and Tivo/ReplayTV devices. In some homes it already has. Now take that fact and leverage another one. A portable jukebox player with 10GB or more of space can easily house and transfer those photo and music files, feeding other forms of digital devices and saving continual trips to the PC.
Enter the Mambo Digital Media-X PhotoBank. By giving the unit the ability to read and write onto a flash memory card the conveniences become apparent. There are plenty of owners of portable flash players who are tired of constantly running back and forth to their system every time they want to change the 15 tunes on their player. They yearn for a 20GB unit like the PhotoBank Jukebox, but don't want to give up the size of their flash unit because its much lighter weight and smaller dimensions are more convenient for certain places like the gym.
A jukebox unit like the Mambo offers the best of both worlds as it doesn't replace the older unit, but instead offers it new life by presenting a more convenient way to change the music files on the flash card. The older player now becomes exclusively the exercise unit, saving wear and tear on the newer one whose size made it less suitable for the task anyway.
The Mambo is not the only MP3 portable to have this idea actually. The recently released Archos Jukbox Multimedia will offer a photo module as an option that does the same thing. The difference is the Digital Media-X PhotoBank has it built into the structure of the unit without the need to purchase an add on piece.
The features on the Digital Media-X PhotoBank are pretty extensive. The Digital Media-X PhotoBank first and foremost is an MP3 player supporting the MP3 and WMA formats. Offering 20GB of storage the unit weighs in at 9.8 ounces, lighter than the RCA LYRA Personal Jukebox (11oz) and the Creative Nomad 3 (14oz), but more than the Rio Riot (8.8oz) and the Apple iPod (6.5oz). All of the competing unit's also use a 2.5-inch hard drive except for the iPod whose Toshiba 1.8-inch drive accounts for its weight savings.
The unit offers a healthy 8MB of internal buffer for anti-shock and is the third unit we have come across to adopt the USB 2.0 standard for file transfers (The iPod and the Nomad 3 use FireWire). USB 2.0 transfers files roughly 40 times faster than USB 1.1.
The Mambo Digital Media-X PhotoBank allows both the storage of photo files in the JPEG format . Viewing these files from the player takes the purchase of an optional expansion unit called the Photo Expansion Box ($49.95 MSRP). The unit also supports the MPEG format, hinting that a video display module is in the works.
The Digital Media-X PhotoBank is also a real time MP3 recorder. This includes both voice recordings through the unit's built-in microphone as well as the compression of music piped in through the units line-in port from analog devices like vinyl and cassette. Tunes can be encoded on the fly at compression rates between 64kbps and 164kbps, decent enough to make it handy for road recordings of local bands who can feed the player by tapping into their mixing board.
The Mambo Digital Media-X PhotoBank runs on rechargeable lithium ION batteries offering 8 hours of play time. An optional external battery pack doubles that figure to 16 hourrs. A wired remote is also available as an option.
"We have taken the jukebox concept to the next phase in its evolution", said Mambo Digital President Matt Hsai. "Today People are dealing with lots of digital data that they were 5 years ago: MP3 songs, digital camera photos and videos, emails, e-books, documentations etc. That clearly indicates smart portable storage with multimedia playback and media interchange capability is in demand".
The only competitor to the Mambo Digital Media-X PhotoBank is Archos' Jukebox Multimedia. Selling for a list price of $349.95 the Digital Media-X PhotoBank should prove attractive to users of multiple forms of digital media. It would have been nice if photo viewing came without the addition of a separate module, but the ability to compress and record music on the fly and then feed those tunes to a flash-based MP3 player is probably the units most compelling ability.
The Digital Media-X PhotoBank should ship by late October, in plenty of time for the holiday season. The unit specifications as well as other details can be viewed here
The Apple iPod for Windows is available on Amazon in 10GB and 20GB versions.
Other MP3 Stories:
Samsung's First Jukebox MP3 Portable
Ogg Vorbis Makes Run for Portable Music Players.
A Third Hack on RIAA Site
New P2P News Site Goes Online
Trade Files? The US Attorney General May Be Coming After YOU.