Boomgear MP-900 (256MB) review: Boomgear MP-900 (256MB)

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CNET Editors' Rating

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The Good LCD screen displays track information. Supports SD/MMC expansion cards for extra storage. Extremely light and includes neck cord for portability. Excellent FM radio.

The Bad Replacing AAA batteries could be expensive. Front of player scratches easily. Instruction manual not as thorough as most.

The Bottom Line While it will face stiff competition with Apple's iPod Shuffle, the MP-900 offers a couple of extra features, such as an SD/MMC slot, voice recording and direct MP3 encoding.

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With the Boomgear MP-900 being the first MP3 player that I have used, my experience started off a little shaky. However, after reading the instruction manual and using the device for a while, I ended up loving the advantages of an ultra-light music player and will be purchasing one of my own very soon.

Design
The MP-900 is a nice looking device although the silver surface is quite easily scratched. At around 30 grams without the battery, it's very light. The head phones are comfortable to wear but they can get a little irritating on the ears after a while.

It is ideal for beginners as it is easy to navigate, includes ample storage capacity and an excellent radio. The player comes with an AAA battery in the pack, plus a neck strap, USB cord, head phones, software CD, instruction booklet and line-in recording cable.

The neck strap comes in a fashionable silver colour, which the MP-900 attaches to easily so you can wear it around your neck.

For a novice such as myself, the player's controls and menus are not immediately obvious, but after reading the instructions it makes sense. However, the joystick control is very touchy, making it easy to accidentally change modes.

Features
While the player has a limited internal memory of 256MB, there is an SD/MMC expansion slot to add extra storage. The FM band covers the standard 87.5-108MHz frequencies and it's claimed a single AAA battery lasts up to 6.5 hours.

The MP-900 can also be used as a portable storage device by copying files to the removable USB drive in Windows Explorer. It supports playback of MP3 and WMA files and you can encode MP3s directly to the player via the line-in recording option.

The LCD shows player settings, battery life and track information. Up to 24 different languages, including English, Chinese and Japanese, are supported.

Performance
During our tests, the FM radio auto-scan feature found 15 channels and automatically stored these as presets. A quick flick through the instruction manual explained how to delete unwanted stations and how to add the lower strength frequencies that auto-scan didn't pick up, such as 2SER.

Overall, we found the MP-900 maintained excellent FM reception. It had no problem with the main stations, including Sydney independent radio station FBi. Other stations such as 2SER were a bit weaker, but that is typical.

The instruction booklet shows how to install the software for the MP-900, MP3 Player Mate V, but information on how to get music onto the player is a little sketchy -- on close inspection there is only one sentence that touches on the subject. Alternatively, the player supports drag-and-drop transfers from Windows Explorer or from Windows Media Player using the "Copy to Portable Device" function. The advantage of using Windows Media Player plainly is that it shows the size of the playlist to be copied and how much capacity is left on the MP3 player.

The MP-900 plays songs copied onto it by alphabetical order by default. There is a random playback function which can be saved in your preferences, even after switching off the player.

The radio worked very well when we tested it walking around the Sydney suburban streets and in the CNET.com.au office. The volume is excellent; loud enough to block out traffic and external noises. It's comfortable to hang the MP3 player around your neck using the supplied strap, which also makes it more accessible than when in a pocket.

The MP-900 easily accommodated about 2.5 hours of music and still had room to spare. The player is definitely handy to have as an exercise or commuting partner. Though it's a great MP3 player for beginners, the Boomgear MP-900 might come up against stiff competition with Apple's iPod range, considering the 512MB Shuffle sells for half the price. Even a 4GB iPod Mini, will only set you back an extra AU$50.

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Where to Buy

Boomgear MP-900 (256MB)

Part Number: CNETBoomgear MP-900 (256MB)

Typical Price: $199.00

See manufacturer website for availability.