Editors' note: The current version of the Baylis Revolution MP3 player uses a quieter crank mechanism than the model we originally reviewed. Our review has been updated to reflect this change.
We get a lot of cookie-cutter, humdrum MP3 players here at CNET, but the Baylis Revolution is not one of them. Aside from the fact that it's thick as a textbook, the Baylis Revolution has the unique distinction in the MP3 player world of having a built-in hand crank and an LED flashlight. Like a portable media Swiss army knife, the multipurpose, utility-minded design of the Baylis Revolution isn't for everyone, however, priced at $179 (4GB) and $209 (8GB) it may be just the thing for all you camping and adventuring types.
When we got our hands on the player in 2007, we had a bit of a laugh at its chunky design, clunky interface, and high price tag. Now in its second generation, the Baylis Revolution wind-up MP3 player still weighs in on the chunky side, but its design and value have improved substantially.
The first thing you'll notice is that it has a hand crank on the back, which can be used to recharge the internal battery or even charge other gadgets. The crank is made from a metal shaft and hinge, which is more durable than the first generation's plastic design.
If having a crank on your MP3 player doesn't turn heads, the sheer girth of the Baylis Revolution will certainly draw some attention. Measuring 2.5 inches wide by 4.5 inches tall by 1.25 inches deep, the Baylis Revolution looks more like a portable cassette player than an iPod. Fortunately, the Baylis Revolution's substantial size makes it easier to grip if you sincerely intend to use the crank for recharging.
The rest of the Eco Media Player's design is fairly humdrum. A color 2-inch color LCD is found on the top half of the front panel. Beneath the screen lies a circular four-way direction pad with an oddly off-center button located near the middle. It takes a little time to get the hang of the navigation pad, but the system is much more intuitive than the first-generation model and a small menu button located above the pad takes you right back to the main menu if you ever get lost.
The left edge of the Eco Media Player includes ports for line input and mini USB, as well as an SD card slot with a retractable door. The top of the Baylis Revolution includes a power button, hold switch, 3.5mm headphone jack, and an LED flashlight operated by a nearby button. If your friends ever make fun of you for spending $179 on a wind-up MP3 player, just blind them with the flashlight.
Compared with the first-generation model, the most substantially improved element on the Baylis Revolution is the onscreen interface. Superficial improvements to the menu fonts and background pattern bring the interface into the 21st century, making the whole user experience much more pleasant. The Baylis Revolution's main menu includes listings for music, movies, photos, FM radio, recorder, e-book, and settings, which are selected by pressing right on the navigation pad (not the center button, as one would expect). Combined with the improved navigation pad, the overall operability has improved dramatically from the original model, putting it on equal footing with something like the SanDisk Sansa Fuze.