If Creative's Nomad MuVo represents the MP3 player in its simplest form, surely Digital Innovations' Neuros HD epitomizes the opposite. This player's feature list keeps going and going, just like a certain bunny that you may have seen on television. While a few slight glitches in early units have halted shipments for the moment, Digital Innovations says that it hopes to have the issues ironed out soon, and the company plans to resume shipping the product in April. When we get a bug-free unit, we'll post a full review. In the meantime, here are our initial impressions.
High capacity with room for overflow
First, the good news: The Neuros HD has a 20GB capacity, which is probably more than enough room for most users. But if your MP3 library exceeds 20GB, the Neuros keeps a text-only database of all your files, so you can pick and choose songs from your PC's collection even when the player is not connected to your computer. When you sync the device, you can opt to have those tracks automatically transferred to the unit. As with the iPod, the Neuros can be set to synchronize upon connection. It also performs other nifty tricks, such as importing playlists from Winamp, Zinf, MusicMatch, and Windows Media Player.
Name that tune
The Neuros has loads of helpful little features, but its special FM-radio capabilities are the most innovative. When you hear a song on the radio that you like but don't recognize, just hit the orange button; the Neuros will record the tune. When you sync the player to your PC, the FM recording will transfer to your computer, where the Neuros software will identify and name it.
That's pretty amazing, but the MyFi feature, which allows you to broadcast your digital-music files to any nearby FM radio, impressed us even more. In order to identify an unoccupied frequency in the FM spectrum at your location, the Neuros scans the entire range for the optimal station, displays it, and starts broadcasting whatever song you play. Tune any stereo--home, car, or portable--to that channel, and you'll hear your digital music play over the speakers at a high sound quality. Another nice bonus: Since the Neuros can transmit and record FM tunes, you can beam songs to other Neuros users, although sound quality will suffer somewhat.
Now for the not-so-good news: The Neuros is a bit bulky, and we're less than thrilled with its modular design, which allows the 20GB hard drive to transform into a 128MB flash-memory player when you attach it to a different backpack. Sonicblue tried the same thing with the Rio 600 and 800 players, and that effort failed. Plus, we think that people have room in their lives for a larger jukebox for commuting and a tiny flash player for jogging. Why combine both into the same device, using temporary connections that could break over time or cause fidelity problems? Second, the Neuros connects via USB 1.1, meaning that filling up the 20GB hard drive could literally take all night.
Like other early Neuros users, we encountered syncing and MyFi wireless-broadcasting issues. These problems are what forced Digital Innovations to halt shipping of the product, but the company's chairman and chief technical officer, Joe Born, assured us that those bugs will be fixed by April.
There are good reasons that we tapped the Neuros for our top 10 products of CES list: Its feature set is astounding, and it sounds great, even when broadcasting FM radio to a stereo. Once Digital Innovations irons out this player's kinks, we look forward to doing a complete review of this multitalented newcomer.