It was only a matter of time before Disney Electronics followed up its successful-in-retail, MP3-playing Mix Sticks with its first portable video player (PVP). The $100 Mix Max Player comes in four magical color schemes (Blue, Chrome, Pink, and Purple) and can handle more types of media than you'd think. The admittedly adorable Mix Max Player comes with 512MB internally but can be expanded to up to 2GB via an SD/MMC card. Here's my review of the Pink version, which has the words Forever a Princess floating amid hearts and stars on the device's backside.
Designed for kids and tweens, the Mix Max Player (MMP) measures about 4x2x0.5 inches and weighs hardly anything. It has contoured corners and a soft, glossy plastic finish that can definitely withstand some punishment. It's extremely pocketable and fairly easy to use, even though it can play back music, video, and photo files. To the right of the 2.2-inch QCIF+ color screen (that's 220x176 pixels/30 frames per second) are the main controller buttons, which form the shape of Mickey Mouse's head. Mickey's face is actually a tactile five-way controller, and the left and right ears are the Menu and Mix It buttons, respectively. The Mix It button activates a fancy version of the shuffle feature (with brains). Thoughtfully designed for kid fingers, the petite buttons are actually a tad difficult to press; it's particularly noticeable when navigating menus.
You'll find a plastic flap that hides the SD/MMC slot on the right spine of this Mickey Mouse player. This allows you to expand the 512MB of internal memory (good for about 125 MP3s) to up to 2GB, which would bring the player in line with typical flash media players. Disney also offers preloaded content in the form of MixClips, or an album's worth of protected WMA tracks. Because of the Mix Stick MP3 player, which remarkably ranks among the top 10 best-selling flash players at the retail level, according to NPD Group, there is a decent library of MixClips. Our review unit shipped with Disney Channel Hits Take1.
But the Mix Max Player's forte is video, and there is a growing list of Disney Max Clips, or preloaded memory cards in the form of music videos and movies, from Buena Vista Entertainment (movies, including the hit movie High School Musical, will cost about $20). Preloaded content like this is a nice solution for many parents who don't want to mess with a computer. Remarkably, the player is compatible with WMA subscription tracks and includes both MSC (mounts like any drive) and Windows MTP (for subscription content).
The bottom of the unit includes the headphone jack and a standard mini USB port. The top has dedicated volume buttons, a power button (which you hold down for what seems like eternity to power on), and a hold switch. The MMP ships with a USB cable, a Windows 98 SE driver and the Windows Media Player 10 plug-in on CD, and a wrist strap. You also get colorful earbuds, though they aren't any smaller than typical buds, which is bad news for younger kids whose ears aren't big enough (like mine, a technology-embracing four-year-old). It would also make me happy to see more kid devices with built-in volume limiters; the Mix Max Player doesn't have one.