Gateway has followed Dell's lead by introducing a hard drive-based MP3 player. Dell's shares certain elements with Creative's devices, while Gateway's is based on the less successful eDigital . A year ago, the $299, 20GB DMP-X20 would have been more competitive, but it still has its allure.
To make the X20, Gateway essentially rebranded the Odyssey 1000 and smoothed out some of its kinks. The company wisely shrank the player, slimming the dimensions to a relatively svelte 3.99 by 2.64 by 0.83 inches and reducing the weight to 7.7 ounces, probably by decreasing the size and the resilience of the internal battery. We admire the device's looks: the finish is a shiny aluminum alloy, and the blue-backlit display measures a massive 2.5 inches, occupying almost half of the face. The rubber flaps covering the USB and power ports keep dirt out but are a pain to open and close.
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The included case affords access to every control except the On/Hold/Off slider, which is on top of the player.
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You can use the in-line remote with any headphones; Gateway provides an over-the-ear model.
The player's navigation roller, though nowhere near as elegant as the iPod's jog wheel, works well for left- or right-handed scrolling. Encircling it are the Play/Pause, Back, Menu, Mode, Fast-forward, and Rewind buttons. We enjoyed having both Back and Menu for maneuvering through the X20's features; most players offer one or the other. The only design gripe we had was with setting Hold, which occupies the middle position of the top-mounted On/Hold/Off slider. If you're not careful, the control will often slip to On or Off. As for the interface, we found it functional and easy to use, with simple graphics and a logical layout.
Gateway includes a clip-on in-line remote for playback and volume adjustment. The control doesn't have a display, but it works with either the provided over-the-ear headphones or a replacement pair. You also get an open-faced carrying case with a Velcro top and a belt clip. Finally, the X20 comes with a simple adapter cord, which attaches to the player with a 1/8-inch connector and to a stereo with an RCA jack.
The X20 plays MP3, WMA, andfiles. You get the standard playlist, shuffle, repeat, and intro playback modes, and they conveniently work in conjunction with your songs' attributes. For instance, if you activate shuffle and select an artist from your library, the mode juggles all of that artist's tunes. Unfortunately, like Dell's Digital Jukebox DJ, the X20 does not play an album's tracks in their original sequence, even though the ripping process adds ordering information to most ID3 tags. To work around this shortcoming, you'll have to re-create each album as a properly sequenced playlist in the companion Windows Media Player software.