Using your MP3 player to stash photos from your digital camera isn't a new idea; plus a dock-connector iPod will do the trick. If you want to actually look at those photos on your audio device, you could pay a bit extra for an or choose from a growing list of photo-friendly MP3 players such as the iRiver H320, the iRiver H10, or any one of Samsung's latest. Or you could consider Gateway's $200 MP3 Photo Jukebox. It offers the same 4GB capacity as Apple's iPod Mini and includes a built-in color screen for browsing photos. The topper? You can transfer pics directly to the player from select cameras via a USB connection or, if your camera isn't on the list, to a USB flash-memory adapter. You can then browse them on the color screen while you're listening to your favorite songs in MP3, WMA, or protected WMA. Best of all, it doesn't cost any more than an iPod Mini, but be aware of other photo-friendly devices with more features and bigger hard drives.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. In terms of dimensions, weight, and screen size, Gateway's MP3 Photo Jukebox (3.8 by 2.3 by 0.7 inches; 3.4 ounces; 1.6-inch screen) is almost indistinguishable from Apple's iPod Mini (3.6 by 2.0 by 0.5 inches; 3.6 ounces; 1.6-inch screen). We'd like a bigger display on the MP3 Photo Jukebox, as any kind of fine picture detail is just about impossible to make out at the Gateway's 128x128 resolution; it's like looking at a thumbnail of your digital photo. We still enjoyed viewing pictures on it, especially while we were trapped on a plane. The MP3 Photo Jukebox is noticeably lightweight, and its curved silver body is attractive. However, we noted that the plastic shell feels a bit fragile.
While the four-way thumb-control button on the Photo Jukebox isn't nearly as elegant as an iPod Mini's Click Wheel, we found it just about as painless to use. Around the big thumb button (which navigates all your menus, launches your songs or playlists, and selects your pictures to display) is the usual collection of buttons: fast-forward/skip, reverse/skip, and play/pause, the last of which also powers up the unit. Additionally, there's a fourth button that launches the menus available for whatever section of the interface you're in. The volume control is on the right side of the unit, while the Hold switch and the headphone jack are on top. We found all the buttons quite easy to use with one hand.
Another nice touch is the removable battery, which has a rated life span of 8 hours. An extra battery will cost you $30. The Photo Jukebox comes with a soft faux-suede pouch, but if you want the belt/armband clip, you'll have to pony up $20 to purchase it.
As far as features go, the MP3 Photo Jukebox is a lot like the iPod Photo: neither has much to offer besides digital audio and photo playback. Although we enjoy being able to listen to music while browsing our pictures, it's a shame that you can't create photo slide shows on the device itself. We had to arrange photos into folders on our system, then copy them to the MP3 Photo Jukebox to get the slide shows that we wanted.
The MP3 Photo Jukebox doesn't require drivers to interface with a computer, so it's a good candidate for keeping files with you on the go. You'll want to take the USB cable on trips because it's the only way to use the 120V charger; it plugs into the USB cable, not the player itself. You could also carry extra batteries, as it's easy to swap in a fresh one.