MP3 players fulfill many roles for the people who use them. For some, a portable audio device is true to form as an essential commuter companion; others turn their players into home audio systems by attaching them to speakers. But one of the most popular uses for an MP3 player is as a workout motivator, which is why companies have packed fitness-friendly extras into the devices over the years. The most recent example is found in the Haier America Trainer, a 2GB player with a surfeit of features aimed at getting you in shape. At $60, the Trainer is a solid investment for gym rats who want to get the absolute most out of an MP3 player.
Like any good fitness-friendly MP3 player, the Trainer is supersmall, light, and durable. It also features a built-in belt clip so you can attach it to your clothes during workouts. The unit is constructed of sweat-resistant plastic that's decked out in muted blue, gray, and black. A small, monochrome LCD on the front is flanked by a navigation button, dedicated volume controls, playback keys (play/pause and track forward/reverse), and a heart rate sensor. Around the edges of the device, you'll find a power/hold switch, a standard USB port, a menu button, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
With its plethora of buttons, the Trainer is not the most straightforward device, but most users will require just a bit of practice before getting the hang of it. For example, the navigation key moves among the top menu options, while the menu button pulls up contextual menus for some of those options. Also, the volume and track shuttle controls are used for different functions within the menus. Thankfully, getting music onto the player is not as tricky: simply plug it in to any system running Mac or Windows and drag and drop tracks or album/artist folders. You may also elect to use a jukebox, such as Windows Media Player or Rhapsody, but be forewarned that the Trainer does not accept playlists--kind of a glaring oversight for a workout player, if you ask us. On the plus side, the unit supports subscription WMA files and MP3s.
Other features found on the Trainer are almost exclusively of a fitness-oriented nature. There's a built-in pedometer, a heart rate monitor, and a stopwatch. The player lets you input your height, weight, and sex for calorie-tracking purposes, and Haier even includes a handy tracking app that's very easy to use. Even the integrated FM radio (with autoscan and presets) can be useful for those who like to tune into the TVs at the gym. And what's great is that the pedometer and stopwatch can run in the background while you do other things, such as browse music or check your pulse.