If you hope to survive against the reigning king of MP3 players, otherwise known as the Apple iPod Nano, you better have some jaw-dropping feature that makes you stand out. Unfortunately, while Haier America's latest offering, the HEC Video MP3 Player, puts a good foot forward with its solid sound quality and a very palatable price tag, its quirky navigation isn't going to do much to tempt prospective iPod buyers. However, if you've been hunting for a music device that actually has a decent shuffle algorithm, the HEC is worth a look.
As mentioned, the HEC Video MP3 Player's price may turn some heads. Although the 4GB version appears to carry an MSRP of around $80, it sells for closer to $45, and the $65 sticker on the 8GB comes closer to $55 in reality. And, yes, we do think it's odd that the suggested pricing is more for the 4GB than the 8GB. One thing we are sure of, though, is that both models' designs and features are much more in line with the lower pricing.
The overall style of the HEC Video MP3 Player isn't really a problem, though the shiny black plastic body with the faux-chrome back plate seems played-out at this stage in the game. It's not an eyesore by any means, but it does come off looking rather cheap. More of an issue, though, is the blue-backlit touch-sensitive controls on the face of the device, which are overly sensitive. There are four arrow indicators in addition to menu and OK keys, but we found that touching the area around those last two had varied results; they're just not quite accurate.
Also, it's a little strange to us that OK plays and pauses music; normally, this would be handled by a center key between the directional arrows. Then, the space taken up by the OK button could offer a contextual menu option, which--like the center key--does not exist on this device. Also odd: while navigating within menus, scrolling up and down is handled by the left and right arrows, while the up and down buttons continue to adjust volume. While we appreciate "dedicated" volume controls, it would make more sense to throw an extra toggle on the spine of the device.