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.
These gripes aside, the overall menu structure of the HEC Video MP3 Player is actually fairly straightforward, with an icon-driven main menu that denotes the various functionality of the player: now playing, music, photo, FM, settings, and so on. Music is arranged in the handy step-down configuration, with options to browse by artist, album, genre, or year, and you also have the option to browse by folder. However, notably absent is support for any playlists--a glaring omission for any modern MP3 player. On the plus side, you do get MP3, WMA DRM, and OGG playback, as well as five EQ presets and some shuffle repeat options. And we will say this: the shuffle function on this player works better than many others we've tested, and that is definitely deserving of some brownie points.
Other features, however, are crippled. There's a video player, but it only plays SMV files, which are a pain to covert and not all that useful. Plus, video doesn't look great on the small screen. Photo support is also built in but again, the 128x160-pixel screen isn't the best for this. The HEC Video MP3 Player has an FM tuner and recorder as well as a voice recorder, but accessing the recording features is a bit convoluted. The FM tuner, however, works well and includes autoscan and presets.
The HEC Video MP3 Player fares better when it comes to performance, though it's not so great as to save the device from its many shortcomings. The rated battery life of 30 hours is certainly more than adequate, and we suspect CNET Labs testing will come close to that number. Sound quality is solid once you swap in some decent headphones, such as the Klipsch Image S4. Music comes through with a good amount of clarity and detail and is quite balanced. Bass response is present without being overwhelming, and the mids are reasonably warm, though not as buttery as we like. Still, the sound didn't blow us away enough for us to recommend the player even with its pitfalls. Really, it should be an option only for someone who is obsessed with seeking out a great shuffler.