Editors' note: This review has been updated to reflect battery life test results, and the rating of the product has been lowered to reflect the subpar performance.
Home appliance and electronics manufacturer Haier America is certainly not the first company to come to mind when thinking about MP3 players and portable media, but there's nothing wrong with a little fresh blood in the market. In fact, a newcomer can bring a certain freshness for consumers--Haier does so with the 30GB Ibiza Rhapsody. It's a jack-of-all-trades media player that encompasses emerging wireless technologies, including Wi-Fi music downloading and stereo audio streaming via A2DP Bluetooth. The device, which sells for a slightly pricey $299.99 and is available in a variety of colors (black, blue, pink, silver, or white), handles its multitude of features surprisingly well, but not everyone will be happy with its standard looks, lack of audio-enhancement options, and subpar rated battery life.
Considering the lack of choice in this category at the moment, we're stoked that Haier is offering the Ibiza Rhapsody in a hard-drive model (flash versions with either 4GB or 8GB are also available). At 4.1 inches by 2.4 inches by 0.5 inch, the device isn't overly bulky--an especially impressive trait given the built-in wireless antennae (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth). Plus, it has a nice, substantial feel to it, with plenty of tactile controls to complement the square touchpad on the front. The touchpad--which is surrounded by Play/Pause, Track Shuttle, and Back buttons--is responsive and can be clicked in the center to make selections. A dedicated Volume toggle and a Power key are embedded into the right spine; the latter can be a bit difficult to press as it rests flush with the edge. The top side of the player contains the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, a Hold switch, and the Connect button, which allows you to activate the Wi-Fi with one press. Oddly, the bottom edge of the Ibiza houses both a standard mini USB port and a proprietary dock connector. The former handles syncing and charging, so we assume the latter is meant to accommodate future docking accessories.
The Ibiza's QVGA screen isn't the largest we've seen, but at 2.5 inches, it competes squarely with the iPod Classic. The interface in general is reminiscent of the iPod's, because of its blue-white tinge and simple, hierarchical organization. The main menu includes direct connections to Rhapsody Channels and the Rhapsody catalog, which is handy for subscribers. Also handy is the search field that shows up along the top of the screen once you delve down into artist, albums, and songs. And we're keen on the way the Ibiza handles album art: there's a full-screen, faded-out image behind the thumbnail on the main playback screen. It's a cool effect.