Best Buy appears intent on expanding its line of MP3 players. The latest addition, dubbed the Insignia Kix (1GB), screams budget: It has a small screen, a plastic body, and a price tag of just $50. No doubt, the Kix is cheap (and feels it), but it's not without its merits. The player offers decent sound quality, comes with interchangeable USB covers, and includes a couple of compelling features, such as an FM tuner and subscription music support.
The design of the Insignia Kix hearkens back to the early days of flash MP3 players, right down to the built-in USB plug. The player looks like a thumb drive with a (small) screen, though at 3.2 inches by 1.4 inches by 0.6 inch, the Kix is a bit larger than most thumb drives. The USB interface is concealed by a rotating cover, and each version of the player comes with three different colored covers. The silver Kix includes a black, a dark blue, and a maroon flap, while the white model comes with a pink, a blue, and a green. The covers snap on and off easily, making this player an ideal candidate for outfit coordination.
The face of the Kix features a 1-inch tricolor screen that displays scrolling artist/album information as well as the track name, time elapsed/remaining, and battery meter. Around the edges of the player, you'll find a dedicated volume rocker, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a hold switch. A small and stiff five-way control pad with a tiny nested power/menu button sits to the right of the screen. It's not the easiest to use because of the size and stiffness, but it gets the job done.
Luckily, there's not much to the menu system, since the player doesn't have many features. The main menu offers selections for now playing, music, FM radio, settings, and (surprisingly) Rhapsody Channels. Delve into the music menu and you'll find items organized handily by artist, album, playlist, and so on. There's even an Audible sort for spoken-word files purchased from that site, though, unfortunately, podcasts aren't given the same treatment. On the plus side, the FM radio offers autoscan and a preset feature. However, seeking between channels is a painfully slow process, and the reception isn't great.
On the plus side, sound quality for digital files on the Kix trumps the FM radio. In addition to Audible files, this player supports WAV, MP3, WMA, and DRM-protected WMA tracks. Aside from some rather irritating feedback that buzzes in when tracks are paused, music sounds decent, even through the included earbuds (though they don't score points for comfort). Bass is lacking and the experience is nowhere close to mind-blowing, but audio is more than passable for a player at this price point. Plus, the battery life of 30.7 hours is impressive. As such, the Insignia Kix is a reasonable option as a secondary MP3 player or as an introductory device for the younger set.