When we first heard about MobiBlu's 153-hour flash-based MP3 player, we were understandably skeptical about that battery-life claim. But soon--well, not exactly soon--after receiving the MobiBlu B153, our doubts were cast aside. CNET Labs cranked a whopping 146.5 hours of tunes out of the player; yes, the B153 is the incredible, long-lasting MP3 player--particularly impressive, considering its rechargeable battery. If marathon-level battery life is what you're after, this is the device for you.
Designwise, the MobiBlu B153 is nothing special, though it's competitively priced. It's available in 512MB (white, $89), 1GB (black, $100), and 2GB (black, $130) capacities, and it measures 3.5 by 1.8 inches, with a tapering depth of 0.8 to 0.5 inch. The two-color OLED screen is small, so it's fairly obvious that a large battery demands most of the B153's real estate. By that same token, its 2.3-ounce weight also indicates a relatively hefty battery; in contrast, most flash players weigh around 1.5 ounces or less.
To the right of the screen is the small five-way joystick; the play/pause/power, SRS Wow, record, and lyrics-view buttons line the top of the device; and the hold switch is on the back. The headphone jack and lanyard loop are on the left side and the proprietary USB port on the right. A clear plastic case, a proprietary line-in-to-USB cable, and a lanyard are also included.
Unlike many MP3 players today, the MobiBlu B153 doesn't offer photo or video playback. However, it comes with just about every other feature in the book, including one we've yet to see on any player we've reviewed so far: the preloaded Podcast Ready software. First, connect the player to your computer, and run the software from the device. From there, the program trolls the Internet for your subscribed podcasts, which you must first set up through the Podcast Ready Web site; simply click Download Podcasts, and they're updated on the player. The beauty of this is that you can quickly and easily update your content from any Internet-connected computer. (It's also worth noting that you can upload the software to other MP3 players.)
The MobiBlu B153's other features include compatibility with both Windows and Mac PCs (it mounts as a UMS device), an FM radio, a voice recorder, SRS Wow sound enhancement effects, a lyrics reader, and line-in recording. Just keep in mind that you make recordings through the USB port, so you'll need the included cable. What you don't get is the ability to sort songs by artist, album, or genre; the B153 offers strictly folder-tree-style navigation. The player supports MP3 and WMA files, including protected files purchased à la carte from online music stores, though not subscription tracks.
As mentioned earlier, the MobiBlu B153's shining star is its 146.5-hour battery life, which is roughly three times as long as the closest competition. For example, the Samsung YP-MT6 boasts 48 hours of battery life, but it requires AA batteries. Transfer times over USB 2.0 were far less inspiring at 1.6MB per second. With the included headphones, music had good detail and decent bass response at certain EQ settings, but audio sounded cold and a bit flat overall; swapping in a set of Shure E4cs made for much richer tunes. FM radio reception was excellent, and the autoscan feature worked well. In any case, the B153 gets plenty loud.