Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.
The Panasonic SL-CT800 is one of the thinnest and lightest portable MP3 CD players on the market. The stylish device's circular silver chassis is barely thicker than a standard CD jewel case and slightly wider than a compact disc.
The circumference of the player's body holds the standard CD transport controls, as well as a headphone jack, an AC power jack, and--impressively--a digital optical TosLink output for sending sound to a stereo system without losing a single bit. Because the SL-CT800 ships without any sort of belt clip or carrying case, most users will undoubtedly toss it into a backpack or a handbag and navigate discs with the in-line remote. The control features a five-way rocker pad and a one-line backlit LCD, on which you can scroll through a song's ID3 tag information. Hold switches for both the body and the remote cancel any unintended, jostling-induced button pushing. A decent set of earbuds is included, but you can attach your preferred headphones to the remote control instead.
The SL-CT800 plays standard audio CDs, as well as CD-Rs and CD-RWs filled with audio, MP3, and WMA music. During recharging and playback, the buttons on the body light up in pleasant patterns like a console in a 1960s sci-fi movie. Along with the light show, you get three preset equalization modes and the standard array of random, repeat, and 20-track-program play options.
Folder navigation was relatively straightforward even with the remote and even when we were accessing nested subfolders. Skip protection worked flawlessly, so our music never missed a beat. The headphone output, at 8mW per channel, is quieter than that of most portables we've seen, but it was sufficient for all but the loudest urban settings. Our main complaint is the annoying split second of random noise we often heard between tracks on some home-burned discs.
In our tests, the gum stick-style rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride batteries took about 4.5 hours to fill up, and they were still going strong after 20 hours of tunes. A supplemental battery pack adds two AA cells and hours of playback time, but it gives the SL-CT800 a bulky, stegosaurus-like tail.
All in all, the SL-CT800 is an attractive and capable MP3 CD player with good battery life and a classy remote. However, those looking for a similarly slim model at the same price should check out the iRiver iMP-400 SlimX, which adds an FM radio, playlist support, and a car kit, none of which is found on the Panasonic.