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Coby tries to think out of a familiar box

With dominant touch screens, design options for media players are limited.

Coby Electronics

If all personal media players are dominated by the largest touch screen they can handle--a la the iPhone and Touch--how much room is left for designs that distinguish them from the rest of the pack? Take the latest to join the fray, for example: Coby's MP-835.

As Chip Chick notes, it seemed like an obvious Touch competitor, while fellow Craver Donald Bell thought it looked a lot like the Samsung YP-P2. It's certainly clean enough, but the specs aren't anything to crow about--a 3-inch touch LCD, 2GB or 4GB internal storage, and the usual audio and video support.

As far as the design goes, it's hard to blame Coby for not standing apart. The way things are going, media players may all end up looking like the back of a point-and-shoot camera. Which, in turn, may become a standard part of the phone anyway. And that brings us full circle, back to the iPhone. Think of it as a gadget version of an Escher illustration.