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Photos: RCA Pearl

If you're looking for a better-sounding alternative to the Sansa Express, the RCA Pearl does the trick--but be prepared to deal with a funky user interface and disposable batteries.

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CNET Reviews staff
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1 of 7 CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze
The player has an ultra-smooth coating decked out in a metallic sheen, so it feels nice to hold. The bulbous battery pack on the back provides extra grip.
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2 of 7 CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze
It's cheap, it sounds good, and it fits easily in a pocket. Plus, it can double as a thumbdrive. Still, the tricky interface will turn many users off.
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3 of 7 CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze
The player's interface is a little tricky. First, there are the two top menus, which make it a chore to get to otherwise handy features, such as the FM radio. Second, it takes a bit to get the hang of navigating via two horizontal rockers (the track shuttle and volume keys shown here).
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4 of 7 CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze
The 1GB Pearl only costs $39, while the 2GB version goes for a mere $48. If you need more memory, you can add some via the MicroSD card slot. The top of the player also offers a hold switch and record button for taking voice notes.
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5 of 7 CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze
Disposable batteries are totally passe in MP3 player land--we're not sure why RCA went that route for the Pearl. You'll probably have to spend more money on batteries than you did on the player itself.
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6 of 7 CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze
MP3 players with built-in USB interfaces are enjoying a bit of a renaissance lately. This handy design feature gives the Pearl true plug-and-go appeal. You can easily use it as a storage device.
7 of 7 CNET Networks/Corinne Schulze
The RCA Pearl is compact and not too bad-looking. There's a shiny strip set into the face that's not quite mirrorlike in its reflectiveness.

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