Coby PMP 4000 review:

Coby PMP 4000

Once our music files were on the PMP-4320, we noticed considerable lagging while skipping between tracks during playback. We counted as many as five seconds of silence when skipping from one MP3 to the next. In an era of gapless playback, five seconds felt like an eternity. If you can put up with the lag, the audio sounds quite good and delivers the clarity and stereo separation critical for enjoying movie audio as well.

The real value of the Coby PMP-4320 hinges on its ability to play just about any video format you can think of, including DivX, WMV, MPEG-1/2/4, H.264, and XviD (in both 4:3 and 16:9 modes). Just dump it on the player and go--no converting tools are necessary. Again, there's no support for DRM-protected content, so most purchased download content will not play on the PMP-4320. On the upside, the built-in A/V mini-plug allows you to record all the content you want from any composite video source (TV, VCR, DVD player). The recorder is a cinch to use but only has one quality setting, labeled "High." The PMP-4320 records to ASF video, which is playable in Windows Media Player.

The recording resolution was passable for watching on the 4.3-inch screen, but not suitable for archiving or playback on a television. Even with this limitation, this is the first portable wide-screen video player with built-in video recording that we've seen in the U.S. for less than $300. Just keep in mind that an extra $100 can get you a player with a better design, a nicer screen, and a much bigger hard drive--such as an Archos 504 or a Creative Zen Vision W--just without the video recording.

The one and only... for now
It's about time someone let some air out of the PVP market's inflated price tags. Coby's PMP-4320 has some real warts--a smudge-prone screen with glare to spare, a bulky body that only manages to fit a 20GB drive, no support for Windows Media Player or DRM-protected content, and a total lack of video-recording quality options. Still, this underdog leads the pack (it might even be the lone wolf) in the sub-$300 wide-screen portable video player/recorder market, but I suspect the Coby PMP-4320 won't be alone for long.

If you want one device that will let you record the news while getting ready in the morning and then watch it later on the subway commute, the Coby PMP-4320 would make a great fit. The 20GB capacity (plus SD memory expansion) is just big enough to make it a road-trip or in-flight entertainment solution as well. Users with iPods also should consider the newly unveiled iSee device, which for around $200 will adapt even older generations of iPods into wide-screen video players with video-recording functionality.

Coby hasn't published a battery rating yet, so check back soon for our CNET Labs battery-drain test results.

What you'll pay

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