Despite being about the same size and weight as a disposable lighter, the 128MB Foxda FM6603 flash-based MP3 player packs in an impressive array of features. For starters, you get an FM radio; line-in, voice, and FM recording; and six equalization modes. And Foxda saved major space by assigning headphones, line-in signals, and USB connectivity all to one port--a first in our product testing. Considering all these pluses, the $140 retail price makes sense, but feature-hungry users will likely require better performance.
Measuring 2.7 by 0.9 by 0.5 inches and weighing just less than an ounce, this diminutive player will fit in any shirt or pants pocket. To keep the subsequent jostling from changing the track, you simultaneously press the two round buttons along the FM6603's edge. Together, they lock the controls like the dedicated Hold key of some other models.
Basic use is a breeze. File transfer on post-2000 operating systems requires no drivers; the bidirectional toggle makes track navigation easy; and the blue-backlit, 128x32-pixel LCD does a great job. The screen shows you artist, song, and album names; the remaining battery life; the volume; and the EQ setting. But you can't create playlists, so you have to listen to tunes in alphabetical order or engage shuffle mode.
Unearthing the more sophisticated features is a little trickier; you have to navigate the menus using an awkward combination of tiny buttons and the toggle. But once you've found the settings, the player displays them clearly in your choice of English or Chinese.
The FM6603 supports MP3, WAV, and WMA files as long as you didn't purchase them online. Maybe Foxda will later add music-store compatibility with a firmware upgrade.
We heard no hiss or cracking during song playback, but the sound got warbly at the highest volume output, which is a meager 5mW per channel. At medium and soft levels, the audio quality was pretty nice over the included headphones, and they actually made that 5mW seem rather loud. The signal-to-noise ratio is good at 90dB, and the total harmonic distortion is an excellent 0.01 percent at 1kHz.
The recording-quality story is decidedly grimmer. Quick memos will come out fine, but the FM6603 is unacceptable for capturing audio from CDs or powered microphones.
The Foxda FM6603 will please anyone looking for an extremely portable MP3 player with a little extra under the hood. Just don't expect high-quality recording.