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Apex MP-2000 Portable Media Player review: Apex MP-2000 Portable Media Player

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Using the MP-2000 to view photos varies from not bad to very annoying. Once you've selected a folder, hit the Play/Enter button to start a slide show. You can select a delay between slides ranging from 1 to 30 seconds and turn music on or off while you're playing slides, though we wish the manual would tell us how to pick a specific background song for a slide show. We expected we'd be able to use the thumbstick to skip back and forth between pictures, and after the slide show had been open for a bit, it did. Moving the 'stick from left to right moves forward and backward through the, rotates the, takes us into tiled Pick A Photo mode. We had to consult the manual and practice with the thumbstick to successfully navigate through our collection of photos. The player drags for more than a few seconds when queueing up thumbnails for, say, nine 1.6MB photos, but it works fairly quickly on smaller-size images.

Other than USB drivers for Windows 98 SE/Me systems, no software comes with the MP-2000. This can be disappointing for those who would like to convert their files into a format that the MP-2000 can play. For the most part, you're on your own with the MP-2000, so it's easy to say to beginners: caveat emptor.

Complaints about the company's Web site (and the lack of detailed information on supported formats) aside, when the Apex MP-2000 was capable of playing our encoded video, we were pleased with the results, both on the internal LCD and via the output to TV. In cases where video looked choppy or full of digital artifacts, it was the fault of the video compression, not the MP-2000's ability to play back video.

We had mixed success recording video onto the Apex via the A/V in-line jack, which uses special cables to go from the Apex's minijacks to the composite video/stereo-audio output on the back of your video machine. First, it won't record copy-protected video. It simply flashes a message stating "protected video," then shuts down. That happened with every Hollywood DVD we tried. Good for the MPAA, but bad if you want to watch your DVD collection on the road. Second, when we finally found a non-copy-protected video in our DVD rack (Dezert People Triple Down, an outrageous collection of desert-racing footage set to a thumping soundtrack), we discovered that the audio-capture was full of scratchy, digital artifacts at the high end, even when we maxed out the quality settings. That means that the 19 hours of footage you shot at the last soccer tournament might look good but could sound awful if you captured it on the MP-2000.

One other note on recording video: There's a good 5-second delay between hitting the record button and the time that video recording actually begins. You'll have to work on your timing if you don't want to clip the opening of your capture. The MP-2000 also won't handle QuickTime video files, which is a shame since there are so many movie trailers in that format. Frankly, if you want video content for the MP-2000, you'll have to work for it: for instance, waiting around until the TV show you want to record is about to start, since there's no timer in the MP-2000, or spending time transcoding files with an application such as Virtual Dub.

As far as listening quality goes, the Apex offered us some surprisingly detailed sound, at least, once we dumped the cheap, over-the ear 'phones that came in the box. The horn solo that opens Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" was strikingly clear right down to the glissando, and the player managed to reveal much of the detail from the piano and Ms. Holiday's voice. Really cranking the volume up on a rocker such as Concrete Blonde's "It'll Chew You Up and Spit You Out" was problematic; at points, the bass started to distort a bit. That could be due in part to the hefty power demands of our Grado headphones, or the amp might simply get overtaxed on the low end when it's cranked. Voice recording via the onboard mic gave us tinny but still highly listenable audio.

CNET Labs was able to squeeze only 3.5 hours of video from the device's removable rechargeable battery--not so good. The MP-2000 fared a bit better for audio only at 8.3 hours, but that's still on the low side. Transfer times, however, were excellent at 6.2MB per second over USB 2.0.

File transfer speed  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
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Battery drain tests (audio)
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Battery drain tests (video)
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