Blue Raven MediaMate 7000
The first thing you'll notice about the Blue Raven MediaMate is its size. It's simply gigantic. The portable media player measures 8 inches wide, 4.5 inches tall, and 1 inch deep and sports a screen that measures 7 inches diagonally. Along with its considerable size comes nearly 1.5 pounds of weight. Though the MediaMate stretches well beyond pocket-size, it has all the makings of a decent road trip PMP, with an affordable price tag of $379 (40GB) or $429 (80GB).
As a company, Blue Raven is known mostly for its line of affordable iPod and PSP accessories as well as laptop and iPod battery replacements. The MediaMate 7000 series comprises its first portable video players (PVP) and seems remarkably well-conceived for a first effort. The construction is mostly plastic with an aluminum backing, and it avoids the toy-like feel associated with some budget products. The 7-inch screen is recessed just slightly into the front of the player to prevent scratches, and all the connectivity ports are easy to locate and relatively intuitive. A 29-button IR remote is included in the package as well, featuring all the controls you'd find on the front of the player. Truth be told, we found the controls on the remote more intuitive than the layout of the controls on the device itself. Instead of a single four-direction control like the Creative Zen Vision:W, the MediaMate splits the directional controls between the left and right side of the screen--horizontal control on the left side, vertical control on the right side. While the split is manageable, we would have preferred if the direction controls were directly opposite each other. This is not a big deal, but it can be frustrating the first few times you hit the Enter button when you mean to hit the Up button.
Another design feature worth noting is a bit of a mixed blessing. The metal stands supplied with the MediaMate clip onto both the right and left sides of the player to bolster its considerable bulk. Unfortunately, the plastic slots used by the clips are not reinforced and could easily snap if sufficient force is applied. A badly angled drop off a table would be enough to permanently damage the kickstand feature. Still, the inclusion of sturdy, angled stands is a plus, even if their connections to the player are a little fragile.
The MediaMate 7000 players have most of the features you'd expect from a wide-screen PVP. You get a video player, a video recorder, an MP3 player, a voice recorder, a photo viewer and a text viewer. There's no FM radio, but you'll likely be using a device like this in a car or a plane--situations where you'll already have a radio or where a radio would be useless. The MediaMate also includes a three-in-one flash memory card slot (SD, MMC, MS) that allows you to import the contents of the memory card directly onto the player's hard drive.
The obvious standout feature of the MediaMate 7000 is the 7-inch screen. The screen is a TFT LCD display capable of displaying 16.7 million colors at a resolution of 480x234. We tested it up against the Archos 704 WiFi and Creative Zen Vision:W, and while the Blue Raven was colorful, it couldn't match either player for brightness and resolution quality. We also found the MediaMate's glossy screen to be prone to glare. So while the MediaMate's screen is luxuriously large, it only boasts the resolution of a device half its size. The end result is that the pixels on the MediaMate's screen are visible enough to be distracting, even at arm's length.