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Coby PMP 4000 review: Coby PMP 4000

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Editor's note: The following is our review of the Coby PMP-4320, which is reported to be identical to the Coby PMP-4330 in every way except a 10GB difference in hard-drive storage.

6.3

Coby PMP 4000

The Good

The Coby PMP-4330 is a wide-screen media player that offers playback and recording of audio, video, and FM radio at a remarkable price.

The Bad

The PMP-4330 is cursed with a small hard drive, screen glare, long loading times for audio and video, no support for DRM-protected content, an inability to sync with Windows Media Player, and a total lack of video-recording quality settings. Plus, it cannot be powered via USB.

The Bottom Line

The Coby PMP-4330 made many compromises to meet its attractive price tag. Still, this PVP's built-in ability to record video is unprecedented for a wide-screen player in this price range.
Coby PMP-4330

Coby's PMP-4320 portable MP3-and-video player didn't impress us much until we looked at the price tag. As of this writing, you'd be hard pressed to find any other portable video players (PVPs) that will allow you to both view and record video on a 4.3-inch-wide screen for less than $300. Sure, this PVP has a laundry list of quirks and flaws, but it's surprising how much you can forgive, knowing you saved about $100 over the competition. If you want an inexpensive portable media device that does a lot--and are willing to make many sacrifices--the PMP-4320 could be just the device you're looking for.

Look but don't touch
Budget device or not, the Coby PMP-4320 looks elegant. The machined metal buttons and joystick on the front panel match the expensive feel of the Cowon A2. The screen is a 320x240, 4.3-inch TFT color display that has a wide viewing angle, but does not get very bright. The glossy plastic screen coating is a fingerprint magnet that gives off a ton of glare, making the somewhat dim display even harder to see. Every time we wanted to show off the PMP-4320, we were compelled to wipe off the smudges that had collected on the screen (Coby acknowledges this by including a cleaning cloth as an accessory). The back of the PMP-4320 includes a fold-out kickstand, allowing you to set it up on a table and keep your grubby fingers off it. The power jack, the headphone jack, the USB 2.0 connection, and A/V jacks are located on the left side of the player, leaving the right side for the power button and the SD card slot. The top of the PMP-4320 hides the microphone and built-in speakers. With 20GB of storage, it's a little on the thick side at just less than an inch, but the rounded, plastic back lets you fit the player into your pocket without looking too foolish.


Say what you will, at least the Coby PMP-4320 is packaged with all the cables you'll need. Because the PMP-4320 can't charge over its USB connection, the power supply is a necessary evil.

The graphic user interface can make or break devices that try to deliver as many features as possible. While the PMP-4320's onscreen navigation isn't flashy, it's usable, readable, and mostly intuitive. The main menu presents you with large graphic icons for each of its features, and the generic background screen can be replaced with any picture you've transferred into the photo library. The main menu's Resume function allows you to resume playing video right where you left off, in case you had to take a break or adjust a system setting in the middle of a movie.

You get what you pay for
The PMP-4320 is a "jack-of-all-trades--master of none" type of device. As an audio player, it supports MP3, WMA, OGG, and WAV files, but it won't play DRM-protected files and currently does not sync with Windows Media Player. The PMP-4320 doesn't charge via USB, so you'll have to charge using the included 9-volt DC power supply (a standard, nonproprietary connection type). Connecting and transferring files to the PMP-4320 happens by connecting via USB 2.0, then opening the device as an external hard drive. From there, you can drag your (hopefully) organized content into the appropriate folders on the device. You do get ID3 tag support and space for lyric tag information to display, plus a five-band EQ with a customizable user preset. Other features such as a photo album, voice recording, an FM tuner, and eBook have a basic, usable implementation--nothing fancy.

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.


6.3

Coby PMP 4000

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 5