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Disney Mix Max Player review: Disney Mix Max Player

Despite a few weaknesses, the Disney Mix Max will make most kids who like music, videos, and photos happy.

James Kim

James Kim

Account in memoriam for the editor.

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4 min read

Designed for kids and tweens, the Mix Max Player (MMP) measures about 4x2x0.5 inches and weighs hardly anything. It has contoured corners and a soft, glossy plastic finish that can definitely withstand some punishment. It's extremely pocketable and fairly easy to use, even though it can play back music, video, and photo files. To the right of the 2.2-inch QCIF+ color screen (that's 220x176 pixels/30 frames per second) are the main controller buttons, which form the shape of Mickey Mouse's head. Mickey's face is actually a tactile five-way controller, and the left and right ears are the Menu and Mix It buttons, respectively. The Mix It button activates a fancy version of the shuffle feature (with brains). Thoughtfully designed for kid fingers, the petite buttons are actually a tad difficult to press; it's particularly noticeable when navigating menus.

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6.7

Disney Mix Max Player

The Good

The Disney Mix Max Player offers music, video, and photo playback in a device styled and sized for kids; durable; has decent sound quality; works with Macs; compatible with music subscription services; can multitask; includes handy expansion slot (great for preprogrammed content); good battery life.

The Bad

The Disney Mix Max is a tad pricey for a 512MB player; buttons are hard to press; headphones are too big for younger kids; no volume limiter; video quality is not spectacular; photos can be slow to load.

The Bottom Line

Despite a few weaknesses, the Disney Mix Max will make most kids who like music, videos, and photos happy.
It was only a matter of time before Disney Electronics followed up its successful-in-retail, MP3-playing with its first portable video player (PVP). The $100 Mix Max Player comes in four magical color schemes (Blue, Chrome, Pink, and Purple) and can handle more types of media than you'd think. The admittedly adorable Mix Max Player comes with 512MB internally but can be expanded to up to 2GB via an SD/MMC card. Here's my review of the Pink version, which has the words Forever a Princess floating amid hearts and stars on the device's backside.


The four color variants of Mix Max players.

You'll find a plastic flap that hides the SD/MMC slot on the right spine of this Mickey Mouse player. This allows you to expand the 512MB of internal memory (good for about 125 MP3s) to up to 2GB, which would bring the player in line with typical flash media players. Disney also offers preloaded content in the form of MixClips, or an album's worth of protected WMA tracks. Because of the Mix Stick MP3 player, which remarkably ranks among the top 10 best-selling flash players at the retail level, according to NPD Group, there is a decent library of MixClips. Our review unit shipped with Disney Channel Hits Take1.

But the Mix Max Player's forte is video, and there is a growing list of Disney Max Clips, or preloaded memory cards in the form of music videos and movies, from Buena Vista Entertainment (movies, including the hit movie High School Musical, will cost about $20). Preloaded content like this is a nice solution for many parents who don't want to mess with a computer. Remarkably, the player is compatible with WMA subscription tracks and includes both MSC (mounts like any drive) and Windows MTP (for subscription content).

The bottom of the unit includes the headphone jack and a standard mini USB port. The top has dedicated volume buttons, a power button (which you hold down for what seems like eternity to power on), and a hold switch. The MMP ships with a USB cable, a Windows 98 SE driver and the Windows Media Player 10 plug-in on CD, and a wrist strap. You also get colorful earbuds, though they aren't any smaller than typical buds, which is bad news for younger kids whose ears aren't big enough (like mine, a technology-embracing four-year-old). It would also make me happy to see more kid devices with built-in volume limiters; the Mix Max Player doesn't have one.

You can transfer content either via drag and drop or automatically using Windows Media Player. (Side note: The Mix Max is Mac compatible, though most video must go through Windows Media Player.) Autosyncing is a good bet, since photos will be downsized (for quicker loading) and most video will be converted to the compatible WMV format. One interesting bit: the Mix It plug-in is recommended if you use Windows Media Player; found on the install CD, this software will analyze tracks with similar tempos and styles. When you hit the Mix It button, playlists will be created based on this analysis.

The screen quality is not great, but it's OK and certainly good enough to please kids. The player's main menu is well conceived, with animated icons for movies, music, photos, and settings surrounding the Now Playing icon. It's really simple to use, with the option to play all appearing at the top of any category. Photos get thumbnail treatment (a 3-by-3 grid), while music is broken down by album, artist, genre, and playlist. The settings are advanced, too, with typical MP3 player fare, including five EQ presets, slide-show parameters, a clock (shown on most pages), and repeat. You can even multitask, namely listen to music and view photos simultaneously. Seriously, this thing isn't a mere toy.

Sound quality is decent, though we found it strange to use up and down buttons to skip tracks (the right/left buttons are to fast-forward or rewind). We did notice that images, including thumbnails, took a few seconds to load. Images aren't all that crisp; the display is like a cell phone in this respect. Video quality is quite compressed and splotchy, but it works well enough for most undiscerning kids. Unfortunately, there is no bookmark function.

The built-in rechargeable battery lasts a rated 8 hours of audio and 2 hours of video. In our test, the MMP actually trounced those numbers with 27 hours for MP3 playback and 3 hours for video playback, quite decent numbers.

Overall, while I think the Mix Max Player has some weaknesses (namely, hard-to-press buttons and no volume limitation), it's a sweet gift idea for media-loving kids. At $100, it's actually more expensive than the street price of the well-appointed 1GB Creative Zen V Plus, which has a smaller but sharper screen for playing videos and photos. Older kids (10 to 14) may want this or an iPod instead, but younger kids (4 to 10) will find the Mix Max an awesome companion.

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6.7

Disney Mix Max Player

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 7
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