Singing a new tune
The eDigital MXP-100 looks like a typical, if a bit large, flash memory-based MP3 player. It measures 4.3 by 2.5 by 0.87 inches and weighs 4.9 ounces. The face sports a large, easy-to-read LCD and firm buttons. The jog dial on the side handles many functions: the settings menu, EQ, navigating songs or playlists, and so on. But the 340MB IBM Microdrive is what sets the unit apart; that's enough storage for more than five hours of MP3 music. The CompactFlash-sized Microdrive is almost silent and impervious to shock.
The company claims to offer breakthrough voice navigation with the MXP-100, but in our testing, this capability seemed more like a fun party trick than a useful feature. If you stop playback and press Record for a second, the unit will go into voice-navigation mode. Then, you can use commands such as forward and previous to select tracks or folders. You can even say a folder or track name to select it. We found that this feature worked reasonably well with short folder names, but the unit was rarely able to correctly decipher longer song titles. To be truly useful, the voice-navigation feature would need to be much more accurate and shouldn't require pressing any buttons. Rather, it should always be available while music is playing so that you could adjust volume or skip to the next track. The player would ideally come with a microphone jack on the headphone, such as the one included with the Samsung Uproar cell phone. That way, you could issue commands without having to lift the unit toward your mouth.
Note to self: clear sound
We preferred using the player's built-in mike for voice recording rather than voice navigation. Recording quality was clear, and we appreciated the inclusion of time and date in each recording's filename. You can upload and listen to these WAV files on your PC using the Music Explorer software, which is also used to move tunes to the player via USB. However, transfer times were disappointing: it took almost three minutes to move 30MB of music (a fairly slow 184K per second). On a more positive note, audio quality was excellent, with clear, vibrant reproduction of music through the included ear bud-style headphones. A rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasted an impressive 12 hours in our battery-drain test.
The 340MB model reviewed here sells for $339. However, you can purchase the MXP-100 in several other capacities: 128MB ($279), 512MB ($379), and 1GB ($449). Those prices are all pretty expensive considering that you can get the 6GB Archos Jukebox Recorder or the brand-new iPod for $399. However, both of those products are heavier than the MXP-100 and not really suitable for use while exercising. The bottom line: Until the MXP-100's price comes down a bit, most users are probably better off with either smaller, lighter, cheaper flash memory-based players (such as the Rio 800) or larger, heavier hard-drive units.