Gateway's 6GB MP3 Photo Jukebox
When Gateway introduced its last October, it was among the few MP3 players to boast a full-color screen capable of displaying photos. Since then, portable audio giants such as Apple and iRiver, as well as a host of smaller companies, have unleashed a slew of photo-capable devices on the awaiting public. Thus, it's no surprise that Gateway jumped to get the updated MP3 Photo Jukebox on the market. Aside from its larger storage capacity and bolder color scheme, the 6GB version is very similar to the older 4GB model. Unfortunately, the Gateway 6GB MP3 Photo Jukebox ($249) frequently stumbled with photo slide shows and didn't work well with the Yahoo Unlimited subscription-based music download service, although performance was markedly better with Napster To Go. The Gateway 6GB MP3 Photo Jukebox, at 3.8 by 2.3 by 0.7 inches and 3.4 ounces, is considerably smaller than the iPod Photo, but it's a hair larger than the audio-only iPod Mini, which is 3.6 by 2.0 by 0.5 inches and 3.6 ounces. Although the 6GB MP3 Photo Jukebox's plastic construction doesn't inspire the same confidence as the iPod Mini's aluminum chassis, the unit's light weight makes it unobtrusive. Aside from its color scheme, the player is virtually identical to the older Gateway 4GB MP3 Photo Jukebox. We prefer the older model's charcoal gray styling to the new unit's black and light silver design; the glossy black plastic that surrounds the new model's display and front-panel controls tends to draw in shadows and a distracting glare. That gripe aside, the 6GB MP3 Photo Jukebox's versatile 1.6-inch, 128x128-pixel, 16-bit (65,536 colors), full-color transflective screen legibly displays menus in conditions ranging from darkness to sunlight, but during music playback, the display dims until you press a button to wake it up. Even in ideal lighting, don't expect to see many details in this unit's thumbnail-size digital images.
The Gateway 6GB MP3 Photo Jukebox's intuitive button design and logical menu structure make the device wonderfully straightforward to use. The front panel's five-way keypad enables you to rapidly navigate menu levels and scroll long lists, but occasionally when we intended to enter one command, such as right, the sensitive keypad registered a different command, such as enter. Next track, previous track, play/pause, and menu--which consists of up, down, left, right, and enter--buttons round out the front panel. On the top panel, you'll find a headphone jack and the requisite hold switch. The panel on the right side hosts a volume up/down button.
The unit can be charged over a USB connection or via the included AC adapter. In informal testing, the AC adapter fully recharged a depleted battery in approximately 1 hour. From a fully charged battery, we got 8.6 hours of playback; you can expect shorter battery life if you view photos. The lithium-ion rechargeable battery is removable, and given the device's mediocre battery life, you might want to pick up an extra battery ($19.99, available from Gateway.com) before heading out on a long road trip. The unit comes with a soft fabric carrying pouch, and an armband is available for $19.99.The 6GB MP3 Photo Jukebox is Gateway's answer to Apple's comparably priced 6GB iPod Mini. Although iPods are the only portable players that support music files purchased from the iTunes Music Store, the Gateway 6GB MP3 Photo Jukebox's compatibility with DRM WMA files, including subscription-based downloads from services such as Napster To Go and Rhapsody to Go, certainly gives you lower-cost music-sourcing options. In addition to DRM WMA files, the unit is compatible with nonprotected WMAs, as well as MP3s. The player's 6GB capacity is enough to store more than 1,000 songs, plus 1GB worth of digital photos. Like the 4GB MP3 Photo Jukebox, the new model doesn't offer an especially broad assortment of features aside from music and photo playback. The iRiver H10 6GB, for instance, includes FM playback and voice recording, which you won't get here.
Photo slide-show options are limited. To create a photo slide show, you essentially use the player's controls to select a folder of images you've previously transferred to the player; all the images located in the folder are automatically added to the slide show. Images located in other folders can't be added to the slide show. You can preconfigure musical accompaniment for slide shows and set a few other options, such as the slide show's name and the time interval for which each photo is displayed. JPEG is the only displayable photo format; interlaced JPEGs aren't supported.