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Goodmans X-Pro GPDR40 review: Goodmans X-Pro GPDR40

Handheld media players are still in the uncomfortable stages of teenage angst. They’re either awkwardly shaped or bad tempered. With just a few exceptions, the players we’ve reviewed so far have been extremely picky about the codecs they’re willing to play back. In most cases it’s WMV or nothing at all.

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5.5

Goodmans X-Pro GPDR40

Pricing Not Available

The Good

Bright screen; solid chassis; video recorder functionality.

The Bad

Sporadic dimming of backlight; having to encode media using the bundled software.

The Bottom Line

It’s not the prettiest handheld media centre, but the Goodmans' screen is brighter than the Samsung YH-999s and it can record from a live source. Unfortunately our experience of the GPRD40 was sullied by a schizophrenic dimming of the LCD backlight at times, and two crashes. You also need to encode all your video externally because the Goodmans only plays its native MPEG-4 codec. This can potentially take many hours

The Goodmans X-Pro is the most moody of the bunch. You’ll need to encode video into MPEG4 using the proprietary bundled software. In the case of a DivX movie, this process can take hours even on a fast machine. It would have been much more sensible to design the player to decode DivX on the fly. The X-Pro is not alone in its funk, all Microsoft-endorsed handheld media players insist on using Windows Media Player (WMV). Although the Goodmans runs a home-grown interface, its encoding method is almost as restrictive as Microsoft’s.

Design Considering Goodmans is at the budget end of the handheld player market, the build quality of the X-Pro isn't bad. The chassis is solid enough to survive getting knocked about in a rucksack and there’s a bundled felt baggie you can put the player inside to avoid scratching the screen. Flexing the top and bottom faces of the X-Pro reveals a fair amount of give, certainly more than we’re used to on these devices. This will only be a problem if you’re seriously mistreating the device.

The 9.1cm screen takes up most of the front of the X-Pro, the plastic protecting this LCD is glossy but not distractingly reflective -- you’ll have a clear view during playback. Around the edges of the player there’s a rubber grip which kept our fingers locked around the device during the more tense moments of Aliens. There’s nothing like an acid-for-blood creature from hell rushing towards you to test out how durable these players are when you fling them across the room.

Navigation controls on the X-Pro are functional but unremarkable; the buttons feel solid and rest naturally under your right-hand thumb during playback. On the left hand side of the player there’s an SD/MMC card slot, an AV port, USB and headphone jack. When everything’s plugged in there’s an imposing mass of wires erupting from the side of the X-Pro. Although unwieldy, it does make you look like you’re some kind of endearingly wired uber geek.

Features Unusually, the X-Pro includes a calendar application which you can sync with Outlook. We would have prioritised DivX compatibility over this feature, but Goodmans obviously didn’t. The 40GB drive will hold a fair library of video -- you’ll run out of battery life before you run your collection dry in a single sitting.

The X-Pro’s best feature is its ability to record from a live video source. If most of your video is going to be ripped from existing DVDs or your home TV, then you can totally sidestep encoding it by using this built-in record feature. Instead of painstakingly re-encoding your movie, the X-Pro will encode it on the fly via the AV cable included.

If you’re a photographer, the built-in SD/MMC slot is supposed to let you view your photographs on the Goodmans’ screen – we had a frustrating experience with this, it caused our review model to crash.

Performance
There’s plenty of room for video here, the X-Pro’s 40GB drive will house a reasonable stash of movies. Disappointingly, we were limited by its refusal to play anything but MPEG4 video encoded by the software that came in the box. There are two problems with this system: It takes hours to encode video, and you’ll have to source your own software to encode on a Mac.

The X-Pro’s screen is bright and clear even in sunlight. For reasons we were never able to pin down, our review model occasionally dimmed its backlight, causing the screen to plunge into a darkness that was almost impossible to recover from. This frustrating problem is compounded by the X-Pro’s predilection for MPEG4 files. Although the Goodmans GPDR40 is an affordable solution to watching video on the road, your mileage may vary.

Additional editing by: Nick Hide