Thanks to the success of the iPod Mini, midcapacity micro hard drive players have found a niche of their own. Players in this fledgling category run the gamut from the stylish and feature-heavy Creative Zen Micro to the workmanlike . Somewhere in between falls GoVideo's Rave MP Style Arc5.0, a modest-looking device with a straightforward approach to delivering digital tunes. Given that you can find this 5GB player for less than $200, it offers a decent value for those looking for a no-nonsense mid-capacity player (a 2.5GB version is also available).
At 2.2 by 3.8 by 0.7 inches, weighing 2.8 ounces, and shaped something like an inverted teardrop, the Style Arc is small and thin enough to fit into a shirt pocket, yet it feels sturdy and solid in your hand. The silver plastic casing isn't terribly exciting, but the sizable display with its dark blue backlighting and large white text is both striking and easy to read. Playback controls reside on the small circular pad below the display. Volume controls and the menu button sit on the unit's left spine, while the power and Hold switches occupy the right side. The menu choices are blissfully simple--Play Music, Tuner, Voice, Equalizer, and Settings--and there aren't layers and layers of subfolders to maneuver through.
The Style Arc plays MP3 and DRM-protected WMA files. For quick, simple MP3 transfers, you can use Windows Explorer. But this player is also compatible with Windows Media Player, Musicmatch Jukebox, and Real, and if you want to transfer DRM-protected WMA files purchased from such sites as Musicmatch or Napster, you'll have to use one of these jukeboxes. We transferred protected WMAs with all three jukebox applications without a hitch.
The FM tuner saves as many as 20 presets, but there's no autopreset option. The Style Arc also includes an FM recorder, but these recordings are saved as 64Kbps WAV files that sound less than inspiring. We also noticed significant distortion of the radio signal during recording.
For the most part, audio quality is solid when using a set of full-size headphones. On some tracks, however, there was noticeable treble distortion, even at moderate volume levels. The problem is particularly bad with the included earbuds, but it is still apparent with better full-size 'phones. You can tinker with the five-band EQ to try to eliminate this problem as it arises.
In our CNET Labs' tests, the GoVideo Rave MP Style Arc5.0 transferred files at a below-average rate of 1.28MB per second over USB 2.0. As for battery life, the player reached a disappointing 7.6 hours of continuous playback, more than 3 hours below the company's rating of 10 hours.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.