HighGear TrailAudio (256MB)
We hike here at CNET. We climb. We hit the gym, and we race around San Francisco on mountain bikes. And we're sick of digital audio players aimed at outdoor and sports enthusiasts that deliver a bloblike shape, an armband, and a high price. We're even more tired of the pains they take to emphasize that their flash memory design doesn't skip--no flash memory-based MP3 player skips.
Enter HighGear's TrailAudio (256MB, $130). At 4 ounces and 5.5 by 1.3 by 0.62 inches, the player is comparable in size, shape, and layout to offerings from companies such as iRiver, with one major difference: a sleek, detachable USB carabiner cap for clipping it to your backpack, your jacket, or your clothes. Though it would be much easier to use if it had a larger gate, the carabiner is still a usefull addition and unclips from the end of the TrailAudio to reveal a USB 2.0 plug.
The TrailAudio offers a slightly heftier construction than we're used to on MP3 players, but while we appreciate the splashproof design, we're not convinced that the battery cover, which presses into a seal, will make it for the long haul. The same goes for the tiny, molded-in grabs for the line-in and headphone jack covers. Also, considering the player aspires to be a top choice for the active, we were surprised at the small size of the buttons and the three-line LCD screen, which is tiny in relation to the body. The only ample button is for recording, which seems strange since that wouldn't be an oft-used feature at the gym or on the trail. The main controls line either side of the player. On the plus side, they're fairly well spaced, which makes navigation simple.