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HighGear TrailAudio (256MB) review: HighGear TrailAudio (256MB)

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The Good Original design; FM and line-in recording in MP3; included carabiner-style clip; installs as a mass storage device; headphones stay on your noggin during activity.

The Bad No support for DRM-protected WMA files; headphones distort easily and are especially hollow-sounding; small buttons not very suitable for sports-oriented audio player; doesn't separate audio files by folder; rubber splashproof seals and battery cover seem likely to be damaged or lost in regular use.

The Bottom Line The TrailAudio promises "digital outdoor audio," but we're not convinced the splashproof design and the included carabiner clip make up for the modest audio quality and the lack of support for DRM WMA files.

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5.0 Overall
  • Design 4
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5

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 caribiner cap is a unique extra that's handy for use on the trail.

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.

The TrailAudio isn't huge, but you can find smaller flash players.

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