Would you believe that Best Buy would be among the first DAP manufacturers to release an MP3 player with built-in Bluetooth? Me either, but indeed it is true. The Insignia 4GB Video MP3 Player isn't the most creatively named of the bunch, but it's surprisingly impressive in a variety of ways. It's easy to use, it has a large screen, a plethora of features, it's very affordable at just $160, and remember: that's with built-in Bluetooth. The player is bulky for a Flash device, its audio and video quality could be better, and it doesn't include compatible Bluetooth headphones, but for first-timers and users who want tons of features for a budget price, the Insignia is a suitable option.
At 3.9x1.8x0.6 inches, the Insignia is on the hefty side, but it should still fit in most pockets. The unit looks all black, but its shiny plastic face is actually a very dark blue. In fact, this and the little Bluetooth symbol stamped on the front are the only physical characteristics that distinguish it from the Insignia MP3 Player & Image Viewer. An ample 2.2-inch color screen takes up about two-thirds of the front, while playback controls take up the other third. Two tactile buttons--power and menu--rest above a five-way control wheel: a play/pause key is surrounded by a mechanical scroll wheel that can also be pressed down in four directions to shuttle through tracks or display options. The top of the device houses the hold switch and a MicroSD card slot (for adding more memory), while the right side offers standard headphone and mini USB ports. Along the bottom, you'll find a reset hole and a line-in jack, which can also be used for a second set of headphones--hurrah for shared listening! The Insignia's overall design is pretty blah, but it gets the job done. We are pleased to note a user-replaceable and rechargeable battery rests under a cover in the back.
For a budget player, the Insignia's interface and screen are surprisingly pleasant and bright--unlike a certain Sansa we can think of. The top menu is driven by a series of icons indicating the various selections. The icons are arranged in a circle, and the center of the circle holds a description of whichever one you have highlighted--it's quite handy. Entering the music submenu takes you to a tabbed screen (which reminds us of the Media Center interface) with various selections across the top, such as Now Playing, Artist, Album, Playlist, and so on. You can scroll through these, then select one and scroll down the contextual lists. The Insignia had no problem recognizing playlists that we transferred from Windows Media Player, and it mounted as an MTP device on our Windows XP machine with no software required.
Best Buy does include a disc with the player that holds several programs that you may choose to install. The first is Best Buy's own digital music store and music management app, which is actually Rhapsody with a specialized skin. You needn't use Best Buy or Rhapsody as your online music service, however--the Insignia will work with any Windows Media-based service, and it's subscription-compatible (we used MTV Urge). The CD also includes an Audible setup file for fans of spoken-word content (subscription required), as well as the most necessary piece of software, a media converter tool for photo and video files.
In addition to the many useful features already mentioned, the Insignia, of course, supports MP3 playback. And it has an FM tuner built in. You can record from the radio, and there's an autoscan function, as well as 20 programmable preset slots. The player also offers basic repeat and shuffle modes, five EQ presets, and a five-band custom EQ. And then there's the most compelling feature: built-in Bluetooth. Unfortunately, you'll need to pick up your own pair of compatible A2DP (stereo) Bluetooth headphones, and Best Buy doesn't provide any guidance as to which headphones work the best. Really, any A2DP sets should work, but it would be nice if the Insignia came with a list of good ones that you could chose from. We tested the feature with a pair we had on hand--the Motorola S805. Pairing the two was a simple process, achieved by entering the Bluetooth settings menu on the player and following the Moto's setup guide.
As we mentioned, the Insignia is thick around the middle, but one reason for this might be the hefty battery. The player is rated for 20 hours of juice (without Bluetooth turned on), which is quite good. CNET Labs tests beat this rating by about 75 minutes, which is even better. The battery life for video is even more impressive at a startling 8 hours. Other performance results weren't as promising. Sound quality through the included earbuds was too bright and lacking in bass, and picture quality for both photos and videos suffered from pixilation and slight distortion in some cases. On the plus side, color saturation is excellent. Swapping in a set of Shure E4cs improved the sound quality slightly, but certain songs still seemed to be lacking the warmth and depth we desire. The Motorola S805s offered the most bass and so provided the best listening experience for R&B, hip hop, and electronic tracks, though rock songs left a little to be desired--some segments vibrated unpleasantly. Note that the Moto headphones will set you back $150, so expect to pay over $300 if you want to pick up the whole wireless set. Still, it could be a worthwhile investment if you really want to cut the cords out of your on-the-go music experience.