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The 1GB JVC XA-F107 (the 512MB versions are called XA-F57) is a sleekly designed flash-based MP3 player that would work for anyone seeking a compact and basic player with no frills. The player, which comes in black (XA-F107), gray (XA-F107H), or pink (XA-F107P); supports MP3, WMA, and WMA-DRM file types (purchased files only); and includes line-in recording. The XA-F107 and F57 don't have many secrets--what you see is what you get--however, the $150 and $100 list prices for the 1GB and 512MB version, respectively, are way behind the times, so bargain hunters, cross this one off your list.
The JVC XA-F series' size, its best asset, is a comfortable 2.8 by 1.6 by 0.68 inches and a slight 1.05 ounces, making it quite easy to carry around. The eight-button onboard controls and built-in menus are all intuitive and easy to use, although the player's volume controls seemed a bit cramped next to the headphone jack, making them difficult to access. Its backlit LCD is monochromatic and can at times be a bit tough to read. The LCD shows the usual assortment of information, including battery life, song and artist titles, EQ settings, track time elapsed, and volume. You browse songs using a folder tree; unfortunately, you can view only three items at a time, which makes scrolling through hundreds of songs a pain. The player has three tactile buttons on the face, which control playback, pause, advance, and previous-track selection; three smaller buttons on the top, which control the menu options stop/power off; and the record feature.
Shipping with a standard USB cable, standard earbud-style headphones, a line-in cable, a user manual, and a driver disc, the JVC XA-F series has everything you need to get started. Unfortunately, as with many flash-based MP3 players, the AC adapter is not included, so you are required to charge the player through the USB connection. The nonremovable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery was rated for 15 hours, but CNET Labs showed it lasting a subpar 13.5 hours. We've seen far better life from flash players; at least this battery is rechargeable.
Transferring files to the player was effortless via UMS (drag-and-drop on most operating systems) but did require a bit of patience. Syncing with Windows Media Player 10 was quick and glitch-free. Transfer times were a bit slow, rating about 0.66MB per second, which was lapped by the similar (but cheaper and more recommended) Samsung YP-U2J, rated at 1.2MB per second.
The sound quality for the JVC XA-F series was full bodied and crisp, with nice bass. The player comes with seven built-in EQ settings, one of which is customizable. The line-in recording feature produced accurate and clear recordings, at up to 160Kbps.
All in all, the JVC XA-F series stacks up to be a decent player (that is, it's easy to use, and it has good sound quality) for beginners or those who have limited requirements for their MP3 players. However, an inflated retail price and subpar battery life keep us from recommending it, especially since there are many other basic flash players, such as the 512MB Samsung YP-U2, the 1GB Cowon iAudio U2, the more advanced 1GB Apple iPod Nano, and if you're willing to spend just a bit more, the 2GB SanDisk Sansa e250. The player's simple and intuitive menus, as well as its solid sound quality and battery life, make the XA-F107B an inexpensive alternative for those seeking a basic MP3 player. However, if you're seeking more flash and pizzazz, you might want to look elsewhere.