Following SanDisk's lead, digital-memory producer Lexar has joined the MP3 bandwagon. One of its first designs, the flash-based LDP-600 is small, light, and attractive, and it's packed with everything you need for day trips. Listen to music (including DRM-protected WMA tracks from online music services), tune in to FM radio, or enjoy listening on your car radio using the integrated FM transmitter. At a meeting, take notes with the voice recorder or record the show you're missing from FM radio to hear later. The LDP-600 pretty much does it all--except record via line-in port. Unfortunately, all these extras are soured by the frustrating user interface and slow file-transfer times.
The LDP-600 is available in 256MB (silver; list $132) and 512MB (black; list $189). At 3.2 by 1.5 by 0.7 inches, the player is slightly larger than such similar do-all devices as the Creative MuVo Micro, but it boasts a significantly larger and more-readable backlit display, which is about 1 inch diagonally. The comparatively large display can show four lines of player, song, and effects data in a glance: folder and song titles, play time and volume, song number and battery level, equalization, and playback speed. Users can utilize the copious System and Display menu options to customize the screen: choose the display language, adjust the contrast and backlight time, and even change the LCD backlight color (blue, green, indigo, red, violet, yellow, or white).
The interface features two primary button/sliders on the top for power/play/pause and navigation/volume, plus three buttons on the bottom that control playback A-B repeat/speed, FM radio transmitter/auto scan, and playback/record mode. The buttons are heavily overloaded, with different uses in different modes--for example, you press Record to switch from FM radio to music files--and alternate functions depending on whether you press or slide a button, then release or hold it. The basic user guide is an abbreviated, electronic-only form that's preloaded on the device and offered in English, French, and Spanish. It's a good resource for getting started, but it's necessary to go to the Lexar Web site to download the full 26-page manual that shows all the functions and menus, with good photos of the controls and menu screens.
Other physical characteristics include the USB connector, an SD-card slot, and the headphone/antenna jack. The battery recharges only through the USB connection, so plan to keep reconnecting the device even if you are not transferring files. The LDP-600 ships with a USB extension cable for this purpose, and Lexar also includes decent Sennheiser MX-400 earbud headphones, a carrying case, a lanyard, and an antenna.