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LG's FM37 is one of the most seductive-looking players we've seen this year. With a large touchscreen navigation system, support for high-quality video playback and a ravishing design, we have high hopes for this splendid little beast.
It isn't cheap -- it will retail for £129 for the 2GB version and £159 for the 4GB when it goes on sale in June -- but is it worth the price premium?
There's no secret here: the FM37 is as beautiful as its cellular cousin, the LG Shine. The brushed-metal finish attractively reflects and scatters light at all angles, and is complimented by a smooth, seamless silver edging.
The screen is of average dimensions for a device this size, but with the complete lack of buttons on the front face, why not make it bigger? Although the minimalist, 'less is more' style is effective, a larger screen could've put this player leagues ahead of the competition.
The main menu screen consists of six option icons displayed like the numbers around a clock face. A simple touch of an icon starts an animated transition into that option's sub-menus. It's a very refreshing way to navigate an MP3 player.
The touch-sensitivity is very responsive, but navigating the sub-menus can get a little tedious as the icons are small and a little fiddly. It's possible to change the icon-based main menu into a list format, if you prefer.
You can also use 'gestures' to control playback. For example, to increase the volume when playing a file, you can rub your finger around the screen in a clockwise motion, as if following the numbers round on a clock face. Or, to skip to the next track, you can run your finger from the left- to the right-hand side of the screen. A glowing trail is left behind your finger on the screen to show which operation you've selected.
Your music is sorted by artist, album or genre. For some reason, although artists and albums are sorted alphabetically, so are album tracks -- completely ignoring album structure. Videos are sorted in the same manner as music.
Text can be dropped into a folder from a PC and viewed comfortably on the high-resolution screen -- a great way to store train schedules, song lyrics or even addresses if necessary. There's also a voice recorder for when you just can't bring yourself to attend a university lecture in person.
We would have liked to have seen a built-in radio in the FM37. LG has, however, bundled a couple of fun colourful games, both of which require you to poke the screen à la Nintendo DS.
Music playback is comparable to any top-rated music player. The bass lines in Slam by Pendulum -- a powerful electronic dance track -- boomed into our ear canals like a war siren. This track sounded even brighter than from our Apple iPod. Highs of the Counting Crows track, American Girls, were clear and well defined. Again, this track sounded brighter than on other players.
There are plenty of preset EQ options to play with, such as pop, rock, jazz and dance. The auto EQ option is on by default and selects the most appropriate EQ setting based on the style of music you're listening to. It works well enough but we preferred to have manual control over the EQ. The FM37 also features some interesting 3D effects, such as concert hall, but they're neither useful nor pleasant to listen to.
Video playback and photo support is excellent. The screen is bright and colourful, with plenty of detail and, impressively, some good blacks -- something often missing in portable players.
Voice recording can only be activated using the dedicated button on the side of the player. The microphone is omnidirectional and very sensitive. Recording quality is superb and will instigate no complaints from even the hardened sceptic.
LG includes the LG Media Center software for managing media on the FM37. It's not the most enjoyable piece of software we've used, in part thanks to the lack of any right-click options on the most commonly used library sections. We decided to use the drag and drop functionality within Windows, as this works perfectly and is far more user-friendly. Transferring our 1.5GB test library of MP3's to the player took exactly 20 minutes.
LG also includes a very simple program for converting videos into the format the FM37 supports. A 30-minute video took 40 minutes on our office computer.
We got a healthy 18.5 hours of continuous MP3 playback from a battery single charge, which is acceptably close to LG's quoted 20 hours. We got 4 hours of continuous video playback though, despite LG's expectations of only 3 hours.
With excellent sound quality, great video support, a wealth of useful features and drag-and-drop library management through Windows, the FM37 is a strong contender in the crowded MP3 player market.
A competitor like Sony's NW-A808, however, with its equally good video support and 12 hours of extra battery life, may appeal more if usability is your top priority.
Ultimately, the FM37 is best for the style-conscious music fan -- the rest of us will find that its ease of use has been compromised too much for an aesthetically satisfying design.
Edited by Kate Macefield
Additional editing by Kate Macefield