The Mach Speed Trio TV5 is proof that sometimes a product can be less than the sum of its parts.
The Mach Speed Trio TV5 is a remarkably quirky and cheap product. If you scoured the world to find the cheapest MP3 player, DVR, camcorder, and digital camera--then rolled them all into one--you'd get the Mach Speed Trio TV5. To Mach Speed's credit, the Trio TV5 shows that an all-in-one MP3/PVP/DVR/camera/camcorder can be purchased for under $110. The downside is that some functions of the TV5 are painfully stunted. As a company, Mach Speed Technologies has a long history of manufacturing replacement computer motherboards. Over the years, Mach Speed has dabbled in producing budget-rate portable MP3 players, but without much success--the TV5 is a testament to this.
The Trio TV5 has a suspiciously lightweight all-plastic body that measures 3.75 inches long by 2.25 inches wide by 0.75 inch thick. With no dedicated volume control or any typical Play, Pause or Skip buttons, the TV5 has the design of an OEM digital camera that has been awkwardly hacked for MP3 and video playback. The controls become somewhat clearer after turning the TV5 on and using the graphical user interface displayed on its 2.5-inch TFT color display. Still, tracks advance seemingly out of order, and something as simple as volume control involves a finger-dance of unintuitive buttons that make a cheap plastic clicking sound and often get stuck if pressed too hard.
On paper, it seems unbelievable that the Mach Speed Trio TV5 can pack so many features into such an inexpensive product. The truth is that nearly every exciting feature on the TV5 is a bait-and-switch. You get a 5-megapixel camera but you don't get a flash (and the automatic exposure settings don't help much). You get an MP3 player that supports unprotected MP3, WMA, and WAV, but you don't have any way to sort your music into subfolders or even alphabetically organize your music. Instead, all your music exists in the same folder and is listed on the TV5 chronologically (huh?). The camcorder and digital video recorder both offer video quality well above the $110 price tag, but the accompanying audio quality on these videos is poor at even the highest settings. The JPEG photo viewer works as advertised, I'll give it that, but it's not enough to make up for the other crippled features.
A limitation that lies behind all of the TV5's features is its paltry 512mb of built-in memory. A memory card slot on the bottom of the TV5 allows you to add up to 2GB of SD card memory (at your expense). At this below-budget price, you may be able to live with the fact that you need to supply your own memory. But to add insult to injury, every time you power down the TV5, it defaults back to its internal memory and forces you to navigate through the settings menu in order for content stored on your SD card to be recognized again.
We were impressed to see that a device this inexpensive offered an input for AV recording and an output for television playback. Although direct recording produced lackluster results for both audio and video, we found that videos converted on our computer (using Mach Speed's included software) produced decent results. If you used the TV5 strictly as a device for playing videos converted from your computer, we could almost justify someone purchasing this product. Still, for just a few more dollars, you could buy a Sansa e260, Samsung YP-T9, or Creative Zen V Plus, and have a fantastic product that you won't have to hide from your friends in shame.
Again, at $109 you must know you're not paying for quality. The audio coming through even our nicest headphones was noisy and brittle. Regardless of what quality setting you choose, audio recorded through the line input jack records consistently at a brittle, monophonic 64Kbps MP3 bit rate. While video and photos were bright and pleasant on the 2.5-inch TFT color screen, with the TV5's poor battery life and incomprehensible battery status indicator, who would risk watching a television show or movie on a device that may lose power without warning?
Whether a product is $20 or $2,000, if it doesn't do anything useful then it's a waste of money. With a list of features that sound promising on paper, it's really a shame that the TV5 is crippled by substandard audio quality, a frustrating user interface, and a ridiculous MP3 player that won't allow for even the most basic music organization.