The Memorex brand has a long history with portable music players, dating all the way back to the 8-track era. Despite its pedigree, the company's track record as a manufacturer of MP3 players hasn't met with much success. In fact, the last Memorex MP3 player we reviewed (the MMP8640) holds the dishonorable distinction of being one of the lowest-rated audio players on CNET.
Memorex's latest MP3 player, the TouchMP, may just put the company back in the portable game. Priced at $99 (8GB), the TouchMP offers a decent assortment of features and one killer hook: a touch-screen interface.
The Memorex TouchMP looks like a modern version of a Palm Pilot PDA, combining a 2.8-inch touch-screen display with a row of basic navigation buttons near the bottom. Measuring 4 inches long, 2.25 inches wide, and just under a half-inch thick, the TouchMP feels right at home in your hand or pocket. A slim volume rocker switch graces the left edge of the player, while the right edge bears the power switch and home button. While holding the player with one hand, we found it was difficult not to accidentally squeeze the menu button while adjusting volume--but a two-hand grip solves the problem.
For a touch-screen MP3 player (or anything with a touch screen, really), interface design is crucial. The TouchMP isn't going to be mistaken for an iPhone anytime soon, but Memorex does a surprisingly good job keeping the onscreen interface simple, legible, and intuitive. Scrolling through long song lists using onscreen controls is somewhat tedious but is helped by the three illuminated buttons below the screen. These buttons work both for song playback control (rewind, play, skip) and navigation control (back, enter, forward).
The Memorex TouchMP covers most of the bases for portable media players, offering music, photos, videos, radio, voice memos, and audiobook playback. The included music player supports MP3 and WMA (including WMA DRM 10 subscription tracks), while the video player works with AVI (MPEG4) and WMV videos, sized at a humble 320x240 resolution. Media can be transferred using drag and drop or a program like Windows Media Player. Since the TouchMP is relatively picky about what videos it will play, a copy of MediaCoder SE is included on a bundled CD-ROM, which makes quick work of converting videos to Memorex specifications. Features such as voice memos, photos, and radio behave just as you'd expect. One unexpected bonus feature we encountered is that the TouchMP allows you to set any photo on the device as album art for your music. We also like that the TouchMP gives audiobooks their own dedicated main menu icon, making it easy to separate your Audible audiobooks from your music collection.
Some other surprises we're happy to see included with the TouchMP are a microSD memory expansion slot, and a decent-sounding pair of in-ear headphones. Content loaded onto the player using microSD cards is integrated with existing media, similar to MP3 players from SanDisk. As far as the headphones go, the sound quality rivals or beats what you'd get from a pair of Apple earbuds, but comes nowhere close to matching the quality found on the EX-style earphones bundled with most Sony Walkman MP3 players.
Memorex rates the battery life of the TouchMP at an outstanding 50 hours of audio and a much less dazzling 3 hours of video. During CNET Labs testing, the TouchMP averaged 44 hours of audio and 4.5 hours of video.
The TouchMP's sound, image, and video quality are all acceptable for the price, but hardly noteworthy. Audio EQ is only available as a series of five presets, with no option for a user-defined five-band EQ. Photos are fairly crisp and can be rotated to fill the screen, but we came across a nasty viewing angle, and the resolution is a little grainy. Video performance, as you'd expect, depends heavily on the source material you're converting from. Even under the best circumstances, though, videos still have to battle a bad viewing angle and an inability to bookmark playback.
The TouchMP is the best MP3 player we've seen out of Memorex, and it strikes a good balance of price, design, and features. That said, unless you're drawn to the novelty of its touch-screen interface, there are better values to be had for less than $100.