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Motorola M500 Digital Audio Player (5GB) review: Motorola M500 Digital Audio Player (5GB)

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Overall, the Motorola M500 is a basic player peppered with a few useful extras. It's compatible with MP3, protected WMA (so you can shop for music online), and Audible files. A staple of Rio software, the bookmarking feature is handy for long audio files or for audiobooks. As many as nine bookmarks can be set, and selecting one will take you to a precise place in an audio file. You can also store as many as eight FM tuner presets and record radio content as 128Kbps MP3 files. Finally, there's a stopwatch, which is another carryover from Rio software.

As mentioned earlier, the menu interface is straightforward when it comes to main menu items: Play Music, Bookmarks, Settings, FM Tuner, FM Record, Stopwatch, and About. Conveniently, the first option under Play Music is Play All. You can also browse and play music by album, artist, genre, track, year, new music, playlist, spoken word, and FM recordings.

There are some basic setting options such as shuffle and repeat for playback and FM stereo/mono or FM regions selection, but overall, the choices are pretty basic. Again, the Thumbstick draws harsh criticism from us because it's a frustrating controller to use when adjusting various player settings.

The M500 will show up as a drive letter in Windows XP and Mac OS X. You can drag and drop files, utilize Windows Media Player 10.0, or use the included Motorola Music Manager software. There's a plug-in available for Mac users who wish to go with iTunes.

Is chartreuse just not doing it for you? Is the Thumbstick annoying you, too? Well, the Motorola M500's saving grace is its stellar performance. It's a good-sounding player (but try using better headphones than the ones it ships with) with five decent EQ presets and a custom EQ option. You have to drill into the menu to adjust EQ, but at least you can hear the adjustments in real time. The FM tuner is also strong, and recordings sound solid.

The M500 can also handle file transfers quickly at a rate of 2.9MB per second over USB 2.0. The astounding statistic for us, though, is the M500's battery life, which clocked in at more than 35 hours in CNET Labs' tests, 10 hours more than Motorola's rating. The closest player in the microdrive category is the Rio Carbon at 20 hours.

So we mentioned "occasional software glitches." Once, while attached via USB to our PC, the M500 just stopped working. We tried everything in the book to revive it--turning the power on and off, pulling out the battery, blowing on it--all to no avail. The next day, it booted up. We've read online about similar behavior, so caveat emptor!

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