MPIO FL300 Chill (128MB)
For those who think the is just too darn big and look at the JetAudio iAudio U2 and bemoan its excessive bulk, MPIO has an MP3 player for you. The FL300 measures 1.9 by 1.1 by 0.5 inches--smaller than a Zippo lighter--and weighs a mere 1 ounce, yet it still manages to squeeze in an LCD screen, a voice recorder, and as much as 1GB of RAM (we tested the $100 128MB model). But does it go too far? Is it impractically small to the point where features and functionality are compromised? Read on for the answer.
The FL300 is a cutie. With its shiny, chrome body and eye-catching, sapphire-blue front (it's also available in Ruby Red and Amethyst Violet), it could even be mistaken for jewelry. Indeed, MPIO suggests wearing the player like a pendant, though our review sample came with an armband instead of a necklace string--the player is sold with different accessories in different countries. If you prefer the necklace approach, you can thread a string through the hole in the included, clear-plastic case, which is virtually invisible.
The FL300 has six thin buttons, three on either edge of the front side. The volume and play/stop buttons are self-explanatory, as are the Shuttle and Menu buttons. But the last of those takes on different functions, depending on whether a song is playing. Holding it down for two seconds takes you to the Settings menu. It takes some practice to master these controls, especially since the player is so small, but we ultimately found the FL300 easy to operate. If you need help, look past the skimpy, printed manual to the more complete PDF user guide stored on the accompanying software CD.
The player makes the most of its tiny, backlit LCD, which measures just 0.75 inch wide. It's a sharp, high-resolution display that's surprisingly easy to read--at least when the backlight is on. When it dims (after a user-definable amount of time), it becomes nearly unreadable. Pressing any button illuminates it again. When a song is playing, pressing Menu cycles through three different displays: a handy clock/calendar, a scrolling song-title readout, and a countdown timer with information on file type and bit rate. Both of the latter screens also display the equalizer mode, the song number and total number of songs, the sound-effect mode, battery level, and additional information.
The FL300 includes six equalizer presets and four sound-effect modes: Pure Studio, Concert Sound, Groove, and Dynamic Bass. These modes are really just additional equalizer presets, which help compensate for the lack of a custom setting. The FL300 also provides an alarm clock, though its usefulness is limited: you can't hear it unless you're wearing the earbuds.