Tired of USB cables cluttering up your desk? The MPIO FY400 is one audio player that won't add to the snake's nest. It features a built-in USB connector that pops out and retracts with the flip of a switch--no cable required. That's a pretty cool trick, but players such as the Creative MuVo have offered cable-free operation for years. Does the FY400 have any other tricks up its sleeve?
A few--in most respects, this is a standard-issue flash memory audio player. Big for a modern-day flash-based player, the FY400 measures 1.2 by 3.1 by 0.8 inches and weighs 1.3 ounces, but it's not particularly attractive, with its candy-bar shape, its sharp corners, and its lusterless silver casing. On the other hand, we like the amber color of its LCD backlight and its nifty analog volume wheel, which rotates freely in both directions. The FY400's other controls include a five-way joystick, play/pause and function buttons, and a hold switch. There's also a large red Record button on top of the player, right next to the headphone jack.
A sliding switch on the back of the unit extends and retracts the USB connector. Unfortunately, unlike many players that have built-in connectors, the FY400 doesn't come with an extension cable in case you have obscured or crowded USB ports. On an HP desktop, we were unable to plug the FY400 into any of the front ports--the bezel got in the way. Smaller players such as the MuVo fit without a problem.
The FY400 uses a single AAA battery. The same old pros and cons apply: You can find replacements anywhere on the planet, but you're also stuck having to constantly purchase batteries unless, of course, you invest in rechargeables. We'd definitely prefer a rechargeable cell; the FY400 lasted just 14 hours in our rundown test--far short of MPIO's claim of 20 hours--which means you'll be swapping batteries fairly often.
The player doesn't skimp in the feature department. With support for MP3 and DRM-protected WMA files, the FY400 is compatible with songs purchased online, and it can play and record FM radio, as well as record voice notes and from external sources. The latter feature is less impressive, given the player's paltry 128MB of storage (it also comes in 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB), but it could come in handy for, say, ripping an audiocassette using an old Walkman. For voice, line-in, and FM recording alike, the player encodes in MP3 format at a maximum sample rate and bit rate of 44.1KHz and 128Kbps, respectively. The maximum bit rate is 320Kbps if you drop to a 32KHz sample rate.
As a radio, the FY400 features autoscanning, 20 auto or manual presets, and even support for worldwide FM bands, instead of just the United States'. It also sports a seven-band equalizer (which is better than the five most players offer) with five presets and a user-adjustable mode. You can also choose from four sound effects, such as Concert and Dynamic Bass. Just be prepared to spend some time mastering the FY400's awkward interface, which relies on a smallish four-line LCD and an often odd combination of button presses and joystick manipulation.
Though equipped with a USB 2.0 interface, the FY400 proved a serious slowpoke in our transfer tests. With so little storage available with our 128MB version, however, that wasn't a major issue. Our bigger complaints are with MPIO's torturous unpadded earbuds, which sound OK but really hurt our ear canals, and the FY400's $120 price tag. That's definitely on the high side for a 128MB player, even with the extra features. The 256MB model sells for $150, which also strikes us as a bit high. Indeed, despite good overall sound quality and an impressive roster of features, the FY400 comes up short in the key areas of affordability and storage capacity.