MPIO FY700 review: MPIO FY700

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The Good The MPIO FY700 has a clean and futuristic visual design; FM tuner; voice recorder; subscription compatible; decent battery life; includes UMS mode, making it recognizable by most computers.

The Bad The MPIO FY700's controls are confusing and, frankly, a pain in the butt to use; display is too small; there are better and more affordable flash-based options.

The Bottom Line The stylish yet unwieldy MPIO FY700 proves that looks aren't everything.

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5.7 Overall
  • Design 4
  • Features 5
  • Performance 8

MPIO's flash-based FY700 blends a playful and futuristic design with a basic set of MP3 player features and should appeal to those who like cute gadgets. An FM tuner, compatibility with subscription services, and a voice recorder are the highlights for this player, which comes in 512MB ($110; white with blue accents) and 1GB ($140; black with gray accents) capacities. But be forewarned--the tiny monochrome LCD and the confusing array of buttons make the FY700 a chore to use.

The easily pocketable FY700 measures 3.4 by 1.3 by 0.5 inches, weighs 1.2 ounces, and looks like a medical sensor device straight out of THX 1138. The elongated design with its curvy sides and minimalized buttons drives its futuristic presence, and the blue or gray accent (depending on the model) makes it stand out enough to be an honoree of the 2006 Innovations Design and Engineering Showcase at CES. MPIO offers the FY700 in more colors and a 2GB capacity outside of the United States.

The device's feature list is short. It plays MP3, WMA DRM, and ASF music files and has an FM tuner with 20 autoscannable presets and a voice and FM recorder (that records to WAV). Options include repeat, shuffle, and the ability to adjust the pitch of an audio file from -25 percent to 200 percent. The FY700 is subscription-compatible, though initially we could not get it to work with Virgin Digital, Urge, or Napster To Go. However, holding the F button down while it's USB-connected will switch it from UMS to MTP mode, the latter being necessary for subscription transfers. But that's it--no support for photos, video, or album art. You'll get playlist support in MTP mode, but you won't be able to browse by song or album on the FY700. This is a good-looking device with simple features, yet it's truly a beast when it comes to the controls.

While the tiny 1-inch monochrome display fits in with the cute visual design, it's definitely not ideal for song browsing or menu navigation. MPIO packs lots of info on the playback screen (nice), but menu and folder navigation on the four-line display are painfully tedious. And it doesn't help that the controller buttons are confusing. The colored accent band is actually a four-way controller that doubles up as Volume Up/Down and Skip/Reverse buttons. Though you use these four buttons to navigate in and out of menus, they are not organized like a typical four-way controller, so making your way through the menu system can be tricky. The buttons themselves aren't simple to press either. Personally, the FY700 frustrated me to no end.

Situated below the primary buttons are the M (Menu), F (FM), and Play/Pause buttons. These are easier to manage, but they too have dual functionality, depending on the mode you're in. In addition, the Play/Pause button is located far away from the primary controller. All these buttons are situated on the FY700's left side, making left-handed use a bit awkward. The curved left spine features a Hold switch and a Record button, which immediately activates the voice/FM recorder, depending on the mode.

The FY700 comes bundled with a USB cable, headphones, and a carabiner cap.

The MPIO FY700 runs for nearly 20 hours per AAA battery.

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