The influx of wearable flash players over the past few months which has included sunglasses, pendants -- even a necklace -- continues with the arrival of the nTren Sound MP3 Watch. Combining an MP3 player with the classical style of a traditional wristwatch is the first, and probably the leading factor to set it apart from the competition.
Available in your choice of leather or stainless steel band, the nTren watch is an attractive yet heavy timepiece. Tipping the scales at a weighty 50-80 grams (depending on band style) it's considerably more substantial than the average wristwatch or comparable audio player.
It has a professional-looking analog face with glow-in-the-dark hands, four function buttons (clockwise from top: EQ, FF/VOL+, REW/VOL-, PLAY) placed neatly around the edge, and two LEDs at the bottom. On the left of the face is a port which acts as an interface for both the headphones and USB cable. Attached to a chain is a small cap which covers the port when not in use. On the right is the standard control knob for setting and adjusting the time.
The nTren MP3 watch offers 256MB of flash storage which stores around 60 songs. You connect the watch to your computer via the USB cable, and transfer MP3s (no other format is supported) or files for storage by dragging and dropping. No software is required unless you're using Windows 98 or earlier, in which case you will need to install the drivers included on a mini CD. When clearing data from the device, ensure you empty the recycling bin to regain storage space - otherwise the files aren't properly removed.
Also bundled with the player is a set of retractable headphones, and a standard 3.5mm headphone adapter incase you wish to use regular, third party headphones. Headphones must be plugged in for the watch to play, as it will automatically pause if they are removed. If the player is paused for more than 10 minutes, it turns off but will play from where it left off when next turned on. nTren claims the watch is water-resistant to 30m, but we didn't test this function.
The watch comes preloaded with 3 tracks so you can start using the player as soon as it has been charged. It didn't take long to do this via the USB port, but it can also be done using the supplied AC adapter.
Transferring data to the watch is simple, however the transfer speed is average as nTren only supports USB1.1. There is no screen on the player, but unlike the iPod shuffle, the nTren plays tracks in sequence only. The two LEDs on the watch face are the only visual indication - one blinks green while the watch is playing music, the other lights up red when the battery is low or charging. The green light also turns on when the battery reaches full charge.
The battery life is extremely good, lasting approximately as long as the claimed 10 hours. This is probably helped by the separate lithium-ion battery dedicated to the MP3 functionality, as it uses a regular watch battery for timekeeping. However, the extensive battery life seems wasted on a device with such small capacity - you'd probably get bored of your song collection before you wore the battery out. Very handy for those always forgetting to charge their player though!
Sound quality is decent, although without a display there is no way to see the volume level. The only indication of a change in volume (besides the obvious sound level) is a beep every time you press the buttons. You must press the button to adjust the sound, simply holding down the control will not increase or decrease volume.
Size and weight resign this device to the "boys toys" category, but even the guys we offered it to pondered having one arm stretched longer than the other with prolonged use. The nTren MP3 watch scores points for looks and functionality, but it can't redeem itself for the hefty form factor.