"This should be $99."
That was the first thought that popped into my mind after a few minutes of playing with the GoGear Connect 3, a $179 portable media player from Philips.
I wasn't being nasty or petty. In world that now includes a $199 Kindle Fire, I believe that many manufacturers are having a tough time coming to grips with consumer price expectations. Philips isn't alone. As I've noted recently, both Samsung and Sony need to check back in with reality, too.
Taking price out of the equation for a moment, let's assume you're here to find an Android-based portable media player and you're wondering how the Philips GoGear Connect 3 stacks up. Let's take a look.
Compared with the neutered smartphone designs of the Samsung Galaxy Player 4 and 5, the GoGear Connect 3 looks more like a classic portable media player. Much of this can be attributed to the oversize Android navigation buttons (Back, Home, Menu) running across the bottom of the 3.2-inch screen. Also, instead of placing the built-in speaker on the front of the device like some vestigial earpiece, Philips relocates it along the right side, along with buttons for volume and power made to look like machined anodized metal (spoiler: they're plastic).
The bottom edge holds a headphone minijack, pinhole mic, and a Micro-USB port for charging and syncing. Matte black plastic covers the back, lending the whole device a refined, minimal feel.
Features and software
There are some noticeably absent hardware features, such as cameras, video output, and, most importantly, memory expansion. If you want a 16GB version of the GoGear Connect 3, it'll cost you $219.
But the most egregious sin committed here is the screen. Cramped at 3.2 inches, this 480x320-pixel-resolution LCD has a viewing angle so bad, it practically winks at you. Of course, to even see the screen at all you'll need to crank the GoGear Connect 3 to its maximum brightness, which is paltry compared with what you'll find on the Galaxy Player 4.
On the upside, the GoGear Connect 3 plays nice with a surprising range of audio and video formats. There's support for MP3, AAC, WMA, and Ogg Vorbis, for music, and for video there's support for MP4, AVI, H.264, FLV, and Xvid. Philips also includes an above-average pair of sound-isolating earphones and some baked-in sound enhancement tools to squeeze the most from your music.
Another clue that Philips really sweated the sound experience of the GoGear Connect 3 is that the excellent Songbird app is used as the default music player. Little extras such as the options to post song recommendations to Facebook, scrobble to Last.fm, or pull down Flickr slideshows of artist photos make the Songbird app a blast to use.
Other bundled apps include Mog, Rhapsody, 7digital, Audible, and a radio app for tuning in the integrated FM receiver. Of course, as a Google-sanctioned Android device, it also treats users to Google Mobile apps, such as Gmail, Maps, YouTube, Google Talk, and the Android Market.
I enjoyed the audio quality of the GoGear Connect 3. Unfortunately, that's about the only favorable thing I can say of its performance.
In spite of its liberal video format compatibility, the video experience is completely marred by ugly viewing angles.
Battery life is also poor. Because the screen is fairly dim by default, users will surely crank the GoGear Connect 3 to full brightness for most tasks. During informal testing, with the device at full brightness the battery seemed to drain like a leaky bucket. We'll update this review with results from CNET Labs once testing is complete.
For gamers, the single-core 800MHz processor used in the GoGear Connect 3 is able to keep up with basic fare, such as Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Boot up a session of Riptide GP, though, and the performance buckles to the point of being unplayable. Also, be aware that the screen's multitouch is limited to two fingers--not that a 3.2-inch screen allows for much gestural complexity.
As I said up front, if you can find a way to pick this up for $99, there's a lot of fun to be squeezed from it. The sound quality is surprisingly good, and you can load it up with enough basic games and puzzles to keep a child entertained for hours.