Philips' 2GB GoGear SA3125 comes in a clear plastic case which needs to be cut open with a pair of scissors. We grizzled and grumbled as the sharp edges of cut plastic tore at our hands as we reached in to retrieve the player, the supplied earbuds, and the CD and instruction booklet bundle. It would be the first of many times when we consoled ourselves with the SA3125's bargain basement price: AU$139.95.
The SA3125 is not a bad looking device -- albeit in a derivative way -- with a glossy black front and shiny, chrome-plated iPod-like rear. Our paw prints were quicky spread all over the GoGear's petite 42 by 79.6 by 11.9mm body, which we spent plenty of time cleaning.
As is the vogue for iPod Nano-size MP3 players, the headphone jack is located along the bottom edge. It's right next to the mini-USB socket, the lanyard loop and reset pin. There's a locking mechanism and microphone along the left edge, while the volume rocker is on the right side. On the front, below the 1.8-inch screen, are the menu and playlist buttons, and a five-way controller. It's reasonably easy to use, once you realise that the centre pause/play/power button is just that -- most of the time, anyway -- and that to select a menu item you press right on the controller. It's a pity then that you can't pause or play the current track unless you're in the Now Playing screen or in a track selection menu.
Philips has gilded the SA3125's feature list with an FM radio, voice recording, as well movie and picture playback. Although given the screen's 160 x 128 resolution and less than stellar 11fps rating, Philips would have been well advised not to bother.
The low-res screen means that the menu graphics and text are not particularly pretty -- the text is particularly reminiscent of Windows 3.1. And the paucity of processing power means that the screen can be seen redrawing line-by-line when you flick between menus, especially when playing music.
JPEG and bitmap files can be dragged-and-dropped onto the SA3125 for instant viewing. Using the supplied Media Converter to load photos onto the GoGear is a better option, though, as full size pics take a small eternity to load. The same piece of software also converts videos for viewing on the SA3125, although we're not entirely sure what formats can be converted. Officially, only Windows Media is supported but we succeeded with some MPEG files; no luck though with DivX. And, with this little pearler, the help file is anything but: "if you have other formats for conversion ... look at some video forums on the internet for help". It's all moot, however, because watching video on the SA3125 is not something we'd recommend: resolution is poor, motion choppy -- swipes and fades are particularly bad -- and contrast is lacking.
The GoGear's voice recorder is a more meaningful inclusion. It works fine in meetings or for taking personal notes, although we wouldn't recommend it to students wishing to record lectures or tutorials. Voice recordings are surprisingly noise-free, although to achieve this Philips set the recording volume low meaning that we had to turn the playback volume close to maximum. We had no problems listening to the built-in FM radio and, some static aside, it was even usable from within our office building.
The poor performance of photos and videos on the SA3125, as well the lacklustre interface, can be forgiven for two reasons: price and sound quality. Clarity of voices and foreground music was good, especially in rock and bass driven music. We did find the sound a bit cold at times -- this was particularly apparent in Ella Fitzgerald's 'S Wonderful.
Those looking for ear splitting volume might want to search elsewhere. Maximum volume is sufficient for most personal listening situations, including public transport, but when plugging the GoGear into a home theatre setup you'll need to crank the amp's volume very high.
Our enthusiasm for the SA3125 is further dampened by the player's inability to remember track position when powered down and then back up, as well as the slow eight second start-up time. Those looking for a bargain 2GB MP3 player with better-than-average sound might do well by considering the SA3125 but there's precious little wow-factor. And, as Apple has shown us, wow is a key ingredient in making an MP3 player.