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Philips GoGear SA6025 review: Philips GoGear SA6025

This flash MP3 and video player promises a generous feature set -- including FM radio and voice recorder -- and certainly beats the iPod nano in terms of affordability. But can it match Apple's stylishness and ease of use?

4 min read

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If you're not tempted by the iPod nano, this competitor could excite. The new Philips GoGear comes in three versions: the SA6015 (1GB), the SA6025 (2GB) and the SA6045 (4GB). Each of these players are identical, despite the model numbers, they just have different memory capacities.

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5.5

Philips GoGear SA6025

The Good

Pleasant design; simple menus; FM radio; voice recorder; decent audio quality.

The Bad

Sluggish controls; odd navigational style; battery life could be better.

The Bottom Line

Whether you choose this model, the 1GB Philips SA6015 or 4GB Philips SA6045, you'll get an affordable and pleasantly designed player. Commuters will appreciate the low cost and video support, but the slow menus will grate as time goes on

We're taking a look at the 2GB model. For around £79, this player promises a generous feature set and certainly beats the nano in terms of affordability (which is £99 for the 2GB model) and usefulness. But is this enough to tempt you away from Apple's promise of stylishness and ease of use?

Design
After defeating the desperately unfriendly packaging -- why do we have to hack into these things with scissors? -- our first impression of this new Philips MP3 player was that it would suit a company executive. The glossy screen is quite reflective and the back of the player is finished with an odd brushed-charcoal effect.

The SA6025 is glossy and pretty reflective

As a landscape-format player, the controls bunch together on the right. Oddly, the central play/pause button isn't used to select menu options. Instead, the right and left keys are used, and a dedicated menu button returns you to the main menu. This takes some getting used to.

A mini-USB port accompanies the 3.5mm headphone jack and a manual lock switch on the bottom. Why the headphones plug in here is a mystery, as it means either the player needs to be horizontal in your pocket, or else you have a headphone plug poking you in the leg.

Features
First and foremost, this is an MP3 player, and as such supports MP3 and WMA music files (protected content from certain music stores is fine too). With only a pair of gigabytes of memory to play with, movies are pretty much out of the question. Despite this, the video option is right at the top of the list of options in the main menu, with music taking third place. We're not entirely sure what the intention was behind this, but who are we to question the priorities of the Dutch?

A standard USB plug sits beside a 3.5mm headphone socket

The menu is similar to the one on the iPod in many respects, with its plain, light background and letter that pops onto the screen as you're scrolling through songs or artists to show you whereabouts you are.

Unfortunately, there is one major -- nay, inexcusable -- flaw. The menu is almost as frustrating as having an itch on the sole of your foot while you're wearing skis. The delay between pressing a button to navigate the menus and the system responding is an irritating half-second. This makes quick navigation almost impossible and single-handedly hinders an otherwise pleasant MP3 player.

The SA6025's menu looks near identical to that of the iPod

Other features include an FM radio with space for ten presets, and a handy voice recorder for students to tape lectures they're too hungover to attend. There's also a simple slide-show option for looking through your JPG photo collection, or you can simply browse pages comprising six thumbnails.

Windows Media Player handles the media-syncing jobs, but thankfully drag-and-drop management is possible through Windows.


Performance
Music performance is pretty good. As is to be expected, there's no support for lossless audio, so we couldn't push it to the max. But we used 320kbps VBR MP3 to give it the best chance.

Decent headphones are crucial to give a decent degree of separation and clarity. The supplied set -- as is almost always the case -- are rubbish. Destroy them artistically on the way from the shop and buy some good ones.

When you use a decent set of cans, such as Shure's SE530s, low-end reproduction of Pendulum's explosive club favourite Slam is acceptable. The deep bass and sharp high-ends of the drums and cymbals of the Dire Straits classic Brothers In Arms is clear and more than acceptable for an £80 player.

Similarly, the broad span of mid-range sounds in Counting Crows' track American Girls is well reproduced. The quiet tambourine was well separated from the cymbals and hard-hitting strums of the competing guitar.

Video conversion is handled by an easy-to-use application that's bundled with the player. Loads of source formats are supported, including videos shot on mobile phones. Encoding is fast in the forced 320x240-pixel resolution format, and looks decent when used on the player. A 200MB 3-minute video took 5 minutes to encode on our fairly ordinary office PC and came out at 10MB.

Philips suggests the 6025 will give you 15 hours of audio playback. Our tests confirmed this as accurate. We'd liked to have seen 20 hours, but 15 is more than enough for a few days' commuting.

Thinner is the winner, but does the SA6025 rule this contest?

Conclusion
The Philips 6025 is a nice-looking little guy who won't break the bank. But its slow menu system may break your patience, and the truth is there are plenty of good MP3 players out there to choose from.

If you're after a simple player, consider Creative's Zen Stone, a bargain at little more than £25. Or if you definitely want a screen but don't mind paying a little more, consider the iRiver X20 at around £99. It may cost a few pints of beer more, but we think the difference is worth forgoing a night out.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide