The slick Philips HDD100 is the sort of MP3 player you want to be seen out and about with. Plus, it boasts a 15GB hard drive, excellent recording capabilities, and an included in-line remote. The $400 suggested retail price is too steep, but online merchants are offering the device for much less.
Smooth, black, and trimmed in silver, the HDD100 is one of the coolest-looking hard drive MP3 players we've seen, although it does attract fingerprints. Measuring 4.2 by 2.5 by 0.8 inches and weighing 5.9 ounces, it's more comparable to the Samsung Napster YP-910GS than the Apple iPod, which is a trifle smaller. The high-resolution 160x128-pixel display shows the current song's title, artist, and album in crisp, white text on a dark background, so reading the information is easy in low light. Philips added animated screen transitions, which don't really enhance the user experience and slow such tasks as changing the EQ setting.
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The HDD100 comes with an in-line remote.
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The stylish player slides into a matching pouch.
On the front of the unit are the power/play/pause button and the small four-way navigation pad. The right-hand side holds controls for adjusting the volume, activating the menu, locking operation, and accessing the library. The forward and reverse keys are so tiny and deeply set that we weren't immediately aware that we could depress them halfway for fast searching within a track. But overall, the controls have a soft, luxurious feel.
The HDD100's navigation system works well enough, organizing songs by artist, album, playlist, and genre. But scrolling through long lists using the buttons takes quite a while, so if you want instant gratification, you're out of luck. A joystick, a scrollwheel, or accelerated scrolling would have helped. Philips includes a thin in-line remote. It provides no LCD, controls only playback, and attaches to your shirt or a bag strap with a relatively flimsy clip, but being able to listen to the player when it's stowed is useful.
The HDD100 offers standard features, such as repeat; shuffle; and the ability to browse by playlist, artist, album, genre, or song. One bright spot is support for direct line-in MP3 recording via both digital optical and analog connections, with rates of 64Kbps, 128Kbps, and 192Kbps. Inserting a jack into the line-in port calls up the recording options, simplifying the process, and the player automatically stores the final files in the Recordings menu. Through the included Digital Media Manager software, you can later add artist and song information to the ID3 tags. When recording from external sources, the device can automatically number tracks, which worked flawlessly in our tests.
Unlike similar models, the HDD100 lets you create and save playlists directly on the device. You can add a song, an album, or an artist simply by selecting the item and clicking Add To Playlist. Track deletion is also internal, so you can easily make room for more music.
Digital Media Manager allows you to reprogram and even rename the EQ presets. You can also match them to the genres encoded in ID3 tags so that jazz songs, for example, will automatically play in the Jazz EQ setting. Bass lovers will appreciate the Dynamic Bass Boost function, which fattens the low end considerably without sacrificing too much treble.
Digital Media Manager works a bit differently from the software typically bundled with MP3 players. The application opens in a small window, from which you can drag and drop songs from your PC's music library into the HDD100's panel. You create playlists in a separate window.