A plug-in MP3 player with a built-in camcorder
Earlier this year, Philips released its latest wearable keyring product, the GoGear Key019.This handy little USB device, which is approximately the size of a Bic lighter and costs $249, functions as a digital camcorder and still camera, as well as an MP3 player. While the Key019's coolness factor may appeal to the must-have gadget crowd, photo and music enthusiasts will find it lacks certain features they've come to expect in many of today's portable convergence devices. Plus, its meager 128MB storage capacity is insufficient for storing the wealth of multimedia content it supports.
Housed in an attractive and ultradurable black-magnesium casing, the Key019 weighs a mere 2.1 ounces and measures just 1.26 by 0.89 by 3.80 inches. On the front of the unit is a microphone for recording sound during video capture, as well as a silver bezel that surrounds the fixed-focus lens and rotates to select between the three modes of operation. A silver shutter button sits atop the device, right next to a tiny keychain/lanyard connector. Around back, you'll find a very small (0.38 by 0.5 inch) digital viewfinder, two LEDs indicating power and memory-capacity status, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a Delete button for sending unwanted files to the trash bin. Removing a plastic end cap at the bottom of the Key019 reveals a USB connector used to transfer multimedia files to your PC and to charge the unit. You can plug the Key019 directly into a USB port or go with the included USB extender cable.
The Key019 features a half-inch CMOS sensor capable of 2-megapixel resolution and has 128MB of flash memory for storing video, photo, and audio files. As a digital camcorder, the Key019 records up to 25 minutes of MPEG-4 video with sound, but it doesn't have zoom or special-effects capabilities. Likewise, the 2-megapixel digital camera captures up to 200 still images in JPEG format but, lacking a zoom or flash, is just a point-and-shoot (and a less sophisticated one than those found in many cell phones). However, the Key019's simplicity makes it one of the most user-friendly multifunction devices around and one that is best suited to spur-of-the-moment recording.
In MP3 mode, the unit is controlled using the included earbud headset with integrated line-in controls for play/pause, volume, and forward/backward song selection. The line-in remote also accepts other headphones, so you can sub in your favorite pair. With the headset plugged in, the viewfinder becomes a microdisplay for all three modes, allowing you to view video, stills, and audio track numbers. Unfortunately, the player doesn't support MP3 playlists, so you'll have to scan through the tracks to select specific song titles, and there are no tone controls to adjust bass or treble response. Also a bummer is that the Key019 won't play protected WMAs, so you can forget about listening to tunes purchased from Napster and the like.
In addition to the internal lithium-ion battery, the Key019 comes with an external power pack that uses two AA alkaline cells (not included). Also in the package is a CD-ROM with ArcSoft's VideoImpression, PhotoImpression, and Collage Creator software for editing photos, as well as creating home movies, slide shows, and photo collages from your captured digital files.
As a point-and-shoot camera and camcorder, the Key019 did an admirable job of capturing both video and still images in our tests. While not nearly as impressive as that of a dedicated digital camera or camcorder, the GoGear's output was certainly adequate for e-mailing photos and video clips. The unit's diminutive size makes it easy to catch candid moments that might otherwise be lost.
Despite the GoGear's lack of tone controls while in MP3 mode, we were generally impressed with the quality of sound, although the volume output could have been a tad louder. Since the Key019 is recognized as a removable drive when plugged into a PC's USB port, it's easy to drag and drop files via the My Computer window. The biggest gripe we had is with the device's slow transfer time over USB 1.1. Files came in at a mere 0.52MB per second. Despite its low memory capacity, we would have appreciated a much faster USB 2.0 interface for this media device, which would constantly be refreshed.