Philips' HDD060 takes more than a few design cues from Apple's iPod. But looks can be deceiving -- this 1.5GB hard drive-based MP3 player is nowhere near as refined. It lacks features, its interface is cluttered and slow to respond, and its sound quality is disappointing. With a price of AU$399 -- equal to that of the 4GB iPod Mini -- the HDD060 will painfully remind you that you bought the wrong player.
The white-and-silver Philips HDD060 may resemble the iPod from afar, but it is quite a bit smaller and lighter, measuring 54.3 x 18.3 x 84.5mm and weighing just 93g, thanks in part to the tiny 1.5GB Cornice drive inside. The white, magnesium-alloy body feels sturdy, but the chrome plastic used on the sides feels cheap. Nevertheless, its rounded edges allow you to easily slip it in and out of a pocket.
A one-inch-square, white-backlit LCD nicely matches the case and is easy to read indoors. We wish Philips had found a way to use a larger screen. As it is, due to the low-resolution screen, the fonts are quite small and a bit difficult to read. To make matters worse, the interface is cluttered with tiny, unintelligible icons. With a screen that small, it's vital that the space be used efficiently. Also, while the interface features neat sliding transitions between screens, the animation is slow and jerky.
Four touch-sensitive directional buttons below the screen provide navigation control. In general, navigation is pretty straightforward and efficient. You never need to dig too deeply into nested menus to make adjustments. You can sort your music by artist, album, song, playlist, and genre. Once you've selected the song, the ID3 tag info is displayed on the screen along with time elapsed.
Dedicated volume controls, a menu key, and a button puzzlingly labeled Source (it brings you back to the main music menu) line the device's right side. The menu button activates the settings menu, and when held down for a couple of seconds, it triggers the Hold function. Jacks for headphones, mini USB 1.1, and power are located on the left side.
The HDD060 comes with a short list of accessories. To personalise the player, Philips provides a sheet of coloured stickers to attach to the sides, although they give it an even cheaper look. Instead of a case or a belt clip, Philips includes a cute but not very useful lanyard. A USB cable, a power adapter, and headphones complete the package.
The Philips HDD060 is not overburdened with features. It plays MP3 and WMA files but doesn't support copy-protected WMA files purchased from sites such as MusicNow and Napster. Unfortunately, you must use the supplied Philips Digital Music Manager software to transfer music from your PC to the player. While the player functions as a removable hard drive and allows you to drag and drop files with Windows Explorer, music files transferred in this fashion cannot be played on the device.
We weren't fond of the Philips Digital Music Manager software. It's slow to start up and shut down. While it does include basic features such as the ability to play music on the PC and create new playlists, the interface isn't user-friendly. For example, you can't select multiple songs from an album when creating a playlist; you must drag them one at a time. This is especially annoying because you have to create your playlists on the PC -- the HDD060 doesn't let you create them on the fly. And there are no play, pause, or track-skip buttons to control playback. Philips should have bundled support for Musicmatch Jukebox or Windows Media Player.
Those who like to pause a song and then resume where they left off will be disappointed, since the HDD060 has a maximum autoshutdown time of only 10 minutes. That means you'll have to start up the player and navigate to find your song again if you leave your player paused for longer than that.
The HDD060 offers basic playback options, such as shuffle and repeat, four EQ presets, and one setting for bass boost. You can also assign one of the navigation buttons as a shortcut to functions such as EQ, bass boost or more track info. But from a features perspective, the HDD060 is bland.
The sound quality of the Philips HDD060 left quite a bit to be desired. Compared to an iPod on a high-quality home stereo, the HDD060 sounded noticeably muffled and congested. On good Sennheiser headphones, the sound seemed less expansive, more in-your-head than that of other players. The included earbud headphones sounded decent and were much louder than the Apple iPod earbuds.
The player performed admirably in our drain test, lasting 10.2 hours. To keep the sound flowing, the HDD060 has a 16MB memory buffer, which protects against shock-induced interruptions. We didn't notice any skips during normal playback, although we sometimes triggered some static when using the menus while listening.
Since this player uses USB 1.1 to transfer files, we weren't surprised by its transfer-test results of just 0.59MB per second. With 1.5GB of storage, it doesn't have enough capacity to simply synchronise with your entire music collection, so using the Digital Music Manager to manually transfer songs will be a frequent (and annoying) activity. USB 2.0 would have been the cure for the HDD060's transfer woes.