Philips SA2820 review: Philips SA2820

The Good Price; ease of use; no software required for transferring music; battery life.

The Bad Poor file format support; sound quality is very bass-heavy.

The Bottom Line Not the best sounding or the best featured player, but it's a very affordable alternative to Apple's iPod shuffle, with a distinct style many will fall for

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6.5 Overall

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In the past, Philips MP3 players have been functional, attractive, easy to use and decent performers. But what's let them down has often been a lack of features.

Its newest player, the SA2820, takes on the iPod shuffle, SanDisk Sansa Clip and Creative Zen Stone Plus. With a 2GB capacity and a price of roughly £30, can this entry-level MP3 player stand up to the beating the competitive marketplace gives all new players?

With its tiny dot matrix OLED screen switched off, the SA2820's highly reflective, glossy face gives off enough light to check your hairstyle quite easily. Each edge of this square-shaped face acts as a navigational button à la iRiver Clix -- a questionable move, since the player picks up fingerprints like a forensics expert.

Moving around the edges we see more conventional buttonage, including a dedicated button for the voice recorder, an internal microphone for said recorder, a standard mini-USB socket for easy charging and of course, a 3.5mm headphone jack.

When we review music mobiles such as the Sony Ericsson W350i, we often lament the poor audio format support, claiming phones won't be a challenge to dedicated MP3 players until they match MP3 players' proficiency at supported lots of audio formats.

Sadly, this is one of the few MP3 players a music phone could challenge, as it supports only MP3, WAV and WMA -- and only unprotected WMA at that. Your subscriptions or purchases from the likes of Napster will not play on this player.

You can, however, record your own voice with the built-in voice recorder that records to a single channel WAV file. Not surprisingly, it's not possible to plug in an external microphone.

Finally, on this, the least expensive of the tiny new Philips players, there's no FM radio. In contrast, Creative's 2GB Zen Stone Plus, available for roughly the same price, has support for FM radio and both protected WMA music and Audible audiobooks.

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