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Philips SA9345 review: Philips SA9345

The Good Sound quality; design; weight; intuitive navigation and controls; FM radio.

The Bad Price; short list of codec support; low-res screen for a video player.

The Bottom Line Certainly an attractive player and it pumps good-sounding audio. There just aren't enough features. It doesn't feel like any great lengths have been gone to in order to provide a rich enough experience to justify its price

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6.5 Overall

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Philips' SA9345 is a new member of the Streamium family of audio products from the Netherlands-based company. It emerges into an incredibly competitive market dominated by Apple's iPod. With prices hovering around the £129 mark, the same as a brand new video iPod nano, we're hoping for a solid competitor.

While the face of the lightweight SA9345 is finished in a glossy black, the rest of the silver-trimmed body has a stylish brushed charcoal look. The player's touch-sensitive controls live underneath the player's screen and glow with an attractive blue when touched -- certain functions light up only when they can be used within a given menu.

The downside to the glossy allure of the SA9345 is that it'll memorise your fingerprints in new and exciting detail. This is an issue most touch-sensitive or touchscreen handhelds suffer from and Philips' new model is no exception.

A très-handy menu button brings up context menus for each of the player's various modes. There's no button to return to the main menu though -- you need to cycle backwards through each menu to return home. Power and volume controls come in the form of physical buttons, each sitting on the left and right of the player respectively.

The 46mm (1.8-inch) colour LCD display has a resolution of 220x176 pixels -- lower than the iPod nano's sharp 51mm (2-inch) 320x240-pixel screen. The use of mostly blue on black backgrounds doesn't give the screen a wholly bright appearance, but it's easy to read and serves its purpose well.

You'll be pleased to know this audio player plays MP3 and WMA files, protected and unprotected, but perhaps less pleased to know format support ends here -- no AAC, no WAV and no OGG or FLAC either. Videos in WMV format will play back quite happily as long as resolutions don't exceed the 220x176-pixel resolution and 376Kbps limitation. Supplied software handles file conversion for you. For photos, simple JPEG files are supported.

Music is sorted in the typical artist>album>song structure or you can browse by album art, the latter sorted in 3x3 grids of 8x8mm colour thumbnails. Playlists can be made on-the-fly from the context menu available in the 'now playing' screen. A 'Superscroll' function allows you to brush your finger down the vertical scroll strip, letting you fly down a list of hundreds of artists or songs in seconds. Very neat.

Finally, there's a simple built-in FM radio capable of storing 20 presets and a photo gallery, complete with thumbnail browsing and slideshow options.

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