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Pleasing display, smooth software
The DX isn't the most eye-catching device we've seen, but we like its clean, understated . Its rectangular design is also small enough (2.8 by 2.0 by 0.7 inches) to fit in any pocket, and it weighs only 1.9 ounces. PoGo Products includes a strap and a felt carrying case that we strongly suggest using, for the player's finish scratches easily.
Most of the controls line the DX's side, with the exception of the volume buttons, which rest on top, next to the output/headphones and input/analog line-in jacks. A protective panel on the back flips down to hide the USB port and the expansion slot, where you can add more memory in the form of 16MB, 32MB, 64MB, or 128MB MultiMedia or Secure Digital cards. We were particularly fond of the large, easy-to-read, backlit LCD, which not only supports ID3 tags but also displays the DX's battery life, volume, and EQ, a well as the track time and the bit rate of the song that's currently playing.
Unlike many other MP3 players from small companies, the DX ships with polished software that's a snap to use, thanks to a clean and stable drag-and-drop interface.
Recording and encoding sans PC
The RipFlash's most unique attribute is its ability to encode WMAs--but not MP3s, as the company's Web site claims--in real time from any source with a line-level output.
To create your own WMA files, just connect the line-out source to the DX's line-in jack with the included 1/8-inch cable, then hit the red Record button; you're encoding on the fly into the WMA format at bit rates from 8Kbps to 128Kbps. It's remarkably easy, so long as you remember to press Record again between tracks to separate songs into different files. An internal mike is included for recording voice memos that can later be sent as e-mail attachments.
The rest of the DX's features are pretty standard; you'll find four preset EQ settings, Random and Repeat modes, and a Hold switch. A much-appreciated clip-on, in-line remote accesses all functions except Record, but it should be noted that the jack on our unit was a bit testy. During a workout, the connection failed on several occasions, resulting in trebly, low-fidelity music with no midrange. Other than that, though, audio quality was fine with the included low-cost earbuds, and the volume cranks loud enough to drown out most external sounds.
Unfortunately, the unit doesn't ship with rechargeable batteries, so you'll need to replace the two AAA cells every 14.5 hours. That's about average for today's flash-based MP3 players.
King of the mountain
In the final analysis, PoGo Products RipFlash DX has most of what other flash-based players can lay claim to, as well as one trump card: PC-free recording. Despite the unit's problematic remote jack and its lack of rechargeable batteries, we feel that those in the market for a flash-based player will be hard-pressed to get more for their $179 than they can with the DX, the latest recipient of our Editors' Choice award.