RCA H review: RCA H

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The Good Basic and affordable 4GB or 6GB player; compact and comfortable design; works with WMA subscription and Audible tracks; ships with basic FM transmitter; screen easily viewable; supports UMS for driver-less transfers.

The Bad Monochrome screen; no extra features such as an FM tuner, recording capabilities, or photo or album art display; hard drive-based design not as reliable as flash-based equivalent; generic look and feel.

The Bottom Line If you need an affordable medium-capacity subscription-ready player with no extra features, then the RCA H100 series looks like a safe bet.

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6.0 Overall

RCA H100 series

On June 27, 2006, RCA introduced three new MP3 player models: the 4GB RCA H100 ($139) and the 6GB RCA H106 and H116 ($169). Available now, the players are a throwback to the basic color-free microdrive player of a couple of years ago, and they lack features such as an FM tuner, recording capabilities, and photo and video support. Still, the RCA H100 series is compatible with WMA subscriptions and Audible files, and though it's much bigger than an iPod Nano and lacks the pizzazz of a Creative Zen V Plus, those looking for an affordable medium-capacity player with no extra features whatsoever should check it out. This is our review of the 6GB RCA H116.

While the RCA H116 isn't ugly, it lacks glossy high-tech appeal, and the absence of prominent branding gives this 2.7-ounce player a generic feel. It feels natural in the hand, and at its thinnest point, the device measures 3.5 by 2 by 0.5 inches. It's neither as skinny as a Nano, nor as small as a Creative Zen V Plus, but that doesn't detract from the overall user experience. As RCA reps have stated, the H100 series is "so small that [it] can hide behind a business card." While this is true, the device cannot hide under a business card. RCA reps have also confirmed that there is no difference between the H106 and H116 models; in fact, all three H series models are identical from the outside.

RCA H100 series
The 6GB RCA H116 next to the Cowon iAudio 6, a 4GB microdrive player with far more features and a higher list price.

The face of the dark gray device has a thick, glossy finish that attract mad prints and is outlined by a thin Rio Carbon-like chrome border. Underneath the square 1.5-inch display is the main controller and volume mechanism, a tactile wheel with minuscule raised bumps for traction. The wheel works well, and you select menu items by pressing the center play/pause button. The forward and back buttons line the right and left sides of the wheel, while the menu button sits nearby to the right. We assumed the buttons would be backlit, but again, as part of RCA's intention to keep costs down, they aren't.

The only item on either spine is a power button, while the headphone and standard mini USB jacks, as well as the hold switch, are located on top. There's also an opening for a lanyard, but we don't recommend such use, as this is a microdrive player that's susceptible to malfunctioning if knocked around. Along with the player, the package includes generic earbuds; a 2-foot USB cable; a basic FM transmitter (not included with the 4GB H100); a driver CD with Yahoo Music Engine; and promotional offers from Audible, eMusic, and Yahoo. The FM transmitter has a retractable cable and can be used with any audio device. On one of San Francisco's clearest frequencies (88.1kHz), we experienced a little static, but worse, the audio quality is muffled.

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