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Seal sfp-150 (128MB) review: Seal sfp-150 (128MB)

The Good Small and light; decent sound; well-marked controls; ideal for exercise; inexpensive.

The Bad No LCD or battery gauge; USB 1.1; very basic playback features.

The Bottom Line A fine sidekick for the athletically inclined, the Seal sfp-150 gives you data storage and audio playback for not much more than the price of a USB flash drive alone.

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6.3 Overall

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If you're planning to buy a USB flash drive anyway, why not get one that doubles as an audio player? That's the reasoning behind the 128MB Seal sfp-150, which not only stores data but also plays MP3 and secure WMA files. However, unlike its more sophisticated brethren, such as the Jens of Sweden MP-110, the sfp-150 doesn't include an FM tuner or an LCD; it's a bare-bones player in the truest sense. Fortunately, it's also less expensive than much of the competition.

About the size of a cigarette lighter, the Seal sfp-150 measures 3.3 by 1.3 by 0.5 inches and weighs a mere 1.2 ounces with its single AAA battery installed. It's light enough to wear around your neck, a feat made possible by the included lanyard. In fact, the player is meant to be worn this way--the earbuds are physically combined with the lanyard. The only problem with this exercise-friendly configuration is how geeky it looks when you're not at the gym. We preferred using third-party headphones and tucking the player in a shirt pocket.

A snug-fitting cap hides the unit's USB 1.1 connector. We prefer USB 2.0, but it's not essential when you're dealing with 128MB of storage. The player also comes with a USB cable, which is handy if your computer has crowded ports. Like most devices of its type, the sfp-150 works driver-free with Windows Me, 2000, and XP. Drivers are supplied for Windows 98 SE and Mac OS X, but that's the extent of the software bundle. Copying files is a strictly drag-and-drop affair, which means your songs will default to alphabetical order; we recommend putting a numerical prefix at the beginning of each filename if you require that the songs play in a specific nonalphabetical order.

The sfp-150 lacks an LCD, but its controls are excellent. It has dedicated buttons for volume, play/pause, stop, fast-forward/rewind, and the equalizer, as well as a Hold slider, all of which are clearly marked. Of course, without an LCD, the player has no visible way to navigate tracks or to monitor battery life or volume level. Plus, you don't get playback options such as repeat or shuffle. The player's most high-end feature is its equalizer, which cycles between Rock, Jazz, Classical, Pop, and Extra-bass presets, though there's no way to tell which one is selected.

What we appreciate most about the sfp-150, however, is its ability to play secure WMA files. Thus, it works with online music stores such as Wal-Mart and Napster.

Despite the general discomfort that comes from wearing Seal's rubber-coated earbuds for extended periods, we found sound quality to be above average. At maximum volume, which is quite loud, music becomes slightly coarse and unpleasant.

The Seal's performance in our transfer-speed tests was below average, with an average rate of 0.39MB per second. However, this is not really a problem for a player with only 128MB of memory.

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