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Seal sfp-190 review: Seal sfp-190

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The Good Firmware upgradable to play protected WMA files; voice recorder; solid construction.

The Bad No FM radio or armband; no LCD backlighting.

The Bottom Line The Seal sfp-190 is a good choice if you're looking for a basic flash player that will support protected songs.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.6 Overall

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The 128MB Seal sfp-190 (which the company markets as part of its Umph line of players) offers just about everything you'd want in a plug-in MP3 player, such as a compact, solid design and easy menu navigation. But Seal one-ups many competitors by offering a firmware upgrade that allows you to play WMA files purchased from online music stores.

The sfp-190 is housed in a white plastic case surrounded by a rubberized black border that makes for easy handling. The comfortable design is augmented by well-placed control buttons; the fast-forward/rewind and menu keys line the top of the device, while volume controls and a hold switch sit across the bottom. The play/pause and stop buttons, which double (respectively) as power on and power off, conveniently reside to the right of the display. Despite a slim screen, ID3 tag info is surprisingly viewable. The screen isn't backlit, however, so viewing in dark environments is out of the question.

Accessories include an earbud/neck strap combination, which is more bothersome than useful, and a USB extension cord. The latter is a necessity if you don't want the sfp-190 encroaching on the neighboring USB port.

Menu navigation is a breeze thanks to the sfp-190's intuitive design and user-friendly interface. Simply press the M button on the top left of the device to access the menu, and then use the fast-forward/rewind controls to move through options. Hitting the M key again makes your selection. Within the menu, you'll find six EQ settings (Normal, X-Bass, Rock, Jazz, Classical, and Pop), as well as Repeat and Shuffle Play modes. The device also offers a voice recorder with the ability to set the frequency level (from 8,000Hz to 48,000Hz). Plus, you can erase files on the fly and check the device for remaining memory.

Though it ships ready to play MP3 and unprotected WMA files, you can download a firmware upgrade from Seal's Web site that adds support for copyright-protected WMA files. This will let you play songs that you download from music stores such as Musicmatch and Napster. The only catch is that you must use Windows Media Player or the application used to purchase the music to transfer such files. Otherwise, you can drag and drop unprotected files from within Windows Explorer. When we tested the sfp-190, we had no problems using Musicmatch to transfer songs we'd previously purchased.

The Seal sfp-190 performed well in our tests. Sound quality was good, particularly when we swapped the included earbuds for a more responsive set. The device's transfer speed via USB 1.1 was a very brisk 0.75MB per second, and we matched the rated 12 hours of continuous playback on a single AAA battery.

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