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Sorell SF3000 MP3 Player (1GB review: Sorell SF3000 MP3 Player (1GB

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The Good Elegant, petite body; colorful, high-resolution LCD; multipurpose recording abilities; strong FM radio signal; compatible with WMA music stores.

The Bad Expensive; below-average battery life; steeper learning curve due to a multitude of features; LCD is a bit small for photos and video; must convert video into playable size.

The Bottom Line The Sorell SF3000 is for people who want to hold the (1GB) digital universe in the palm of their hand and are willing to shell out a few extra bones for the luxury.

7.0 Overall

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Sorell may not be a name that you know and trust, but this recent spin-off from S-Cam, formerly the digital audio and camcorder department of Samsung, raises the feature bar in the flash-based MP3 market with its SF3000 Mini PMP (portable media player). This sleek device is the smallest video-enabled MP3 player we've seen, weighing just more than an ounce and fitting easily into the palm of one's hand. It also handles a variety of audio files and supports JPEG viewing. The SF3000 has a capacity of 1GB and comes in either black or white. The Korean-made device is pricey at $250, and it's available from only a few online retailers.

Measuring just 2.6 by 1.2 by 0.6 inches, the Sorell SF3000 radiates style, with well-crafted physical features such as a tiny (1-inch, 96x96-pixel) yet brilliant 65,000-color LCD screen and a perfectly molded clear-plastic protective case (included). It's small enough to be worn pendant-style like a piece of tech jewelry. Unlike the iPod, which often displays its wear and tear, the SF3000's silver trim and white or black torso are scratch and fingerprint resistant. Simply put, the diminutive device is a head-turner; in fact, several people stopped us on the street to examine it.

Beyond its good looks, the Sorell SF3000 has numerous practical features. The 1GB flash-based player accommodates voice, line-in, and FM radio recording; JPEG picture viewing; MPEG-4 video playback; and naturally, playback of up to 150 songs (at 128Kbps). The device supports MP3, OGG, ASF, WMA, and DRM-protected WMA (make sure you've upgraded the firmware to version 1.36K)and uses a simple UMS-type folder-tree structure broken down into folders such as JPEG, MP4, and Record. Transferring tracks is a drag-and-drop process, though you'll need to use Windows Media Player to transfer songs purchased from music stores.

The built-in microphone and the LCD are the only items on the front side. A five-way controller joystick, used for navigation and volume adjustment, sits on the top-right spine of the SF3000, above the play, EQ, and record buttons. The SF3000's left spine includes the headphone/line-input jack and a hold switch, while the standard USB 2.0 port is on the bottom. The color screen is certainly too small to fully enjoy photos and video, but overall, the experience of navigating the device is good once you get used to the small buttons.

Nevertheless, Sorell may have been too ambitious when crafting the SF3000. First, users with larger hands will definitely find the buttons cumbersome. Also, many of the device's buttons have multiple purposes, which can lead to confusion and frequent recourse to the user manual. In addition, the MPEG-4 playback function will probably be underutilized because most users will not take the time to obtain and transcode space-hogging videos. One positive note: Once converted into the proper playable size using the included video-conversion utility, video files will take up less space than the originals, leaving more room for other movie, photo, and music files. Sorell also excludes a power adapter, forcing users to either charge the device through the USB 2.0 port on their computer or pony up for an aftermarket adapter. Finally, while the player can do many things well, it carries a hefty price tag. Medialine (Sorell's North American and European distributor) lists the SF3000 for $249.99--$120 more than the feature-poor 1GB iPod Shuffle and about $50 more than the 1GB Samsung YEPP YP-T7Z, which has a color screen but no video playback.

In most respects, the Sorell SF3000 performs well. The FM tuner boasts a strong signal, and the integrated mic does a fine job of recording from up to 2 feet away; it would be useful for recording interviews. The player has a reasonably high signal-to-noise (more than 87dB) ratio for audio playback and a customizable EQ for fine-tuning. Sound quality is good--especially with the SRS Wow option turned on--and is best described as expansive and clear. But definitely use a better pair of headphones, as the included set lacks any kind of bass response. Given the SF3000's Mini PMP moniker (think a fully loaded mini SUV), you'd expect below-average life from the built-in lithium-ion battery. And it's true--at 10.4 hours, the SF3000 delivers half the battery life of a typical flash-based player and even less than that when the display is consistently illuminated. On the plus side, the device offers exceptionally fast file-transfer speeds of 6.24MB per second.

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