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Toshiba gigabeat flash (512MB) review: Toshiba gigabeat flash (512MB)

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The Good Packed with features. Colour screen that can display photos. Decent sound.

The Bad Ugly headphones and lanyard. Built-in microphone not terribly sensitive.

The Bottom Line With more features and a friendlier user experience than other gigabeats, the gigabeat flash is an attractive MP3 player option from Toshiba.

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Design
Measuring in at 31.9x13.2x82 mm (WxDxH), the gigabeat flash isn't the smallest flash-based player around. But Toshiba's first entry into the flash MP3 player market does sport something many of its competitors don't - a colour screen. The 1.1-inch OLED screen has a resolution of 96x96 dots (pixels) and can display 65K colours - on par with the quality of some mobile phones.

To mark this little player out as part of the gigabeat family, Toshiba has included its proprietary plus-shaped navigation button in the centre of the unit. Underneath the plus-shaped button is a play/stop button, while the hold switch and power/menu key are placed on the gigabeat flash's right side. The headphone and line-in jacks are located at the top of the player.

The player itself sports an interesting design based on the plus button - a sunken silver cross runs along the length and breadth of the front and back panels, with the sides and back made up of one continuous piece of silver-coloured plastic. As was the case with the new gigabeat X30, the biggest design dud with this new gigabeat flash is the unattractive headphones included. They look cheap and plasticky, with the cord itself looking like cheap silver electrical wire covered in a thin sheet of clear plastic.

Features
The gigabeat flash is at its heart a music player, and as such has the ability to play MP3, WMA and WAV files. And just like its bigger cousin the X30, it can display digital photos on its colour screen. But unlike the X30, the gigabeat flash's abilities don't stop there. Top of the list of added features is a built-in FM tuner, which features a 10-channel memory preset. The gigabeat flash can also act as a voice recorder - without the need for a separate microphone installed. Finally, the player's line-in port means you can plug in external audio devices (such as a CD player) and record directly onto the gigabeat flash's internal memory.

Another big plus for the gigabeat flash is it doesn't use Toshiba's room software when synching with a PC. We're not big fans of room, and have found it to be confusing to use. The gigabeat flash uses Windows Media Player 10 as its PC conduit.

Performance
As an MP3 player, the gigabeat flash provides decent performance. The flash seems a little quieter at high volumes than other players of its type, but the sound it produces is generally pleasing to listen to. The gigabeat flash has five present equaliser settings (flat, rock, jazz, classical and pop), and also allows the user to set their own levels from a five channel panel (as opposed to the gigabeat X30, which only allows users to affect bass and treble).

The gigabeat flash's other functions work reasonably well. The FM radio function has a painfully slow frequency seeker, although with the ability to preset 10 channels this shouldn't be an issue for most users after the first few hours of use. The voice recorder is also handy, although the built-in microphone isn't terribly sensitive - don't expect to be taping lectures from the back of a hall with this unit.

In terms of useability, we actually found the gigabeat flash to be more intuitive and simpler to use than its bigger X30 cousin, probably because there are fewer buttons overall to get confused about (the plus-shaped button isn't touch sensitive on the gigabeat flash, however). With more features overall and a friendlier user experience than other gigabeats, the gigabeat flash is an attractive MP3 player option from Toshiba.

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