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Toshiba MEG50AS Mobilphile review: Toshiba MEG50AS Mobilphile

Toshiba MEG50AS Mobilphile

Eliot Van Buskirk
Evolver.fm Editor Eliot Van Buskirk has covered and occasionally anticipated music and technology intersections for 15 years for CNET, Wired.com, McGraw-Hill, and The Echo Nest. He is not currently an employee of CNET.
Eliot Van Buskirk
3 min read
It's too bad that Toshiba's Mobilphile didn't arrive before the iPod. If it had, this slick-looking hard drive-based MP3 player, which comes with a 5GB removable hard drive, support for fast USB 2.0 transfers, and an in-line remote, would possess a little more wow factor. But as it stands, there's still a lot to like here--especially if you use a laptop, as the 5GB hard drive slides right into a PC Card slot for easy file transfers.

The Mobilphile's remote control is just like the rest of the package: classy, understated, and capable.
Cosmetically, the Mobilphile is quite impressive, with a large, backlit screen; slick controls; and a sturdy, aluminum case. The unit looks expensive, and indeed it was, until Toshiba dropped the price by $150 soon after its release. The Mobilphile is also pretty compact, measuring 2.8 by 0.9 by 4.4 inches and weighing 8.1 ounces (with the hard drive), though it's not quite as small as the iPod. As noted, what makes this player different from other hard drive-based devices is the fact that the its memory is removable; the bottom of the unit pops open so that you can slide out the 5GB Type II PC Card-style hard drive. If you have a desktop with a PC Card reader or a laptop, you don't even need to install any software or use the USB cord: just pull the card out of the Mobilphile, place it into your computer, and drag files and directories to the PC Card drive. An extra 5GB drive currently costs around $300, but as PC Card hard drive prices drop, memory expansion could be a reasonable option.
The in-line remote control is a nice touch and easily handles all functions when the Mobilphile is out of reach. And the LCD, with its orange-and-blue backlight, warrants mention as well. Navigation is very clean and easy--similar to that of the iPod, although this Toshiba lacks a scroll wheel.

The Mobilphile's file-transfer software encrypts music files but does not slow down transfer times significantly.

All in all, we really dug the unit's interface. Simple navigation of menus and song directories makes for aggravation-free listening, with each tune and playlist only a few clicks away. Unfortunately, the Mobilphile can't automatically sync to your PC's digital-music collection the way that Creative and Apple players can. However, the Mobilphile does manually move files quickly and easily using the two-pane, drag-and-drop Toshiba Audio Application.
You can transfer MP3s and other files onto the PC Card using Windows Explorer. Or, you can drag and drop tunes, then upload them to other computers. But unless you use Toshiba's file-transfer app, the MP3s won't play on the unit. This application adds .sat to the end of every MP3 filename and encrypts the file so that it cannot be uploaded to another computer in a playable condition--even if you remove the extension from the filename. The choice is yours: You can either have the ability to transfer MP3s to other computers or the abilitly to play them on the Mobilphile.

You can eject the 5GB PC Card hard drive and plug it right into a laptop or any handheld/desktop with the right adapter.
Sound quality was excellent, with a clean signal-to-noise ratio of 90dB--nearly as good as it gets for a portable player. Loudness, bass expansion, and other equalization options optimize the already great-sounding audio to your taste. Another plus: The Mobilphile's lithium-ion battery lasts 18 hours on a single charge, which is almost twice as long as that of the iPod.
We noted a file-transfer speed of 1.6MB per second over USB 2.0, meaning that it takes less than a minute to transfer and encrypt an album using Toshiba's software. If you don't have USB 2.0 installed on your computer, you can transfer tunes using USB 1.1, although it's slower.

Toshiba MEG50AS Mobilphile

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6