Wolverine ESP review: Wolverine ESP

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The Good The practical Wolverine ESP is available in up to 120GB; plays back music, video, and photo files and includes built-in memory card slots; includes an FM tuner and audio- and video-recording capabilities; plays a wide variety of unprotected formats; supports RAW photo images; removable battery; UMS and MTP modes; good GB-per-dollar value.

The Bad The Wolverine ESP is not DRM compatible; it has a somewhat mundane interface; not a wide-screen display; a tad bulky; must purchase cradle to record line-in audio or video.

The Bottom Line The Wolverine ESP may not be a fancy portable video player/recorder, but it gets the job done, particularly for digital photo enthusiasts.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

Irvine, California-based Wolverine Data (creators of the memorable MVP) will soon be launching a portable video player (PVP) with up to 120GB. The Wolverine ESP joins a rapidly growing list of portable devices that can play back video and audio and display digital images, though this PVP is much more photo friendly than most. The ESP, which comes only in megasizes of 80GB ($399), 100GB ($449), or 120GB ($499), may not be an Archos 604, but it's a solid device with its own charms. I got to play with the product before its official October 3 launch. Note: Prices on Web site are higher than retail.

At 5.3 by 2.8 by 0.9 inches and 10.2 ounces, the Wolverine ESP is not supersleek and is far from sexy. It has much more of a utilitarian vibe than most media players due to its unassuming gray plastic exterior, 4:3 screen, and mundane user interface. Still, the unit's definitely pocketable and extremely durable, and importantly, it's intuitive. Plus it holds up to 120GB of data.

The Wolverine ESP (80GB) next to the Creative Zen Vision (30GB). The Creative's a better performer and sexier, but the ESP has some of its own charms.

To the right of the 3.6-inch 4:3 TFT display (320x240 pixels) is a nice five-way joystick. Above the joystick is a mediocre mono speaker, and under the joystick fall the tactile Menu, Escape, and Volume buttons. These controllers coupled with the simple GUI make the ESP one of the more straightforward devices I've used in a while. The only other buttons to pay attention to are the power and hold slider located on the right spine. The left side of the ESP is rounded and padded with a softer plastic (though still a little slippery); the ESP is designed for righties.

Photo-friendly PVP
You will notice two flip-open panels on top of the device: one is a CompactFlash Type I/II slot, the other an SD/MMC/MS slot. Stick a memory card in, and the ESP will ask to back up photos or the entire card. Transfer times are decent-- I backed up my CompactFlash card with 76 JPEGs and AVIs (about 55MB) in well under a minute. These files are placed into a new folder in the main menu's Backup option, and they are easy to access and view (either in list mode or thumbnail mode, with two rows of four thumbnails). Incidentally, the ESP's USB 2.0 transfer rates are speedy (55MB in about 10 seconds).

The ESP is also a seven-in-one media card reader.

The Wolverine ESP is a shutterbugs' PVP.

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