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If you hope to survive against the reigning king of MP3 players, otherwise known as the Apple iPod Nano, you better have some jaw-dropping feature that makes you stand out. Unfortunately, while Haier America's latest offering, the HEC Video MP3 Player, puts a good foot forward with its solid sound quality and a very palatable price tag, its quirky navigation isn't going to do much to tempt prospective iPod buyers.
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The overall style of the HEC Video MP3 Player isn't really a problem, though the shiny black plastic body with the faux-chrome back plate seems played-out at this stage in the game. It's not an eyesore by any means, but it does come off looking rather cheap.
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On the plus side, the ubershiny back plate makes a killer pocket mirror in a pinch.
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The blue-backlit touch-sensitive controls on the face of the device are overly sensitive, causing problems. There are four arrow indicators in addition to menu and OK keys, but we found that touching the area around those last two had varied results; they're just not quite accurate.
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Also odd: while navigating within menus, scrolling up and down is handled by the left and right arrows, while the up and down buttons continue to adjust volume. While we appreciate "dedicated" volume controls, it would make more sense to throw an extra toggle on the spine of the device.
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There would have been plenty of room, for example, for dedicated volume controls on the right spine, which contains only a power/hold switch.
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The bottom of the unit houses the standard mini-USB port for syncing and charging, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack.
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The HEC Video MP3 Player fares better when it comes to performance, though it's not so great as to save the device from its many shortcomings, including its crippled feature set and wonky interface.
Updated:Caption:Photo:Josh Miller/CNET
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