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Terapin Technology Mine TX2000 review:

Terapin Technology Mine TX2000

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The Good 10GB hard drive; advanced network support; displays photos on a TV; upgradable firmware to add all sorts of functionality.

The Bad Bulky and heavy; no rechargeable battery; short battery life; limited support for connecting to digital cameras and portable MP3 players; difficult to use.

The Bottom Line This is an incredibly ambitious, one-of-a-kind device, but it's not yet ready for prime time.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall
Updated 1/2/02
Looking at Apple's sleek new , you might think that portable hard drive-based MP3 players are heading toward pocket-sized simplicity. You could be right, but the big, bold, complex, and powerful Terapin Technology Mine TX2000 stands in stark contrast to this trend. Designed to fit in your briefcase rather than your pocket, the 10GB Linux-enabled Mine plays MP3s, receives e-mail, shows photos on TV screens, takes voice memos, doubles as an FTP server, and does plenty more. Some of the features--such as the ability to connect to a digital camera or portable MP3 player--aren't fully implemented, and none of them are easy to use. Still, it's a product worthy of praise if only for sheer ambition. Updated 1/2/02
Looking at Apple's sleek new , you might think that portable hard drive-based MP3 players are heading toward pocket-sized simplicity. You could be right, but the big, bold, complex, and powerful Terapin Technology Mine TX2000 stands in stark contrast to this trend. Designed to fit in your briefcase rather than your pocket, the 10GB Linux-enabled Mine plays MP3s, receives e-mail, shows photos on TV screens, takes voice memos, doubles as an FTP server, and does plenty more. Some of the features--such as the ability to connect to a digital camera or portable MP3 player--aren't fully implemented, and none of them are easy to use. Still, it's a product worthy of praise if only for sheer ambition.

Big and complicated
As noted, the Mine is no small affair. Weighing in at 1 pound and measuring 7.0 by 3.5 by 1.0 inches, it's about the same size and weight as a large paperback book. Essentially, the Mine is a 10GB hard drive that has myriad ports and an LCD and connects to your PC as a removable hard drive or networked device.

It's relatively simple to use Windows Explorer to copy MP3s or other files to and from the unit at about 500K per second. At that speed, it takes about six hours to fill up the 10GB hard drive, so we preferred to use the DHCP-enabled Ethernet port, which transfers data 20 times faster (10MB per second). Connecting the Mine to your PC also allows access to the unit's control panel for customizing settings, filling address books, creating music playlists, and generally performing other tasks that can't be done with the unit's five-button keyboard.

The Mine can connect directly to the Internet via either its Ethernet or PC Card card slot, which accepts both PC Card modems and wireless network cards. Once connected to the Internet, the Mine can retrieve e-mail from your POP3 account and reply with photos or voice recordings as attachments (external mike included). It can also function as an FTP server, letting you create accounts from which people can upload or download files. This could potentially work well for showing photos in almost real time; unfortunately, the Mine currently supports just a few digital cameras.

Waiting for more device support
One of the Mine's major features--support for a wide range of USB devices--is scarcely past the vaporware stage at this point. Terapin plans on remedying the lack of wide-range support by adding drivers through free firmware upgrades at a later date. If the Mine already supports your camera, you can empty the images onto the device and make room for new pictures without using a PC. However, so far, only a few cameras are compatible: Kodak's DC290 Zoom and , Nikon's and , Canon's and , and Olympus's . Once images are on the Mine (from a digicam or a PC), it can display photos in a slide show on any TV by using the composite video connector, an ability that impressed us. The company also plans to add video playback capability to the player via a firmware update.

Unfortunately, MP3 player support is even worse; only the Sonicblue Rio 500 can currently connect to the Mine. We were able to successfully swap new music onto our Rio by using the Mine to delete all of the MP3s on the player and replace them with new songs. Again, Terapin plans on adding support for more MP3 players with free firmware upgrades.

As it stands, the Mine is a less than ideal portable device, primarily due to its poor battery life. It burned through four AA batteries in only 1 hour and 45 minutes, so you should plan on either keeping it plugged in most of the time or buying a set of rechargeable batteries, which can be powered inside the Mine with the included adapter.

Aside from the short battery life and enormous size, the Mine performed admirably as an MP3 player, with very good sound quality. Although the LCD is large and easy to read, its text font is too big, making navigation between multiple folders a chore. The included external microphone lets you easily create voice recordings, but it plugs into the same connector as the headphones, so you have to switch back and forth each time you want to listen or record.

Techies and pros only
The $599 Terapin Mine is a bleeding-edge gadget that's nowhere near ready for the mass market. But for the adventuresome soul or the professional digital photographer, it offers an impressive array of features that will only improve as the company adds more drivers and dreams up new applications. (If the open source community embraces this Linux-enabled device, the sky is the limit in terms of what it will be able to do.) If you're just looking for a portable hard drive to store lots of your tunes, we'd suggest the much smaller and simpler , or, if you have a Mac, the new iPod. But if you're ready for the Mine's unprecedented range of capabilities for professional use or techie fun, then feel free to accept the challenge.

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