It's rather surprising just how much gushing praise I've heard of the MPTrip MP3 Player, with little or no mention of its glaring faults and just plain bone-headed design decisions. Some of its problems are due to the fact that it is an emerging technology, since it is the first product of its type available (a portable CD player that can play MP3 files burned onto CD as well as regular CD's). But some of its faults are simply inexcusable, ridiculous oversights that no product should be subjected to. First the good things about this player:
Make no mistake, just the idea of having a CD player with MP3 capability is quite revolutionary. If I had one portable CD player to live the rest of my life with, and I had to choose between this and a regular CD player, I'd probably pick this one. I mean, let's face it: I can store almost my entire collection of 150 MP3's on a SINGLE CD. With a couple more CD's, I could literally store my entire music collection and never have to bother with cumbersome CD holders, cases, and annoying disc-swapping (very little of it, anyway). Unfortunately, the MPTrip's designers seemed to think that MP3 capability is ALL they needed for a quality product, and they apparently went AWOL when it came to designing the other aspects of the player.
Bone Headed Design Decision #1
This player has no resume feature. Let me allow a moment for the idiocy of that fact to sink in. In the entire history of CD players, this is the one player in most dire need of a resume feature--and it doesn't have it. I've never even owned a CD player that lacked resume, and I never found much of a need for it in the past. Now that I finally DO need, it, it's not even there.
To imagine just how much trouble a little 2-cent "resume switch" could have saved, imagine driving 40 minutes to work each day, and listening to songs 1-10. Now you get off work, and you have to manually go to song 11. Now you drive to the grocery store, and on the way listen to songs 12-20. Then after you're done shopping you have to cycle through twenty songs, just to pick up where you left off... I'm sure you get the point. With hundreds of songs, one can imagine the nightmare it can become. One can also imagine how often you'll actually HEAR the songs at the end of the CD, probably never. The obvious (and only) solution to this is to use random play, as many owners of the MPTrip do. But I have never used random play in the past, and resent the notion that I am now "forced" to do so because of a glaring design flaw.
Now one could justify the lack of "resume", as some people often justify idiotic cost-cutting measures, by saying "Well... by leaving off the 2-cent switch, they saved fifty-six zillion dollars in the long run..." Unfortunately, simple "cost-cutting" this was not. If it were, how do you explain that the MPTrip has a "feature" which allows you to connect a microphone and record ten minutes of speech? Can anyone think of a practical application for such a thing? I can't. What are you going to record in only ten minutes, anyway? And who knows how much more expensive that worthless feature was than a simple resume switch?
Boneheaded Design Decision #2
This problem actually has nothing to do with the player's MP3 capability, but it is no less asinine. First of all, this player drains batteries like crazy. Of course that's understandable: not only does it need to power the CD-ROM and output an audio signal, but it also has to power the MP3 decoding DSP chip, which I'm sure draws quite a bit of juice by itself. The problem is, they have effectively cut down the battery life of this unit even FURTHER by another boneheaded design decision.
Once the player even gets CLOSE to being low on battery, it emits an incessant, high pitched, beeping, often 45 minutes or more before the batteries finally die. Well guess what, the beeping has become so annoying that I now swap out the batteries as soon as the beeping starts, as any sane person would do--in other words, 45 minutes has now been chopped off the player's already-short battery life due to the beeping "feature".
I would like to pose a question to the engineers of this device: what are the catastrophic consequences of allowing the player to run out of batteries? Why does the user need to be informed AT ALL--much less a full 45 minutes in advance? I could just imagine a battery-powered TV that shuts off every few seconds, JUST so you know the batteries will be dying an hour from now. Who knows what kinds of disasters would occur if the batteries just died and you weren't ready to handle it.
Technological Shortcoming #1
When burning your CD full of MP3's, you can't just burn it any which way, and on any CD-R disc. Even though the manual doesn't say it, if you want to burn a good CD you have to burn on a standard 650 meg, 74-minute CD-R, you have to burn at 1X or 2X speed, and you have to use ISO9660 format. Another reported problem is, if you're burning more than about 80 songs, you need to put them in separate folders on the CD. If you just dump them all onto the CD it won't be able to read all of them.
NOTE: as noted by jeffmd, while burning in ISO9660 format you should have "Joliet" checked, or else your MP3's will be stored in "8.3" DOS format (i.e. an MP3 called "Stevie Ray Vaughn - Pride and Joy (unplugged).mp3" suddenly becomes "STEVIE~9.MP3"). With Joliet enabled, you will retain the original file names on the CD in case you want to transfer those MP3's from one computer to another.
As for putting songs in folders, it would seem like a rather useful feature, but in practice it's almost worthless. You can, for example, store songs in separate folders by artist or by album, and instead of having a massive 150 songs to manage, you can just cycle through the folders. But that still presents a huge hassle when trying to navigate the contents of a massive CD filled with MP3's, which leads to the next problem:
Technological Shortcoming #2
The user-friendliness of this thing is just plain horrible. First of all, the unit's buttons are laid out in totally illogical fashion. Play/pause is isolated over on the side of the unit's cover, the preview/back button is located to the upper-right of the next/forward button, and a seldom-used button like "Play Mode" is literally four times as large as the Play button! Besides the ergonomics, the "user interface" is also pretty lacking and provides no information whatsoever to identify the songs. Why didn't they design it to display the name of the artist or song, or at least the file name? Instead, you just have to go by memory, or have a pre-printed list handy. There are also no buttons for going forward and back between folders. Instead, you have to select folder mode, cycle through the folders, choose the folder you want, then go back to file mode. Argh...
Technological Shortcoming #3
This one is actually somewhere between a technological flaw and a bad design move. Consider it a bad design decision to omit technology that was very much needed, i.e. shock-absorbing technology. As far as I can tell, this unit has none whatsoever. "Oh, but it has a whopping 50 seconds of electronic shock protection!!" one might say. It sure does, but that only helps after the player has streamed enough of the song into memory. But once a new song starts, even a slightly rough road has been enough to cause this thing to skip. Arghhhh....
I can just imagine the day a year or two from now, when we all have portable CD/MP3 players with touch-sensitive LCD screens, easy-to-navigate graphical user interfaces, and numerical keypads that allow us to just punch in whichever song we want to hear. We'll be able to view the contents of any CD with complete song information, navigate and re-arrange songs graphically, generate playlists on the fly, even link to our PC's. Who knows, they'll probably even have internet capability. Unfortunately, comparing this player to that ideal is like comparing the first-generation Macintosh to the latest G4. Sure they have similar capabilities on a superficial level, but it still has a long way to go.
NOTE: I paid $115 for my player, but it has since been marked down to $89 at www.easybuy2000.com. They also have a very useful guide to the MPTrip, which contains lots of important information that's NOT in the user's manual, at http://www.easybuy2000.com/store/products/mp3/faqmptrip/mptrip.html
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