Pros: Inexpensive, digital recording, onboard memory, portable
Cons: Can't upgrade memory, one-year warranty
While on a business trip a few years ago (2005), I attended a seminar that required taking a lot of notes. Having to sit through power point slide after power point slide was tedious enough, but having to take notes at the same time and having to keep up with the lecturer, made learning the material a little difficult. I thought that it would be nice to have a pocket recorder with me to record the sessions. So I stopped into the local Wal-Mart store and found the Sony ICD-B120 recorder and purchased it for just under $20.
I selected the Sony ICD-B120 recorder because I wanted a compact device to keep on my person so that I could easily record a session that I felt was important or one to refer back to at a later time. Portability and size was important in the selection of the Sony ICD-B120 recorder. I didn't want to carry anything bulky or have to carry cassette tapes additional to the recorder.
What attracted me most to the Sony ICD-B120 was that it was a digital recorder and not one that required the use of tapes. I had an older version tape recorder but with that, I had limited use of the tapes and had to flip over to continue recording. With the Sony ICD-B120 recorder, I was now able to record digitally, which allowed for no use of tapes. This recorder provides a compact and portable digital recording source for your needs.
Exterior/Size. The size of the Sony ICD-B120 recorder was also something that attracted me to it. The recorder measures 0.7-inches deep by 1.4-inches wide by 4.3-inches high with a weight of approximately 2.3 ounces. With that small sized recorder, I could easily place it in a pocket and not worry about the pocket sagging because of the weight. It's so lightweight I often forget it's in the pocket. The exterior face color is silver with a black back and easy access to the battery door. The purpose of the recorder is to provide a compact and portable digital recording source for your needs. This recorder makes dictation or any type of recording easy to do. There are no tapes or cassettes to use with this device.
Memory. The Sony ICD-B120 has built-in memory of 16 megabytes, enough to record several hours of data. With the built-in memory, you can easily record lengthy lectures or any kind of recordings with great ease. When you being to record, you can easily stop and use the forward and back buttons on the records, just like you would with any recorder. This recorder also offers the capability of erasing recordings. The downside of the memory is that it is not upgradeable or removable.
Recording Times/Length. Depending on how you like to record or how you like to hear your playback recordings would depend on the quality you choose to record. The Sony ICD-B120 recorder has a feature where you can record up to 99 messages and up to 7-3/4 hours of recording time. Why not 8-hours? Probably because Sony limited the memory use on the phone and uses the rest for something else. However, with that overall length of time, you would use the LP mode. Recording up to 99 messages, you would setup the recorder to use folders. This recorder has four folder features (A, B, C, and D). The folders allow you to separate different recordings, similar to setting up folders in a file cabinet, only now you're using a digital recorder to set up your files. It's a little confusing to understand how the folder feature works, and even today, I have limited knowledge of how it works. Only know this that you can record four different sessions and place each into its own separate folder on the recorder. Hopefully that makes a little more sense.
Recording Modes. The Sony ICD-B120 recorder has different recording modes ranging from High Quality (HQ), Standard Play (SP), and Long Play (LP). Each mode has limits for recording times. HQ records up to 1.45 (1-hour/45-minutes); SP records up to 4.40 (4-hours/40-minutes); and LP records up to 7.45 (7-hours/45-minutes). By selecting the HQ mode, you would get the best quality recording sound but you would also get the shortest recording time. This is only handy if you plan on recording a short session. Using the LP mode will give you the longest record time, which is especially helpful if you have a lengthy meeting or need for longer recording time. I used the LP mode for the seminar because I needed the maximum allowable recording for the seminar. At least that way, I could review the material at a later date for reference. No matter which mode you select, you will still get the Sony quality of the recoding. Another factor too is the distance you are from the speaker, but the quality is still good, at least from what I experienced while using this recorder.
On the front of the recorder, it has a large LCD display so you can view playback information. The display is easy to read, unless you have difficulty reading from small handheld devices like this. Otherwise, with fresh batteries installed, the features are fairly easy to view and scroll through. Also on the front are single button features for easy recording and playback. Setup is easy. Once you install the two LR03 (size AAA) batteries in the back compartment of the device, the device will allow you to setup the clock - date and time settings. This is only necessary at first setup, or when you replace the batteries with new ones. The average time I experienced for the battery life was about 15 hours in SP mode.
Another great feature to the recorder is the voice-activated recording. Instead of having to hit the record button on many other recorders, on the Sony ICD-B120 recorder, the voice-activated recorder starts and stops when a voice starts and stops. It's a handy feature to use especially if you're recording for a long time and don't want to keep going back to the recorder to start and stop recording.
Volume. The volume setting is located on the side of the recorder. I have found that by increasing the volume setting to the highest setting during recordings, I get a better quality of recording. This is important to test before going into a recording/lecture so that you know how well the recording will be at the different levels of volume.
Warranty. Manufacturer warranty is for one year only. This is a problem because after not using the recorder for a couple years, when I did go back to using it, I could not power it on. No matter if I had fresh batteries or not, the power would not turn on the device. As the saying says "you get what you paid for". That's a true statement; I paid for a cheap item and am left with a useless device now.
Overall, the Sony ICD-B120 recorder is a great digital recorder for portability and functionality for the small cost of the product.