The Toshiba gigabeat T400 is a little portable media player that runs Microsoft's portable media center software. Weighing 2 oz. (58g) and measuring 3.37"x2.12"x0.39" (54mm x 85.6mm x 9.9mm), it feels like it's not even there in my hands. It can play audio files in the following formats: MP3, WMA, WMA 9 Lossless, and WAV. It can play WMV video files (more on this below), and it can display JPEG pictures.
The T400 is coated in stylish black glossy plastic, with colored accents decorating the plus pad (which works like those 4-way D-pads in Nintendo's portable game consoles) and the back rim. It looks stylish and sexy from every angle -- this is definitely something you have to see in person to believe. I got the orange version, with an orange-colored earphone set.
The T400 has 4GB of flash memory (3.73GB as reported by Windows); you cannot expand it. Fortunately, MP3 files are not big; if you encode as the typical 128kbps bitrate, you get 1 minute per MB, so the T400 holds about 62.16 hours (=3730MB/1MB/60) of audio; that's roughly 932 songs at 4 minutes per song, or 62 CDs at 1 hour per CD. While it may not be able to hold your entire CD collection, it can more than hold your favorite songs, even if you encode at a higher bitrate. (I have a mixture of lossless classical tracks and 128kbps pop tracks.)
Where the T400 really shines is its beautiful color LCD screen. Even though it measures only 2.4" diagonally, its QVGA (320x240) resolution actually looks very sharp at this size. (In comparison, my gigabeat V has the same resolution displayed on a 3.5" screen, and some Pocket PCs display QVGA on 4" or 4.5" screens, which start to make the pixels look coarse.) The screen is well made and is very bright at the highest of 5 levels. (I set it to the 2nd lowest level to conserve battery; it looks good indoors and looks adequate outdoors at this level.) While the screen is not as bright, level-for-level, as my gigabeat V, I think it still compares really well with the screens on other portable media players in this size class.
The beautiful LCD screen can be used to view JPEG pictures (up to 9000x6000) and to view videos in the WMV (Windows Media Video) format. This means that if you have MPEG, AVI, DVD, or other video files, you'll need to convert them to the WMV format. In fact, even WMV files will be converted to optimize the final file for the player. (For example, I have a bunch of hi-def WMV files for 720p and 1080p HDTVs; when I download them to my gigabeat, they get trimmed significantly in resolution and in file size.) Luckily, as long as Windows Media Player, which is used to sync with the gigabeat, can play a format, it can also convert it to WMV. It may take some time, but it's relatively transparent to the user.
(Sidenote: Windows Media Player can play almost all the video formats, except QuickTime and Real, which owners refuse to license the codec to Microsoft or other third parties. If your WMP cannot play a video file, go to WMPlugins.com to see if a codec is available, for free or for purchase. My WMP 11 installation plays DVD video, MPEG, MP4, DivX, Xvid, WMV, AVI, and other formats, all without my paying for anything.)
The T400 has a single USB 2.0 port, which is used to both recharge the player and to sync. Sync can be done with either Windows Media Player 10 or WMP 11; in the case of WMP 10, you might need to install the necessary drivers from the CD-ROM that comes with the player. BTW, the T400 comes in a very small, cute-looking box. In addition to the CD-ROM (which also contains the PDF user's manual), you get a color-matched earphone set, a USB cable, a couple of free trial offers for MP3 downloads, a get-started guide, and information about the 1-year warranty.
The T400, like previous gigabeat models, utilizes Microsoft's "Windows Mobile for Portable Media Centers" software. This tongue twister is just the mobile counterpart of the wildly popular Windows Media Center software. (It's actually based on WinCE, but sports the same interface.) The T400 has a Windows button; this is used to call up the "my music," "my videos," etc. menu. A back-arrow button leads you back to the previous screen; this, sometimes, can result in weird things but most of the time is intuitive. An OK button is used to select items as well as to toggle different screens during music playback, while a play/pause button lets you play/pause media files. The color-accented plus pad is not touch-sensitive; it clicks four ways. What it does depends on the display orientation (portrait or landscape) of the player; it's pretty easy to get the hang of it.
The T400 has very good sound quality. Not as good and rich as the much larger and heavier gigabeat V, but better than the Creative Zen MicroPhoto I had for a year and threw away in frustration. It can get very loud, so be careful there. BTW, you can play music and view pictures at the same time, and the player can remember where you paused each of your video files, so you can resume at the last point in the future. Very neat.
According to the specs, the battery is good for about 16 hours for WMA music and 5 hours (brightness set to the middle level) for WMV files. I've had this for a couple of days and haven't needed to recharge yet.
While the T400 does not have bells-and-whistles features like FM radio, recording, games, calendar, or even a built-in clock, it's very competent at its core tasks: playing music, videos and pictures. (It can also play back recorded TV from Windows Media Center.) The sound quality is very good, and the QVGA LCD screen is excellent. Whether you use it as your primary portable media player or use it to compliment a larger-capacity one, it won't disappoint.
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Amount Paid (US$): 120
Recommended for: Athletes - Lightweight and Portable, Perfect for the Gym