Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Coby MP835 Review. At Last!

It took them long enough, but Coby is finally producing the touchscreen MP3 player they announced back in May. Mine arrived today, and while it's a great looking player the user interface is a disappointment.

Included in the box:
- the MP835
- USB cable
- Ear buds
- Installation CD
- A felt slipcase
- Limited Warranty
- Quick Start Guide
- Tech Support card
- Instruction Manual
- A card for 50 Free Songs from

Ear buds: The included ear buds are better than most. Fitting in the ear rather than hanging on the earlobe, they block out external sounds and let you appreciate your music without distraction. Like most ear buds they fail to reproduce the lower bass frequencies. Get some good headphones and you'll be pleased with the MP-835's audio quality.

Cable: I'm not sure why manufacturers feel the need to use a custom proprietary cable on their higher end players, but Coby is no exception. Don't loose this cable. I could find no place on Coby's web site to buy a replacement.

Size: At roughly 2" wide, 3.875" tall, and .4" thick the MP835 is nearly identical to the Samsung P2. Weighing 75 grams to the P2's 83 grams the difference can be chocked up to a smaller battery in the Coby. That also implies less play time on a charge as well.

External controls include a power/hold slider on top, and a volume +/- rocker on the right side. There is a microSD slot (limited to 2gb) on the left side. The bottom edge contains the earphone jack, proprietary USB connection, and a reset hole.

Screen: The screen is 3" diagonal with 480 x 272 pixels. It is identical to the P2's. The Coby will play music, videos, photos, text, and FM radio. It has a few extras including a World Clock, simple Calendar, simple Calculator, and Sleep Timer. You can input your name/user ID to appear on startup of the player. There is a file browser. You can also reformat the player.

UI. Coby misses the boat here with the MP835's user interface. It's as if they've never seen an iPod Touch or Samsung P2. Instead of allowing you to tap directly on the option or file you want, a tap on the screen brings up a direction pad. You then have to tap on up/down or left/right arrows to move through menu or media choices. They've ported this UI from their non-touchscreen players with no consideration given to the efficiencies a touchscreen can impart. The Coby MP-835 UI gets a D-. Barely passing. Hopefully they'll overhaul it in a future firmware update.

Music. This player will play MP3 or WMA files. You can sort your music by Artists, Albums, Tracks, Favorites, Genres, or simply Explore the music directory structure. There are 5 Equalizer (EQ) presets, and one user EQ setting to choose from. You can Repeat One, Repeat All, Repeat Shuffle, or simply Shuffle your songs. You can change the play speed from 70% to 130% of original speed, although pitch will change with speed. Podcasts in particular can get very interesting with a change in play speed. The screen will display cover art, the shuffle mode, EQ mode, and the song title. The lower half of the screen is a real-time graphic equalizer. Music could benefit from a full-screen cover art display, more EQ modes, and a playlists option. There is a single favorites list you can add songs to and play from, but this functionality is limited. I'll give Music a B. Sounds great. Could be more functional.

Video. The Coby plays AVI and WMV files at 480 x 272 pixels, 30fps. The Coby came with a video conversion utility on the installation CD but I have not tried it. You can adjust screen brightness and search speed, or capture a screen shot from any video to be saved as a photo. Three music videos are included, and all look great on the large screen. You still have to tap to bring up the direction pad, which makes anything but simply watching a video very cumbersome. With only 4gb of internal space, and a limit of 2gb on an external microSD card, there won't be room for very many movies on this player. It's a shame. The high resolution wide format screen is perfect for them. Video gets a B+ from me. They only thing keeping it from an A is the clutsy UI. Shame on you, Coby!

Photos. For photos this Coby will display JPG, BMP, GIG and PNG files. You can zoom up to 2x, 3x, and 4x, so long as the photo is 2, 3, or 4 times larger than the screen's native resolution. Trying to zoom a small picture beyond it's original size will get you a "We cannot support" message. Photos can be rotated in 90 degree steps. Moving to another photo,zooming or rotating all has to be done after calling up the direction pad. Horribly inefficient. The Samsung P2 allows a simple swipe, double tap, or gesture on the screen for those functions. Photos look great, but the poor UI within the photo app gets it a frustrating C.

Text. Only simple TXT files are supported. Most word processors can save in the TXT format so this should be no problem. I haven't tried it, so no grade here.

FM Radio. Like every other player I've tested, the MP-835 requires your headphone cable to be connected to serve as the radio antenna. It can be tuned manually or from a list of up to 40 presets. You can set US, Europe, or Japan regions. You can force mono reception (as opposed to stereo). To limit or expand the list of stations you can receive you can set low, medium, or high signal Sensitivity. The screen displays the current frequency, preset number, and a graphic equalizer on the lower half. No RDS data is supported or displayed. FM Radio only plays within the radio application. Leaving the radio application turns off the radio. I'll give FM Radio a B. It's a decent application, but no RDS data brings it down a notch.

Reliability: The firmware included is version 1.01. Hopefully they are still working on it as I've had to reset my MP835 several time in the short time I've had it. A press of the reset reliably restarts the player, but there is no excuse for such poor behaviour on a new device. When it DOES work the audio, video, and photo quality are excellent. The radio works better than most with no static or signal drop once a station is found. I haven't tested the text reader, but the screen has enough resolution to suspect it should be fine. For needing to reset the player I'm giving it a B- on reliability.

Should you buy one? For the same money you can find a 4gb Samsung P2 with bluetooth, games, a far better UI, and much more. Save your money and skip the Coby MP-835 4G until they seriously improve it's User Interface and lower the price. It doesn't compete at the moment.


1 comment:

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