Friday, April 24, 2009

Jensen SMPV-4GBTA. Portable Digital Media Player. My Review

I stumbled across this interesting player while browsing my Target portable electronics aisle. Just under $70 for 4gb capacity it plays songs, little videos, tiny photos, ebooks, and even does a decent job of recording voice. It's also got an attractive but slightly confusing touchpad interface.
Included in the package is a standard USB cable, some basic earbuds, a registration card, small software disc, and user manual. The device itself is as simple as can be. The bottom edge is where you'll find the USB port and headphone jack.
The top edge has a simple power/off slider and a place to hook a wrist strap. There is a microphone somewhere, but no marked indication for it on the body. Construction is decent, although they took no time to disguise the screws that hold it together. Looks like it would be easy to inspect the insides if you wanted to.

It's not large at roughly 1.69"wide x 3.5" long x .375" thick. It weighs 51 grams or 1.8 ounces. It has a nice heft to it. Below you can see it next to my Samsung T10. The screen is only 1.46", but is full color for photo display. You can choose from dark, blue, or pink for the background menu color. As for photo display the resolution is only 176 x 132 pixels. Most inexpensive photo key chains do better.

Voice recording is decent. The mic is more sensitive than most I've tested. There are Quality (Long Play, Normal, and High), VAD (Voice Auto-Detect), and AGC (Automatic Gain Control) toggles in the settings menu for recording. Recordings are saved as WAV files, and can be played back from within the recording app.

Music playback is acceptable, although it's hard to sort through and find a specific song when you want to. You can only see one song title at a time on the screen. It'll play MP3, WMA, and WAV files. Estimated play duration is about 7 hours before needing a recharge. You can sort by file or classification (id3 tags). There appears to be one playlist you can create and play from. You can enable A3D mode for a more 3D sound, although the effect depends on your music files. There are 6 EQualizer presets to choose from but no user defined options. You can shuffle or repeat. Nothing much more.

Video playback isn't worth bothering with in my opinion. The only supported format is MKV (MatrosKa Video). This is the first I've heard of this format despite having reviewed quite a few other video capable players. There is apparently no licensing fee required to support it, so it's likely we'll be seeing more and more of it. For now the included software is required to convert video into this format. With the required resolution being 160 x 128, there won't be much detail to appreciate on the Jenson's tiny screen. No further info, as it's not worth my time to convert a video for testing.

Photo display is possible, but again limited by the small screen. This Jenson will display JPG and BMP formats. You can put photos on that are larger than the display, but there is no zoom function and you'll only see a 160 x 128 version of them. I copied a few 480 x 272 photos to the Jenson. Color reproduction is close. The images load and display on the small screen. Tapping the bottom "play" control started a slide show of the images, although I can't find any way to control the timing of the images, and it was impossible to stop the show until I went back to the main menu choices.

Text (ebook) viewing is also supported, but again I don't see the point. The Jenson supports only .TXT files. I suppose a simple grocery list might be handy to have with you, but even a short story would be a trying experience to read on this small screen.

There is one game include on the device. Gobang it's called, and essentially your goal is to get five tiles in a row before your opponent (the computer) does. While it is not impossible to play, the control pad is difficult to master and with such a tiny screen a magnifying glass may be required to see what you're doing.

Key Lock. If you don't touch the screen for 30 seconds the device locks off all inputs until you unlock it again. To unlock you have to hold your finger on the menu icon for a few seconds until the padlock image opens. This is an extremely aggravating "feature" of the Jenson. There is no way to turn it off or change the time to a longer period. Imagine listing to a song for a minute or two, then wanting to skip to another one or even change the volume. You won't be able to do either until you press the menu icon for a few seconds to unlock the device first. VERY annoying. For this reason alone I get aggravated every time I use this device.

UI. The user interface needs work. There is what appears to be a four direction (NSEW) with center button touchpad, and a "M"enu icon to press. Yet the direction pad is only left and right, while the center vertical strip is a scroll pad for going up or down a list or controlling volume up and down. The M button is your main select/enter command. This is not intuitive at all. A long press of the M button will take you up to the main menu choices. A long press at the bottom of the vertical touch strip will power off the device. Tap the bottom of this strip for play/pause control. Nothing happens when you tap the center spot of the controls. I don't see why manufacturers feel the need to re-invent how you control a player. Jenson may think they've got an original input scheme here, but it's a cludgy system for accessing your media.

Conclusions? There are too many things wrong with this Jenson player for me to recommend it to anyone. I was surprised to find it didn't have an FM radio, as every other player I own (except iPods) does. Finding a particular song is difficult if not impossible. The user interface is unintuitive and frustrating. I'd have been more impressed if they had left out photo and video play in exchange for a better music app. Yes, it will play your music. Yes it will show photos and videos and text. It does none of these things well, though. My advice? Don't buy one.



  1. I wish I had read your review before buying it. Now I have to try to return it.
    Other reasons to not buy it...
    - The US company which imports it does not even list this model on its website.
    - I have not found any source for drivers. One of my computers lists it as an unknown device and will not automatically install drivers. The CD supplied with the unit has software but no drivers.
    - When you turn it off and turn it back on again, the playlist goes back to the beginning instead of remembering where it left off.

  2. i hate this stupid music thing. here are more reasons to not buy one.
    -the control pad sucks!
    -it freezes all the time!
    -its soo confusing!
    -theres not many settings to adjust to your liking!
    -i cant seem to find the song i want as quickly!
    -and mine froze, so every time i turn it on it has a hazard sign blinking then it shuts right off.
    -good thinking you stupid jensen company..
    WAIST OF MONEY.!!!!!!!

  3. " The user interface is unintuitive and frustrating. I'd have been more impressed if they had left out photo and video play in exchange for a better music app. Yes, it will play your music. Yes it will show photos and videos and text. It does none of these things well, though. My advice? Don't buy one. "

    One reason I review them.

  4. how do i out it on shuffle

  5. Shuffle is called "random all" on the Jensen, and you'll find it as choice in the menu under REPEAT.

  6. if anyone reads this can u e mail me at my jensen mp3 thingy is stuck on that screen with the little sand timer and wont get off of it.. can someone help me?

  7. All I can suggest is to slide the switch on the top edge to OFF. The only time I see the hourglass is when first plugged into my PC, and it goes away once the Jenson determines it is connected. If yours stays stuck on that hourglass I suggest taking it back for a refund. Use the money and buy a Samsung Q2.

  8. i have loaded songs and it would not show up on my device list. i copied them from my pc to the playlist on thr device but it wouldn't play. help?

  9. i bought one and it was extremely hard to get around it, but i payed $40 for it and decided to keep it. However, it all of a sudden stopped working and said "file system error" under music. It hasn't worked since. Read your review of the iPod Nano, i'm getting one now.

  10. What do you do when when it says file system error and you have no software disk. I can move music on the playlist, but it won't let me into anything. Help??

  11. What do you do? Take it back to the store for a refund. Buy anything else instead. The Jenson is a "Don't Buy".

  12. where can i buy parts for this thing

  13. Parts? Look in the clearance bins at your local Target. I don't recommend this Jenson, and am a little curious why anyone would want to repair one though.


  14. i also have Jensen SMPV-4GBEB its great.

  15. You cannot download audiobooks unless they are in mp3 format.

  16. I agree with everyone that has been taken by the Jensen company. The Digital Media Player SMPV-4GBTA even if it was free, would not be worth carrying it out of the store. O by the way I got mine on Clearance for 15 bucks.... Ha ha