Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ematic 3 Inch Touchscreen Media Player

Three inch touchscreen players are coming out of the walls these days. Now Ematic gets into the game with it's own 8gb effort. Available from, the $79.99 price seems pretty amazing for what you get. For beginners there is the 8gb capacity. Add in a MicroSD slot for added future capacity. Now sum up the rest of the hardware features:
FM Radio and FM recording.
Built-in speaker.
Rechargeable Li-Polymer Battery.
E-Book (text) support.
Microphone for Voice Recording.
USB 2.0 Storage Device capable.

Did I mention it's a 3" touchscreen player? The package includes the expected (standard) mini USB charge/sync cable, in-canal earbuds, warranty card and user manual. There is also a small stylus and cleaning cloth.

For a touchscreen interface, Ematic's is still immature. There is no swipe action support. To scroll through lists you have to tap a down or up icon. It's clear they took the buttons from their non-touchscreen players and made graphic replicas of them on the screen. No advanced thinking here. You can select a file or function by tapping on it, but sorting through a long list of songs will be painful. Tapping the down or up arrow only moves one line at a time instead of one page at a time. If you have 500 songs on the player it may take you 250 taps to get to the one in the middle. Fortunately there is ID3 tag support, and you can sort your music by All Music, Album, Artist, Genre, Favorites, and Recordings. When you've got a song playing there is a Current Play option as well. Move to the bottom of the options and you find a Hold Recollection choice, Dir List choice, and MediaLib Update choice. I commend Ematic for being thorough here.
Music: There is no album art support, but the Music app is otherwise complete. The Now Playing screen displays ID3 information, Volume, progression, a graphic equalizer, count (138/473), and Filename. You have buttons to access music settings, back to the file list, and main menu. You can even turn these buttons OFF if you don't want to see them at the top of the screen.
This Ematic will play MP3, WMA, WAV, and ASF files. It'll display lyrics if your songs have them (in the right format). I had no trouble playing MP3, WMA, and WAV files. The quality was surprisingly good. You get several equalizer presets including Rock, Pop, Classic, Bass, and Jazz. There is a single 5-band user equalizer you can customize. You'll find a 3D and BASS option too. I prefer my Music "Normal", but whatever you choose will be indicated on the now-playing screen. There is no gapless playback, but the delay between consecutive songs is small. Output is loud. With in-canal earplugs I found a measly "4" setting was loud enough for my old ears. This Ematic could easily cause hearing damage on it's higher settings. It should have no trouble with larger headphones. The Music app gets an A- , primarily for lack of album art support.
Video: The Ematic claims to play AVI, RM, RMVB, FLV, and WMV video files. I threw a 480 x 272 AVI file and it played fine. It also played (some of) my MP4 files and WMV videos. Don't trust the specs on the box or in the user manual. The Ematic appears to be better than they claim. I would occasionally notice a little audio/video sync error, but a tap of the Pause then Play again would clear it up. The reflective glass over the screen was the biggest flaw for video playback, as it causes glare in all but the darkest room. I'm impressed with video playback on this Ematic. For the broad codec and resolution support, as well as large 3" screen, the Ematic get's an A- for Video. It was only the glare that detracts.
Photo: The Ematic displayed any .JPG photo I threw on it. The crude UI makes zooming and rotating a photo very cumbersome, but you can at least do both. Zoom appears to be limited to 2x though. There doesn't appear to be a slide show option. No Swipe to change photos. You can have music playing while photos display, but with no automatic slide show it's pretty boring. Photos don't look as good on the LCD'd Ematic as they do an my AMOLED Cowon S9 or Iriver SPINN, but they'll impress anyone who hasn't seen an OLED display yet. Still a screen glare problem as with videos. It appears Photo display is the weakest effort on this player. Photo Display gets a C+. There is far more touchscreen potential.

FM Radio: The Radio app is straight forward and easy to use. Like every other player the FM radio requires headphones to be plugged in for it's antenna. Reception will vary with your location and the headphones you use. In the radio settings menu you set your region. Then have it auto-search for stations. Once it has located your channels they can be individually deleted from or added to. ON the radio screen there is a small record icon next to the station number. Tap it to open the record screen. There is only one quality choice (Low), and the recordings will be in WAV format. Sadly this will be a 32kbps 8KHz Mono Lossy file. For FM Music this is not acceptable, and far below the standard set by other players that can record from FM. It might suffice for talk radio, but what you'll hear from the recording will sound different from what you heard on the radio. There is no RDS support, and with such poor recording quality the radio app gets a B-.

E-Book: Text can be viewed but not edited on this Ematic. You get 3 font sizes. You get three font colors to choose from. Text can be manually paged through or will auto-page at a fixed rate. Lines are automatically wrapped to fit, and it appears tabs in the text are supported. The e-book app is better than most, so E-Book gets an A-. It would have been nice to view in portrait mode.

Voice Recording: Yes, you can record your voice with this Ematic. There is a record level setting, and I'll recommend you set in on the largest number right away. Voice is recorded in Low quality mono WAV format. There is no visible mic, so they might be using the speaker on the rear for input. I got much better results talking into the back of the player. You'll also need to be close, as it won't easily pick up noises from more than a foot or so away. It doesn't look like this could be used to record lectures. You can pause then resume a recording. You'll have to leave the recorder app to listen to your recordings. Voice recording gets a C. Average, with no exceptional value.

Extra(s?): There is only one "extra" on this Ematic, and it's a very basic stopwatch. You get one play button that will start or pause the timer. To reset it you have to exit out of the app. That's it.

Settings: In the settings menu you have a few things you can customize. You can change the timing and brightness of the backlight. You can hide or display the battery status icon. You can change between 8 different background/desktop images. You can set an auto-shutdown timer. There is also a system information option.

Build Quality: I'm 50-50 here. The earbuds that came with my Ematic are defective. The player itself seems well made and solid, if not a bit light. The User Interface is adequate, but dated. The back is what appears to be brushed aluminum, and does a decent job of not showing fingerprints. The gloss black plastic front is just the opposite. The little stylus proves valuable, as some of the targets are small on the screen. There is no external control. The only switch on one end is the Power/Hold slider. Build Quality of the Ematic gets a B. I'd have given it an A if the earbuds had worked.

Value: It has it's flaws, but this little Ematic does a far better job than earlier inexpensive touchscreen players I've reviewed. It won't compete with the Samsung P2 or P3, the Cowon S9, or the iPod Touch. For $80 its one hell of a good value though. I've been listening to mine all day, and the music is just a little sweeter knowing I only shed $80 for the privilege. Value is an A. Get one if you're considering one. Keep that receipt though, as you may need to exchange your earbuds.



  1. I bought this player on your recommendation and want to get my favorite DVD's on it without paying for a $20-$30 converter. How do you recomend I convert the dvd's to MP4 or AVI using free software that will work on this device. (less than or equal to 320 x 240 resolution) How do you do it?

  2. There are several programs that can convert DVDs to MP4. A few are free, but you get what you pay for generally. I don't remember what if anything came with the Ematic, but you might look for DVD Shrink, HandBrake, BADAK, 123Movies2iPod, AVIConvetor, DVD Decryptor, DVDFab Gold, etc. I personally use: to convert DVDs directly into files that will play on several of my devices.

    Hope that helps some.