Saturday, May 22, 2010

Philips 8gb GoGear Cam. My Review.

This isn't the only media player out there with a camera in it. It looks like Philips' first try though. The Philips Cam, also known as the SA2CAM08K/37, is a mix of media player and a media creation device. If you're in the market for an alternative to the iPad Nano with video camera, this one is readily available at most Target Stores or Amazon.com and sells for $60 less than a Nano with the same capacity. The Cam won't compete on sexiness, but it's got a few features that the Nano doesn't. It can hold microSDHC cards for added storage space. It'll shoot photos too. It comes with a combined USB/TV output cable. Throw in Philips Full Sound technology for great audio playback and you've got a decent player/creator at a reasonable price.

Dimensions are 1.9 x 0.5 x 3.8 inches ; 2.9 ounces (only a hair more than the Nano at 2.82 ounces). The screen is 2 inches diagonally. Screen resolution is 220 x 176, 262K colors.

Controls: The Cam's front has a ring around the direction pad to select between playback, photo camera, video camera, and settings. You also get a Back and a Menu button. The center of the direction pad serves as photo shutter, video record button, and play/pause depending on what mode you're in. You'll find the volume rocker and power/lock slider on the top edge.
The microSD slot and reset hole are on the bottom edge. USB and headphone jacks are on the right. The microphone is on the back next to the camera lens.
Included in the package with the GoGear Cam is a combined USB sync/TV-out cable, inexpensive earbuds, a quick-start guide, and warranty/registration info. Songbird software is included on the player to be installed on your PC, but it is not required. Playtime on internal battery is up to 12 hours audio or 4 hours video.
Music: The Cam will play MP3 and WMA files (but not lossless WMA). It supports sorting by Song title, artist, album, and genre. It will display a small image of the album art if the file has art included. You get the normal Shuffle and Repeat play modes. Sound settings include setting a volume limit, picking one of the six included Equalizer presets or the one custom EQ setting. Doing so will turn off FullSound. You can also delete files from the player. The player doesn't take good advantage of the small screen, but it does display the play mode, if FullSound is active, the song name, album, and title, and song length and you position in it. The control pad will advance tracks (left or right), and pause the song if you hit the center button. Holding down on the left or right will rewind or fast forward though the current song until you release it. Music formats are very limited, and lossless files won't play at all, but the music player is otherwise all there. I give music play a B.

FullSound (From Philips' web site): Innovative FullSound technology faithfully restores sonic details to compressed MP3 music, dramatically enriching and enhancing it, so you can experience CD music without any distortion. Based on an audio post-processing algorithm, FullSound combines Philips' renowned expertise in music reproduction with the power of the latest generation Digital Signal Processor (DSP). The result is fuller bass with more depth and impact, boosted voice and instrument clarity, and rich detail. Rediscover your compressed MP3 music in true-to-life sound that will touch your soul and move your feet.
Photo: The small screen of the Cam isn't the best I've seen for photo viewing. The screen looses accurate color reproduction when viewed off-axis. The Cam is better at taking photos than displaying them. You get a slide show option with variable timing from 2 to 20 seconds between photos. You can display them in sequence or shuffled in order. You can also delete them from the player. Photos up to 1600 x 1200 will display, although there is no zoom function and all you see is a 220 x 176 representation of them. I give photo display on the Cam a D for below average.
Camera: Photos taken are 1600 x 1200, or 1.9 megapixel at 24 bits (16 million colors). The lens isn't great and there is no flash, but it'll do when you need a quick photo and the lighting is good. Above is an example taken with the Cam. You can shoot with 4 visual effects including Black & White, Sepia, Special Color, and Negative. You can digitally zoom in .1 increments up to 2x. Warning: There is a loud shutter sound played through the headphones when you take a photo, with no apparent way to lower the volume. Photos are decent, and better than I've gotten with the few other photo-taking MP3 players I've tested. It's nothing a basic pocket camera has to worry about, but you can take photos with the Cam. Average for what I've seen in a media player.
Video: The single sample video included was 640 x 360 at 25 frames in AVI, and played back flawlessly (but small) on the 2" display. I was also able play a 640 x 360 MP4 file (from my iPod Touch) and a 480 x 272 AVI file (from my Samsung P3). It appears with video out included Philips did their best to make the Cam a good video player. It will stretch video to fit the 4:3 screen, or play it at its actual ratio with black bars. You can also display some basic info about the file playing including date it was made, length, and file size. Holding down the left or right buttons on the control pad will step back or forward through the video in 6 second leaps. Lastly, you can initiate video output to a TV from within the video player app's options. Although the tiny screen isn't very satisfying to watch (unless there is no other alternative), I give video playback a B+.

TV out: No High definition HDMI for this player. You can choose between composite PAL or NTSC for output to any TV with Red/White audio and Yellow Video RCA Inputs. Once the video is directed to a TV using the included cable you still have pause/play and ff/rw control on the player. I ran into a bug playing an MP4 file though, where the video froze while I was trying to fast forward. The audio will play though both the headphone jack and the TV connection which is nice. Quality will be about the same as watching an old VCR on your new HDTV though. TV output is nice to have, but not the best choice here. Videos the Cam can play will look better playing on your PC. I guess it might come in handy if you were on vacation and desperate to watch a movie you had on board. Just don't forget to bring that cable with you.

video
Camcorder: Video is taken at 640 x 480 (VGA) and 30 frames per second. When I tested the Cam's capability my video (above) showed dropped frames leaving stuttery gaps as it played back. It appears when recording the Cam isn't capable of keeping up with even moderate action in the video scene. At this point I have to give video recording an F.
FM Radio: The FM radio on the Cam was easy to autotune and did a good job of ignoring weak signals or nearby frequencies of strong channels. There are 20 possible preset openings. The control pad makes it easy to change frequencies by presets (left and right) or .1 increments (up and down). Tap the center button to mute the radio. That's about it. No FM record (at least in this version of the firmware). Reception was good with the included earbuds acting as antenna. The radio will continue to play after returning to the main menu unless you choose another music or video playback option. It will play while you browse through photos. FM gets a B. It works. Not the best for features I've seen though.
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Voice Recorder: The recorder option records to mono MP3 format. The mic did a good job of picking up my voice despite being on the back of the Cam. You can pause and resume a recording before saving it. You get easy access to the recorded files where you can review or delete them. Better voice recorder would give you 2 or 3 quality options, and maybe a recording level choice. As such I give the voice recorder a C for average.
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File Browser: You can also browse the Cam's memory and use it as a portable hard drive if you like.
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Summary: Given that Philips named this the Cam I was expecting more from this. Yes it was only $90, but it still falls short as a video camera. As a pocket media player, ignoring the camera, it is average at best. Still, if you are looking for a player that could take a candid photo on occasion you should consider the Latte iVu. It has a better screen, plays more media formats, and includes speakers and an FM transmitter. You can find the 8gb version at Walmart.com for even less than the Cam is selling for. JR.com also has them. My advice? Skip this player.
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4D

16 comments:

  1. What a way to one-up Apple by including a higher resolution camera; 2 megapixels compared to 0.3 megapixel

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  2. How do you get the "Register your product...." screen to go away?

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  3. Mine doesn't display it anymore. I believe it goes away with time.

    4D

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  4. video mic sucks. but overall a good product

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  5. can it take a micro SDHC memory card? I asked support and they said no, so i'm assuming it takes only micro SD.

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  6. Mine reads an 8gb micro SDHC card just fine. 2gb is the limit for microSD. Never trust low paid support workers I guess.

    4D

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  7. Thanx for the answer. Another question; why is it that all the songs start with fade in? It's so annoying. Is there a way to set it to start normally?

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  8. I can't get mine to fade in. Are you sure whatever you ripped your songs with didn't add a fade to the songs? There is no setting I can find to select or de-select it, so it must be a property of the songs. As a last hope, try switching FullSound on or off and see if that makes a difference.

    4D

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  9. not at all. I just dragged and dropped my music files onto the philips player. Even when I play them from the player through my pc they play normally. It is only when listening directly from the player that the songs start in fade in.

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  10. If you've tried switching FullSound on and off and that didn't have an effect, then you'll need to contact Philips to solve your issue. I have no clue.

    4D

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  11. My sons MP3 now locks up when we turn it on. Any suggestions?

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  12. It may have a corrupt file on it that it tries to resume on startup. Plug it into the computer and delete then reload his music onto it. You might double check the device buttons. It could be one is stuck or not quite in the right position.

    Good luck. If it doesn't work, I suggest taking it back for a refund.

    4D

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  13. my headphone jack is damaged, how can i open it up to replace it?

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  14. John: I'm not a service tech. You might check ifixit.com to see if they've cracked one open.

    4D

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  15. Great Review! Just one question. The USB port is Mini or Micro? Thanks!

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  16. Mini not Micro. Check the photos above.

    4D

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