Navigation is similar to that of the MSI player I reviewed here, but somehow it’s a lot less painful to use. There are no silly 3D icons, no pointless colour screen and therefore no needless photo viewing. Instead there’s just an easy to read four line LCD display. When a track is playing you’ll find the Album playing, a scrolling track title, the format, the sound preset, the volume level, the time elapsed and the number of the track on the player.
Press menu on the top of the player and the forward and back keys to move between icons. Pressing the stop button brings up the list of folders. However, the player doesn’t show ID3 tags, just file names. I don’t like this but some prefer it. Volume controls are located on the rounded top side of the player, and it does feel quite natural to hold it in the hand and change volume. There’s a hold button on the underside to avoid unintended button presses.
Inside the settings menu you’ll find EQ presets, which I found necessary to beef up a rather thin sound, even on my preferred Koss Porta Pro headphones, which are quite bassy. I stuck with the rock preset to correct this.
The supplied headphones are better than average for bundled phones with plenty of snap, in the sound and have braided cords with a neck strap.
In settings you’ll also find a sleep timer, so you can leave it on as you drift off into the land of nod, and not waste the battery. The final feature of note is an analogue line-in recording mode, which creates files in MP3 format. The line-in and USB port is located underneath a plastic cover that sits flush to the player.
Overall, I must admit that I generally really don’t care for inexpensive MP3 players, as they are usually quite awful. However, I was pleasantly surprised that name aside, the Alneo is a surprisingly inoffensive, simple to use MP3 player.
JVC has clearly taken steps to make this device feel a cut above the normal bargain-bin audio player. However this is possibly the reason that it lacks the value appeal that many of these devices have. At £79 for only 512Mb of storage it’s not great value. If you’re looking for a digital audio player with my preconceptions or expectations there’s no reason not to spend an extra 20 quid, get a 1GB iPod nano and be done with it.
However, if you really want line-in recording, to play WMA or just hate Apple, then this is a perfectly decent choice, even if it’s not outstanding value.
The capacity isn’t that impressive for the money but with its good-in-the-hand feel and funky colouring, the JVC Alneo XA-F57 has charm enough to raise itself above the run-of-the-mill. If you need line-in and WMA support it’s worth considering - if not, buy an iPod nano.