The real trick is has over the Sony is that it contains 128MB of memory. MPIO also has units with 256 or 512MB of memory. This means that you can record DAB straight onto the player at the touch of a button. Not only that, but hook it up to your PC via USB and you can transfer over MP3 and WMA files, and it can play them too. Pure offers something similar with its Pocket DAB 2000, but the PD100 is significantly smaller.
Navigation wise the MPIO is adequate. The main buttons are the rocker switch on the right for moving up and down the menus and making selections while the stop button doubles up as a back button. A rocker switch at the top deals with volume up and down.
The device auto tunes with both DAB and FM and doesn’t take too long doing it. When playing a DAB station there’s a lot of information displayed on the blue backlit screen.
In the centre there’s the name of the station and the text broadcast by the station scrolls underneath. At the top of the screen it lists what number station out of the total found the one you're tuned to is, and whether it’s in stereo or mono while towards the bottom is the time and date, the bit-rate and information about the multiplex the station is on. Frankly it’s too much for the cramped screen. Hold down the select button and you get a menu and one of the options is information - which would be a good place for all the extraneous data.
The most interesting one in the list though is the Record option, great for getting that top tune when it’s hot. Select the option and the DAB broadcast is captured in MP2 format with a count down of how much recording time is left. You can do the same with FM but this is stored as more space efficient MP3. I would imagine that the bit-rate of DAB is too high for the processor in the PD100 to encode to MP3 in real time. While it’s recording though you can’t raise or lower the playback volume. The PD100 can also record from the microphone on the front with reasonable results and it can capture via the line-in at the base.
On the left of the player is the headphone socket and a reset switch, though I had no need for it during testing. The USB connection is found on the base with the power connector for the built-in rechargeable battery. This means that you don’t have to faff around with batteries, but if you run out of juice on the train, you can’t pop in an AA either.
Sound quality wise the PD100 is decent, at least on a decent pair of headphones, though it could do with more bass and is a touch on the shrill side.
Overall I was impressed with the PD100. Ok, it’s no iPod, but if you want DAB and MP3 in one package it’s one of your only options. Inevitably you’ve got to be pretty sold on DAB to consider a device at this price, but it’s size and ability to record leaves the Sony looking like a well dressed but portly underachiever.