As with the SA5285/02 I reviewed last week - this device's big brother - the front panel features a five-way clickable d-pad/thumb control next to the screen, with a hold switch on the bottom edge of the player and volume controls on the top. Interestingly there's a button labelled Playlist next to the volume control, and this allows you to quickly add tracks, on the fly, to a custom playlist - a nice touch.
Though the player's interface is relatively easy to get to grips with, the physical controls are not. As with the SA3225/02's sibling, the d-pad isn't very precise and anyone with large thumbs is going to have a tough time using it. Even with my small digits, I repeatedly pressed the centre select key when I was going for up, down, left or right. To compound this problem, navigating up and down long lists of tracks proved to be slow and sluggish - a real pain if you make a habit of shuffling hundreds of tracks from many different albums and artists to the device.
All is normally forgiven if sound quality is good, but here, again, the SA3225/02 is found wanting. I kicked off the listening tests with a recording of Mozart's Requiem encoded in WAV format - big choral works are always a tough test for cheap MP3 players such as this - and I was immediately underwhelmed. The first problem is that the SA3225/02 doesn't go very loud. Most of the time, especially with ear-canal headphones, this won't be an issue, but with classical music and the spoken word you'll often want to boost the volume during quiet periods. And for those who don't get on with canalphones, it may prove an insurmountable problem when listening in noisy environments.
The second is that the sound quality, while acceptable, stands out in no particular way. It's clean, clear and smooth, but compared to the SanDisk Sansa Clip (which has excellent sound quality for the money but is far from perfect) it's flat, unexciting and uninvolving. Moving to something more mainstream and the free track – Strange Overtones - from David Byrne and Brian Eno's new album, the SA3225/02 fared better. The clean, rich sound seems to work well with more poppy tracks. There's plenty of mid and low bass and this doesn't overwhelm the top end at all. It's a balanced sound, but again the Clip outdoes it, with punchier bass, crisper notes at the high end, and generally more involving sound.
There are no decent headphones included either - just a pair of average-sounding cheap earbuds instead of the decent ear-canal phones included with the SA5285/02, so there's little to redeem it.
Despite the average sound quality, this video and audio player from Philips isn't terrible. It's nicely designed and has plenty of features. It's certainly nowhere near as bad as the Trekstor i.Beat Motion.
However, it's not special in any particular area either: its sound quality is average, file format support doesn't stand out and ease of use isn't up there with the best. If you're desperate for video on the cheap, it's a reasonable buy, but if I were in the market for a cheap digital media player, I'd forgo the moving pictures and opt for a 2GB SanDisk Sansa Clip for £20 less.