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It's a shame about the niggles, because elsewhere, it's not a bad player. It's nicely designed and put together, with a glossy black front, thin silver trim around the edge and a brushed aluminium-effect black plastic rear panel. Claimed battery life runs to an impressive 30 hours for music and six hours for video. Music file format compatibility is good, with support for not only MP3 and WMA, but also AAC and Audible files (though there's no support for lossless formats). You get an FM tuner for your money with RDS and 20 presets, plus the facility to record either radio or via an external microphone. You can create playlists on the fly, too.
And sound quality is pretty good. Hooking up my usual test headphones - a pair of Grado SR325s - revealed a sound on the warm side, but not overly so. I started things off with Strange Overtones, the free sample track from David Byrne and Brian Eno's new album - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, and was pleasantly surprised. If anything the volume isn't the loudest, but there's a decent balance here between the bass line, mids and high notes. It's nothing particularly outstanding, and not quite as dynamic, detailed and punchy as the iRiver Lplayer, but it is on a par with the Sansa View and iPod nano and that's nothing to complain about.
Switching to some metal - a touch of Metallica and then some HIM - and pumping the volume right up revealed that the 5285/02 doesn't go that loud, so it's possibly not the best choice if you prefer circumaural or supraaural headphones, but with most ear-canal phones or earbuds this shouldn't prove a problem.
The 5285/02 is also helped by the fact that it comes with a pair of pretty decent headphones in the box. They're noise isolating phones of the in-ear canal type, and though not quite as good as the pair that comes with Creative's excellent Zen X-Fi, they are miles, miles better than the those that come with most other MP3 players, with good bass and detail reproduction. There's even a couple of pairs of alternative ear fittings (large and small) included in the box if the medium ones don't create a good seal.
Despite its qualities, however, the GoGear SA5285/02, doesn't quite hit the mark for me. It's well priced - just £100 for an 8GB player with such a large screen and good bundled headphones is a pretty good deal. But when you can buy a Sansa View with double the capacity, better video compatibility and none of the problems that this device has with its controls and interface, it starts to look like less of a convincing argument.
Scores In Detail
- Sound Quality