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8/10

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Sapphire Ivory 512MB MP3 Player

CeBIT is tough experience that most of you will never get to experience (lucky them…ed), but it is also quite an enlightening one. When I can break away from the endless meetings, I like to take a look at the products of some of the smaller Taiwanese manufacturers. Unfortunately, the majority of them are just cheap knock-offs of other products, waiting for branding.

So when Sapphire, a company better known for its graphics cards, told me it had an MP3 player, I was naturally sceptical. Sapphire was quite open about the fact it was a rebadged Korean player, but also said that it looked long and hard to find a player worthy enough of the Sapphire brand. The result is the Ivory Digital Audio Player and I think its search came up trumps.

The Ivory is aptly named after its Ivory/Pearl. It’s certainly not very pretty, but it holds in the hand nicely because of its rounded edges. The top right of the player has a perfect thumb wheel including a click for controlling playback – although left handed people might struggle a little. Down the right hand side of the player, are two rocker switches providing four buttons for accessing the menu system, while, on the left hand side are controls for the volume and a hold switch. At the very top there’s a headphone jack and a microphone in/line-in. There is also a built in microphone, but the quality isn’t all that great.

The screen has a blue backlight and has an eight line display, 128 x 128 pixel resolution, which is fine for this type of device. It weighs next to nothing and once again, because of its rounded design it sits in your pocket perfectly.

The Ivory takes 2.5 hours to charge but will give up to 35 hours of playback. That’s a very respectable time, but dependent mainly on how much you use the backlight. It will play MP3, WMA and ASF formats.

Thankfully, it uses a standard mini-USB connection and also uses this for charging. It is recognised as a mass storage device, so you can store files on it. Linux fans will be pleased to know that this makes it OS independent too.

Unlike so many players (Sony, Apple), you can drag your MP3s straight on to the device without using any silly DRM or memory-guzzling GUI. In the interface, you can browse your music in the traditional folder structure rather than using ID3 tags. Although, if you play a track it has the option of displaying the ID3 tags. Once a selected track has played, it will automatically play the next track in a folder. Therefore, playing the first track in an album will play the whole album before moving on to the next folder.

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