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The Opus escapes one criticism of the old SA5825 in that it's easily loud enough to drive a pair of full-sized headphones, and while I wouldn't put it up there with such star performers as the Sony NWZ-S639F or Cowon S9 for punch or musicality, it's certainly above, say, the iPod touch in terms of audio quality. The only criticism I would have is that the sound isn't particularly customisable. We get a series of preset EQs, but switching these on means switching FullSound off, so you may have to experiment with different material to see whether a little extra bass or a scooped rock sound is worth losing the benefits of the audio enhancement for.
The Opus also fares better than the average player for audio format support. Beyond MP3 and WMA we also get AAC and FLAC, though Philips still has its work cut out with the latter. Several files I tried suffering from distortion, weird artefacts or simply playing at entirely the wrong speed, though again a firmware update could easily fix this in the future. Battery life for music playback is average at 30 hours, but video is limited to a paltry four.
Overall, we should hope that Philips doesn't see this player as its magnum opus - merely a stage along the way. Its audio output is really very good, but the UI feels old-fashioned, video playback is average and the whole look and feel hasn't changed significantly since last year. When you think that the SA5825 was hardly cutting-edge, even then, you can't help thinking that it was time Philips moved things along.
The biggest problem the manufacturer faces is that the market is now even more competitive than it was then, particularly at around £100. For £109 you could have a Samsung YP-P3, while Sony's superb NWZ-S639F can be had for under £85 - offering double the capacity, no less. Given that the Opus has few, if any, real advantages over these players, it's hard to give it any serious consideration. It's a decent enough player, but do you want decent, or do you want style, glamour and all-round excellence? I know which way I'd go.
The Opus delivers excellent audio, but on all other counts it's slightly lacking. Most of all, it's low on excitement, and Philips really needs to address this if it's serious about staying in the PMP game.
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