- Review Price: £99.00
Fresh from the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show is one of BenQ’s latest mp3 players, the peculiar looking Joybee 110. Unlike the metal Joybee 150 I reviewed previously, the 110 is constructed entirely from plastic, so sadly it loses out a little on the build quality front. Having said that, it’s not as flimsy as some mp3 players I have used and in terms of looks you’re going to be hard pushed to find another player that stands out from the crowd as much as this one.
Finished in a two-tone porcelain white and pale grey body, this Joybee also features what BenQ describes as a ‘funky deep violet’ centre that surrounds the tiny yet sharp 2 x 1.35cm backlit LCD. The company has also informed me that the Joybee 110 is available in two other colours, namely ‘orange blossom’, and ‘leafy green’.
As for its shape, I can only express this as being analogous to something that Salvador Dali might create. Failing that description, it somewhat reminds me of a small mobile phone that has lost its alphanumerical keypad. Whatever one thinks, the 110 is certainly not your average mp3 player and I reckon it will appeal to some, and yet not to others. Personally, I find it a little bit toyish, but I can pretty much guarantee that my sister will love it.
In use, the 110 is light at 40g and fits snugly into the palm of the hand, thanks to its curves. If you want to wear it around your neck then a strap is supplied that snaps into a clip tethered to the Joybee, just next to the 3.5mm headphone jack. The headphones themselves are pretty standard models and feature an inline volume control. However, I’m willing to bet that they won’t maintain their brilliant white colour for long.
The sound quality from the headphones is clear and reasonably wide, but the volume tops out too early. I just needed a few more presses on the volume button to satisfy my eardrums, but perhaps BenQ is trying to protect them for me? Either way if you want to listen to music in a reasonably noisy environment – the underground/metro for instance – you might want to rip your tunes at an elevated recording volume, otherwise you’ll be listening to a disturbing fusion of commuter noise merged with your favourite beats.
Unfortunately, adjustment of the ripping settings (apart from the bitrate) is not offered by the Qmusic2 software, so those of you who are serious about volume levelling will have to use third party software. It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to use the Qmusic2 program to transfer files. In fact, you can simply hook up the Joybee to a PC via its USB 1.1 interface in order to add another removable drive to your Windows setup – ideal for small data backups and simple dragging and dropping of music files.
Qmusic2, however, does behave like a slimmed down media player for playing CDs, mp3s and creating playlists. Oh and another thing. This Joybee has a built-in battery that replenishes its juice by drawing power directly from a PC’s USB port. A feature that I’d like to see on more small mp3 players, so thumbs up to BenQ for incorporating this. Expect a three-hour wait for a full charge, giving about 10 hours of playback.
Like the rest of the Joybee digital audio player family, the 110 supports a number of audio formats. Of course, .mp3 and .wma files can all be decoded, but there’s another known as .tvf. This is a recording format that records mono audio at a really low bitrate, usually somewhere in the region of 5kbits/sec. This allows for extended recording of up to a claimed 50 hours for this 128MB, non-memory upgradeable version of the Joybee 110. In addition, the integrated microphone is quite sensitive and can pick up low-level conversations quite easily.
In line with the rest of the Joybee range, the 110 has a selection of equaliser modes. These are speech, bass, rock, pop, jazz, classic, and normal. Furthermore, the firmware can be updated with files downloaded from BenQ’s website, while an A-B repeat function, button lock and variable playback speeds top off what is surely a peculiarity of design in the mp3 world.
Like other members of the Joybee range, the BenQ Joybee 110 enjoys a high level of features and good quality playback and recording. I really like the fact that this mp3 player’s internal battery is charged via the USB connection, but the volume did seem limited and the memory is not upgradeable (although for around £30 more you can opt for the 256MB version). I’m also not too sure about the toyish good looks either, (personally I prefer the Joybee 150’s looks), but I am sure it will generate a lot of interest with fashion conscious digital music lovers.