- Review Price: £85.00
MP3 players are quickly replacing the humble Walkman, be it tape, CD or even the MiniDisc, they are all loosing ground quickly. The only problem is that most MP3 players are fairly expensive if you are looking at anything over 128MB. But with flash memory prices coming down, this is swiftly changing and 256MB players are starting to become far more affordable.
MSI is one of the first companies to bring out a truly affordable 256MB MP3 player with its brand new MEGA Player 515. The 515 might look like a miniature soap dish, but it has a lot to offer for the money.
At first glance the MEGA Player 515 doesn’t look all that remarkable, finished in green metallic and silver plastic with two big white buttons and a black mirrored display. But once powered on you realise that there is something different with this device as the tiny display looks very different from any other MP3 player I’ve seen. The reason for this is that MSI is using an OLED (organic LED) display which is much clearer and easier to read than a backlit LCD. There is no need for a backlight because it’s the text itself that is emitting light rather than the text of an LCD blocking the light out. The main text colour is green while the bottom row of the display is yellow and although the screen is tiny it is very easy to read in any light conditions.
The MEGA Player 515 is also very easy to use and pretty straightforward to navigate. The play/pause button doubles as the power on/off switch, while the second button switches on the built-in FM Radio and also doubles as a repeat button. Between the two white buttons is a small joystick that acts as volume control when moved up and down. Move it left and right and it will skip forwards and backwards between the tracks – you can also use it for scanning through a tune. Press the joystick inwards and you get to the menu, where you can change a wide range of settings such as the equalizer, repeat options, the recording quality, the language and the start up logo.
On the right hand side is a record button that launches the built-in recorder, with which you can record to wav format. As the MEGA Player 515 has a built in microphone you can use it for voice recording, but you can also record radio programmes, although both voice and radio are recorded in wav format so there is a limit on how much you can fit into the 256MB memory.
Next to the record button is a hold switch that prevents accidental button presses. The microphone is located at the top left hand side of the front of the MEGA Player 515. At the top side are the headphone socket and a mini USB 1.1 port. This is the one major flaw with the MEGA Player 515 as USB 1.1 isn’t exactly blisteringly fast at transferring files and we would really expect to see new MP3 players sporting a USB 2.0 interface.
MSI has also supplied a wide range of accessories in the box including a mini USB to USB cable, a pair of headphones, a headphone extension cord, a small carry case, a carry bag and a neck strap. The headphones are, unusually, of clip-on type, rather than the in-ear buds that you usually get with portable audio devices. The sound quality is more than acceptable, but if you want to make the most out of the MEGA Player 515 consider getting some new headphones.
The extension cord comes in handy as it extends the headphone cord by one metre, which makes it possible to carry the MEGA Player 515 in your pocket, rather than around your neck with the supplied neck strap.
The carry case is a disappointment, not in terms of quality as the player fits perfectly, but rather because there is no belt hoop or clip to attach it anywhere. The carry bag is probably more useful to store the headphones in than to carry the player in. That said, it will stop the player from getting scratched or battered while it’s in your pocket or bag.
General sound quality is very good, as good as you would expect from any MP3 player, although this is dependant on the quality of the MP3 files you have. There was no problem playing back high bit rate or VBR files and you can also play WMA files, but there is no support for OGG or other less common formats.
The first line of the display shows the file format being played back, elapsed time and the track length. The second row displays the ID3 tag or the file name and if this is too long then it will scroll to display all the information. Below that is a counter that lists how many tracks there are in total and which track is being played back at the moment. There is also a built-in clock and the time is displayed here. The fourth and final line of the display shows play/pause, the volume level, the equalizer setting and the battery remaining.
The integrated Lithium-Polymer battery has a stated battery life of up to 15 hours. The battery is charged through the USB port, although MSI also offers an optional battery charger. In use the battery life seemed to be close to MSI’s quoted figure, although it is hard to give a precise battery life as every time you plug it in to your PC to change your music, the MEGA Player 515 starts charging the battery.
On the supplied CD you’ll find drivers as well as software for encoding music into MP3 and for making your own start up logos. There is also a PDF manual on the CD that complements the quick setup guide in the box.
Overall the MEGA Player 515 is great and the build quality is excellent compared to competing products in the same price bracket. The asking price is probably the main selling point for the MEGA Player 515 – at £84.59 including VAT this is the cheapest 256MB MP3 player I have come across with a display. MSI has managed to include a lot of features on top of the low price which makes it an even better deal. The only reason it doesn’t win an Editors Choice award is the lack of USB 2.0 support, but it is more than worthy of a Recommended award.
The MEGA Player 515 represents excellent value for money and unless you need a very high capacity MP3 player this is a great choice.
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