- Review Price: £189.00
It was just under a year ago that I first looked at Oono’s portable DAB player, dubbed the miniDAB One. With a name like that it didn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to expect that a second one would be on its way before long. However, clearly the epithet minDAB 2 wasn’t considered good enough for the sequel and the new one is actually called the MD-2Plus2 SE.
Those who were put off by the originals aesthetically challenged looks might be disappointed to see that little has changed for the second one. So yes, it’s still a pretty ugly looking device, with a strange and confusing mix of curves, buttons and dials. It has had a lick of paint however, and is now available in granite and silver versions, which admittedly do look slightly better.
Either way, it’s still a long way from the sleek look of an iPod, or indeed the DAB equipped iRiver B20, that Riyad reviewed recently. That device set new standard for DAB by including the digital radio technology in the smallest, sleekest device yet, along with video and music playback, so to find that the Oono is still a relative fatty and still pug ugly represents something of a problem. Add on the fact that Riyad berated the iRiver for being so expensive, yet the Oono is pricier still and it seems to be game over for the Oono 2Plus2 before it has even started.
The Oono also integrates a small speaker and voice recording functions, so if those are your bag the competitors are the Pure Pocket DAB 2000 and the MPIO PD100 Portable DAB Radio, neither of which appears to be available anymore. Oono also says that the new version has a new DAB chip inside, which allegedly improves reception, and a more powerful speaker.
The internal memory is now up to 2GB, which is quite an upgrade over the 128MBs that the first one had, which amusingly I actually described as generous – just goes to show how far we’ve come in one year. The SD card slot is present but unfortunately this hasn’t been upgraded to accept SDHC cards, so instead of a current maximum of 8GB, with more to follow, the limit is a mere 2GB. However, how much of a loss this actually is, is debatable. Without wanting to harp on about it, this is no iPod, and due to the limitations of the interface I can’t see any point having more than 2GB of music on this at one time anyway.
The Oono website boasts that, with its maximum 4GB of capacity, you can record up to 2,840 minutes of high quality DAB radio @192Kbps. This is true, but why would you want to? You might want to capture a long concert or documentary, however you’ll need to be in an area of great reception – a point I’ll touch upon later.
The Lithium Polymer battery is built-in so can’t be replaced yourself if it ever dies, though you can send it away should it ever come to that. There’s a one year warranty as standard. Battery life figures are impressive, DAB: 8 Hours, FM: 22 Hours, MP3: 22 Hours, Voice: 22 Hours, DAB Recording: 6 Hours, FM Recording: 17 Hours. It takes four hours to charge via the wall plug and can also charge over USB, though it takes longer.
Plug in the Oono via USB and it immediately pops up as removable storage, so you can use it to transport any kind of files. You can also see both the internal memory and the SD card, so you can transfer between the two from within Windows. A quick word on the headphones, as usual they’re not outstanding quality and the player sounds better on higher quality cans.
Getting to grips with the interface is still something of a learning curve. You hold down the Play/Stop button in the centre to get started, and after that, it’s pretty much point and stab randomly until you get to grips with the thing. The basic functionality is the same as that on the miniDAB One so there’s no point recapping everything. Essentially, the Mode button flicks you between DAB, FM, and Music and Voice.
There are, however, some oddities to using the device that I found frustrating. Pressing Menu when you’re in DAB mode brings up options specifically for DAB but, from all the other modes, Menu lets you access the system option. I kept trying to get to the system option from DAB and accidentally launching the Autotune, which you then have to wait to finish to continue.
Ironically, what I therefore saw most of was ‘No channel’. While I receive solid DAB reception from the Pure DAB tuner in the kitchen, this is with a larger device with a big aerial. While the 2Plus2 might have a more sensitive chip it still proved something of a challenge for it to pick up stations. It’s not really the fault of the Oono though – DAB coverage is still difficult and its use on a portable device is troublesome. You’ll often find that you lose signal as you move about and you’ll find that you’ll have to fall back to FM on a frequent basis, which frankly is annoying. Get it in a strong signal area though and you’ll reap the rewards from DAB – especially if you’re into sports – with Five Live and Talksport in stereo, instead of merely Medium Wave.
If you want to record what you’re hearing you simply hit the Rec button at the right beneath the screen, and initially this worked well both in DAB and FM. You can set the bit-rate at between 32-256Kb so you get plenty of flexibility. However, after two successful recordings from DAB, I found that after pressing Record I could no longer hear the station and I was recording dead air. This was in an area of borderline signal quality, so my theory was that the extra power draw needed for recording meant that it could no longer pick up the station. It’s just a theory, but regardless it was frustrating.
If you do have a strong signal you can even use it to record on a timer, unattended, on a daily or weekly schedule, from DAB or FM and to the internal memory or SD card. However in an age of On Demand and Podcasts, setting this up seems a bit backward and VCR like and I can’t think of any scenario I personally would use it.
That’s the odd thing about the Oono. It’s not a stylish device by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it fantastically easy to use. However, it is so loaded with features that should you require a couple of them then it becomes an interesting proposition. You could say listen to the sports in stereo via DAB on the way in to college, then hear a new track on the radio and choose to record it. Then record your lecture with the built in mic, and then play back some of your favourite tunes via the SD card on the way back to your dorm. Once back you could listen to the lecture via the built in speaker in your room.
Overall then, the Oono’s talents should be enough to save it from being ignored, especially if you want a portable recording DAB device with a Mic. However, the smaller, more stylish iRiver can do the same as well as being able to play video. In fact, the iRiver is DMB (Digital Media Broadcast) capable too so you could in theory watch television on it too. While there is no DMB service in the UK it does highlight the fact that the Oono is somewhat behind the times. This is made all the worse by the fact that it’s actually more expensive that the iRiver.
Additionally, while the innards have been improved, I bemoan the lack of progress on the externals. In today’s fickle world, the eyes of most beholders are shallow and they want something cool to look at. The hard cold facts are that at £188 you’re a mere £12 away from an iPod touch, which as far as desirability is concerned isn’t just on another planet, it’s in a different galaxy – in an alternative dimension – and back.
The second Oono has mildly improved innards, with the increase in memory from 128MB to 2GB being the main draw. However, the new paint job can’t disguise the fact that this is an unappealing looking and awkward to use device. Should you have need of its talents though, and are aware of the vagaries of DAB reception, then you might be able to justify the high cost but the fact is that the iRiver B20 is both more talented, better looking and cheaper, making it the better option.
Score in detail
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