- Review Price: £179.95
As names for companies go, Oono, is up there. It’s odd, it’s quirky and it’s fun, which can also be said for its first gadget, the MiniDAB, As its name suggests, the MiniDAB is a small portable DAB player. Previous players I’ve looked at, such as the Pure PocketDAB 2000 and the Sony XDR-M1 have either been oversized or under-featured. The Oono MiniDAB tackles both of those issues, being packed with features and very light. In fact, it weighs in at only 95g, which is a darn site more pocketable than the PocketDAB 2000, which tips the scales at 160g. It’s lighter than the Sony too by around 10g, which is impressive considering how much more it does.
In fact, when you pick it up it almost feels too light, as if it’s hollow. It’s quite plasticy, and doesn’t feel particularly sturdy. It’s also, to but it bluntly, quite ugly. Oono describe it as iPod like, and from a distance it does look vaguely like one, but up close it looks more like the iPod’s ugly kid brother. In fact, when the office’s resident Apple tart Wil picked it up, his instant reaction was ‘urgh’. Nuff said.
However, what it lacks in the looks department it makes up for in talent. It’s a DAB radio first and can also pick up FM signals for when DAB reception is poor. It has a generous 128MB of memory built-in and has a record button on the front so you can capture broadcasts straight away. It doesn’t have Pure’s clever ‘Revu’ pause and rewind function but you can set up timed recordings, daily, weekly or whenever you want. It doesn’t have EPG support, though which would make setting timed recordings easier.
That said, as it stands, the LCD display wouldn’t be up to the task of displaying EPG information. Though the backlit LCD screen is quite large it and has six lines, only three are used for text. When a station is sending out text information you have to wait for it to scroll across one line, which seems a waste. The screen does have plenty of space devoted to various icons – in fact too many.
In addition to the built-in 128MB there’s an SD slot into which you can place cards up to 2GB in capacity. This means you can record a lot or radio or play back a lot of audio files stored in MP3, WMA or even Ogg VORBIS format, which is a seriously high quality codec. It’s a shame that there’s no AAC support though.
The features don’t stop there though. There’s a built-in speaker – which is something I’ve never seen before in a portable audio player. It’s located at the front, and while it’s not Hi-Fi it’ll be fine for listening to something like the sport without headphones as long as there’s not too much background noise. The headphones normally act as the aerial so an external one is supplied so you can listen without headphones attached, though it’s not going to help you get a signal if you’re not in an area with great reception. Oddly, I found that the microphone actually acted as a better external aerial than the actual cable supplied to fulfil that function.
The Oono’s next talent is that it has a line in so can record from any audio source directly to MP3 up to a bit-rate of 256Kbps. The socket doubles up as a microphone in, and there even one supplied in the box – sound quality of the recordings is quite good.
Aside from looks then the Mini DAB has a lot going for it. Navigation certainly isn’t up there in iPod territory for ease of use, but it could be worse. The fact that it’s festooned with buttons actually helps, as it gives you direct access to key functions. You turn it on by holding down the central Play/Stop button. Press this again while listening and you can assign that station to the next available preset.
Pressing the Mode button switches you between DAB, FM, the SD or internal memory or the voice recorder. The timer gives you direct access to setting up recordings.
There are four direction keys and round this a circular arrangement which contains four more buttons – each labelled on the player itself. It’s a bit of a confusing arrangement and far too busy but you get used to it after a little use.
From the Menu button you can conduct a full or quicker Local search to pick up all the stations it can detect. Pleasingly, this works quite quickly. When you press the left or right direction keys in DAB mode it brings up a list of all the stations found and you then use the up and down keys to choose and the central button to select. This list of stations can be in the order of the Multiplex or in alphabetical order. In FM mode the left and right buttons let you move up and down the frequencies. In both FM and DAB the up and down arrows left you move between presets.
Pressing the menu button brings up the menus for divided into System, , Play, Record and Display and from here you can make fine adjustments. In Play mode there’s an Equalizer with presets for sound shaping and even a 3D effect, which adds a bit more space to the sound. On the right hand side you’ll find volume controls and a hold button, with a large padlock icon appearing on the display when this is engaged. There’s also a pin hole reset switch though fortunately I never had cause to use it.
The Oono is powered by a built-in Lithium Polymer battery, and around eight hours for DAB is claimed. I tended to switch around between DAB, FM and MP3 playback and got less than this. Certainly more battery-life would have been welcome and I would have sacrificed having a little extra weight for a longer life battery. The battery charges over USB, which is convenient and means you don’t have to worry about fiddling with batteries, though it could be an issue if you run out of juice before you can reach a USB port.
In terms of sound quality I found that the sound was good but was not quite as rich or warm as from Pure’s Pocket DAB 2000 for radio but it seemed as clear as my iPod when listening with a good set of headphones.
In the end my primary reservation with the Oono was its appearance, which is a long way from the special feeling you get from an iPod. The other issue though is the price, which at £180 is on the expensive side. Get past those and you’ve got a product that has stolen a march on the competition.
Overall, this is a nifty little entertainment gadget. Now you can have your DAB radio and MP3 music together in a package that’s smaller and lighter than the competition. It’s feature packed, and does everything well but it could do with a price drop to make up for its ugly looks and inelegant interface.
Score in detail
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