Apart from the ability to display video, the colour screen certainly lends the player an air of sophistication. For instance, as the player boots up you’re greeted with a cool, colour-coded menu system with smooth scrolling icons that makes browsing an absolute pleasure. The controls work well for the most part too. Moving through long lists of albums isn’t particularly swift but the directional pad on the front is mercifully simple.
The main controls are complemented by a few more buttons on the sides of the player. There’s a dedicated record button for starting and stopping the recording mode – the T9 can record FM radio using its built-in tuner or act as an impromptu dictaphone with the integrated mic. There’s also a ‘back’ key for navigation purposes, a menu shortcut button and a play/pause button. It’s slightly confusing to use a button on the right edge instead of the one in the centre of the pad for playing/pausing, and for a left click on the pad to change from a “menu back” button to a “skip track” button when in play mode, but these are niggles you’d probably get used to over time.
Getting music and media onto the player is more straightforward. You can either drag and drop files straight onto the device or use the supplied software, which is usable but a bit unstable. Unfortunately the player uses a proprietary USB interface to connect – a major drawback if you ever happen to leave the cable behind and need a quick recharge.
Aside from the colour screen, one of the T9’s principal selling points is its Bluetooth connectivity. This isn’t used for transferring files or music tracks of course – that would be silly – but for connecting the device to stereo Bluetooth headsets and speakers. Now, this works well enough (although it’s not supported in video or radio mode) and there’s nothing that can beat the convenience of going wireless, but because this shifts the digital to analogue duties away from the player it’s the headphones or speakers that will determine the sound quality. And you’ll have to spend a fair wedge of cash to get anything that’ll sound as good as a decent pair of wired headphones.
The Bluetooth capability also eats into the player’s battery life. It’s quoted at an impressive 30 hours with Bluetooth switched off, a figure I have no reason to doubt, but it only plays for around 13 hours with it switched on. Video playback reduces the battery life further – to around five to six hours.