- Review Price: £59.99
Think of a touch screen MP3 player; any touch screen MP3 player… the iPod touch – am I right? Maybe you thought of Samsung’s gorgeous P2? Okay, so I admit it, it’s not exactly a tough trick to pull off, but even if I was wide of the mark, I’m pretty certain you didn’t think of Sumvision’s ICE 1000, the latest player to try to come to the touch screen party.
Before you put your hand to your mouth and yawn, consider the ICE 1000’s price. My trick may have been nothing more than cheap chicanery, but the ICE’s low price is pure magic – available in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB versions, the largest capacity one will set you back a paltry £60. Compare that to the whopping £180 the 8GB iPod touch will cost you, and the 8GB Samsung YP-P2, which will set you back £130. It even manages to undercut SanDisk’s ludicrously good-value (but non-touch screen) Sansa View, which costs around £90 for 8GB’s worth of capacity.
In fact at £39, the 2GB version of the ICE 1000 is almost as cheap as a 1GB Shuffle, which is really going some. Impressive stuff, but it’s not much use bagging yourself a great bargain if a) it lasts ten minutes b) you have to hide it away under your jacket because it looks so ugly and c) it’s so difficult to use that you’d rather cart around a portable CD player. But the ICE 1000 confounds expectations. Crack open its diminutive, hinged box (a nice touch in itself) and the player that emerges is a pretty handsome one. Sure it’s no iPod, and the shiny black plastic back doesn’t look very nice, but the chrome-effect trim and the brushed black metal fascia on the front lend the ICE a sense of sophistication normally absent from an MP3 player with such a budget price tag. Give it a twist and a prod and there’s an impressive lack of creakiness too; nothing falls off, nothing rattles.
The good news doesn’t end there, though. It’s also very pocketable – much more so than the bulky iPod touch and Samsung P2 – and despite accommodating a sizeable 2.8in QVGA (320 x 240) TFT screen, the ICE weighs an inconsiderable 62g and is a stick-insect 12mm thin. The rest of its dimensions are equally compact, at 56 x 90mm – it feels tiny in your hand as a result, and will slip into pretty any pocket or handbag completely unnoticed.
Other specifications aren’t sacrificed in the name of low cost either. The ICE not only plays music, but also Xvid and MP4 files on its screen. These look pretty good, too, though you do have to convert files to its native resolution using the supplied conversion software first. It’s only able to play back at 18 frames per second, so it can’t match the competing iPod and P2 players for smoothness either. But it would be churlish to criticise something so cheap for ‘only’ being able to play back 18 frames per second when its screen is larger than both the iPod Classic’s 2.5in and Sansa View’s 2.4in ones, and in fact watching video footage on it isn’t nearly as painful an experience as you might expect. In fact I was able to watch a 40 minute episode of ”Heroes” on the player without feeling any eye strain at all.
In addition to the video capability the ICE manages to pack in an FM tuner with recording ability, a tinny built-in speaker and an external mic which you can use to turn the player into an impromptu dictaphone. There are a couple of games included – a space-invaders-style shoot ’em up and an overhead 2D tank game – and they look pretty good for MP3 player games. And if 8GB for 60 quid isn’t enough for you, you can also add to it using the microSD slot at the bottom edge of the device, for a potential maximum capacity of 10GB.
The ICE even manages to sound pretty good. Though it can’t match the best Sony and Creative players at this price point, hook up a decent set of headphones and you do get a pretty good punch to rock music, and decent atmosphere to classical and live music. It stands up well to SanDisk’s Sansa View and Clip players – which are more in its budget ball park. The boxed headphones are pretty dreadful, though, and make it sound like you’re listening to music in a small cardboard box.
There are compromises, however, which are perhaps inevitable given the budget price. The first I’ll address is that touch screen, which has clearly not been designed with fingers in mind. Sometimes you have to prod the on-screen icons more than once to get them to respond, and once you get past the (relatively) large icons of the player’s home screen, you’re faced with a folders-and-files view that requires either long nails or very skinny fingers to work. It’s probably why the ICE is supplied with a stylus – the only dedicated MP3 player I’ve ever used that has one.
The interface is pretty perfunctory to look at after you get past the blue-against-black icons of home screen too. Again, it can’t match the iPod touch or Samsung P2 here, and even the rather ugly graphics of the Sansa View manage to outstrip it for elegance. But the biggest issue of all with the ICE 1000 isn’t its slightly unresponsive control method or the basic appearance of its interface; it’s that the interface manages to couple basic looks with basic functionality.
That folders-and-files view mentioned earlier is the only view you get of your music, video and photo files. The ICE can’t read ID tags at all, so you can’t browse by artist, album, track or any other method for that matter either. To get around this very problem, I’ve always ensured that the music I encode is saved with the track number first in the file name, but when I uploaded albums in folders to this player and browsed to them, I found they were all jumbled up, in no kind of logical order.
Despite the flaws, I’d be willing to overlook the fiddly touch screen, the limited frames per second and the pretty ugly-looking UI. That’s because, the Sumvision ICE 1000 does a pretty good job of providing advanced features – a 2.8in screen, a very pocketable, light and well-built chassis, FM tuner, and voice recording – at an incredibly low price. But its inability to offer basic functionality such as ID tag browsing or any kind of track ordering undermines my esteem for it severely.
If you desperately want the 2.8in screen, can’t stomach carrying around a bulky player such as the iPod touch or YP-P2 and don’t mind your tracks being played back in a completely random order, then it’s not a bad option. Otherwise, I’d recommend you save a few more pounds and go for a Sansa View instead.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 6
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