The player has a cross shape on the front that is the touch sensitive operating system. You simply touch upwards or downwards to adjust the volume. But if you press the menu button you can no longer do this, as the up and down then controls the menu. It would have made sense for there to have been some way of removing the menu and going back to the current song info, as there is with the iPod and Sony NW-HD5, but there isn’t. Toshiba seems to have been aware of this and has put a volume button on the side. This brings up the on screen volume, and you can then use the slider or the button on the side. So the volume operation doesn’t make a lot of sense, but at least the volume indicator looks great on screen.
One feature I did like is the programmable button on the right hand side. By default, it’s set to display the album cover, (if one magically appears on the player), but I set it to switch between EQ settings. This is just what i wish my iPod had and is something I think Apple should copy from Toshiba for its fifth generation player.
Where Toshiba gets it unequivocally right is with sound quality. The Gigabeat just sounds fantastic. I ripped Madonna’s Music CD directly to the player using Gigaroom, using the maximum 192kbps WMA setting. It sounded, what I believe the kids describe as, ‘Phat’. Bass was fully extended and deep, treble was clear and there was plenty in the middle too. Sound quality wise then, it really put my third generation iPod to shame.
So would I but the Gigabeat? In a word no. The player has some great points but it’s so fundamentally flawed in operation and the accompanying software so confusing that I was left baffled at times.
Does it really have to be this hard to come up with a decent alternative to the iPod? Apple seems to have cornered the market by combining neat design with tightly integrated software that makes sense and isn’t a pig to use – a concept that seems to be beyond companies such as Sony and Toshiba.
In creating the Gigabeat, Toshiba clearly ticked off a list of iPod beating features without really thinking through how it was all going to be put together. The result is very much a mixed bag – good in some respects but otherwise a confusing, frustrating and ultimately disappointing product. It’s starting to get old saying it but once again, another promising contender tries and fails to topple the iPod.