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Personal multimedia players at Computex 2005

How to call these devices is a hard question. They are hybrids of mp3 players and PDAs. Technically, they are close to PDAs (large screens, not small size) and even exceed in some characteristics, but they lack a fully-functional operating system, their capabilities are limited with only multimedia functions - processing video and audiodata, viewing digital photos, reading books, plain games included into the kit are more seldom. On the other hand some motion from the mp3 players' side is observed: their colour screens more frequently can show photos and video, screens get larger. Do you remember several years ago there was an idea of so called web-panels (a device that allows accessing the Internet from your "sofa")? The idea failed to reach commercial success, and correspondingly, no interesting developments in this field were represented this year. But various multimedia players competing in integrated hard drives volume and the number of supported video and audio formats stood out on dozens of stands.

And nevertheless, how to call these devices? A closed operating system inside, a capability of playing/writing/translating video, music, photos to a wide-screen, integrated hard drive (sometimes), expansion slots, these are typical technical characteristics. The size and weight may vary greatly, the manufacturers are not bound to any strict limits dictated by the main operating systems (variations are possible here too, but not as widely). Calling the devices mp3players seems incorrect, the possibilities are much wider than just playing sound files of the one format. Digital album suits if speaking about viewing photos and listening to music, but not video. Multimedia combine is one of the possible variants that settled down in Russia. So, let's have a look at how the companies call their products. Microsoft defines the category as Portable Media Center. The other names to mention are Pocket MPEG-4 Player (by G-way), private name - Digital Video Player (and Personal Video Player as a variation), one of the most appropriate is Portable Media Player, and PQI calls its products Pocket Theaters. We really appreciate a plain and as a variation definition by MSI: "A Pocket-sized Solution for All your Entertainment Needs". As for us, the most proper name is Portable Media Player, and we'll try to use exactly this definition. So, we have finished with the terminology more or less.

The companies known by manufacturing memory devices show a tendency of adding a PMP line into their production or at least mp3 players. The company of PQI didn't make an exception. At the very entrance to the exhibition visitors' sight was attracted by a big model of PQI mPack P800 with a screen, where video was transmitted to directly from the device. This multimedia player is not new; it was discussed last year also. And this year the device is displayed at exhibitions gathering awards.

It is equipped with a 2.5" hard drive capacious of 40 GB or 80 GB, QVGA screen with a 3.5" diagonal. Image is transmitted to the external screen (MPEG1/2/3/4, XviD, WMV 9, ASF, AVI formats), recording from an external source, FM radio, CF expansion slot, remote controller included into the kit. The dimensions form 146x82 25 mm, the weight is 350 g. It's hard to call pocket. Basic PDA functions are to mention - address book and a calendar.

A folded player mPak P600 resembles portable DVD players, but the dimensions are smaller (120x94.5x27 mm, weight 290 g), that is a new device in the line. The screen is 4" (480x272 pixels), image may be transmitted to the external screen (like the mPack P800 - the standards are NTSC/PAL, no video recording possibility and FM-tuner. The battery is 1350 mAh, allows reproducing video for 3 hours. The capacity of 1.8" hard drive is up to 30 GB. An interesting fact is optional features include satellite GPS navigation. And like for the elder model, basic PDA functions are provided - address book and a calendar.

A miniature mTrix has no hard drive and USB flash drive developed by PQI (Intelligent stick, up to 1 GB) and cards SD/MMC (their current maximum capacity is 2 GB) serve as external memory sources. The dimensions form 68.38x68.01x25.7 mm and the weight is only 110 g. A 1050 mAh battery allow 2 hours of continuous video or 5 hours of music. The list of supported video formats is limited and includes ASF, AVI/MOV (Motion JPEG). The screen diagonal forms only 2" (QVGA resolution), no possibility to record video or enter an external display.

At the exhibition the company of Transcend, known as a memory manufacturer first of all, showed a new mp3-player T.sonic 610/612 (the model with index 612 distinguishes in the absence of FM-radio) with OLED display and Digital Album announced long ago.

A well known motherboard and videocard manufacturer MSI diversifies its business as well by producing PMP and MP3-players.

The MSI Mega View 566 PRO has a 3.5" TFT screen. Music and MPEG 4 (Simple profile), DivX 3.11/4/5, WMV 9, Motion JPEG films may be kept on its 1.8" 20 GB hard drive. The announced continuous video reproduction time is 3,5 hours and music will be played for 8 hours from one battery charge. There is an integrated FM-radio. The dimensions of the device are 119x76x25 mm, and the weight forms 245 g. SD/MMC expansion slot is for your use and a remote controller in the kit.

Some more similar in characteristics devices by MSI are here to see.

A player based on a special version of operating system Microsoft Portable Media Center ver. 2 is a Tatung development. Its integrated hard drive is capacious of 20 GB (1.8", manufactured by Toshiba). A possibility of recording a signal, a VGA output to the external screen. 2400-mah battery, continuous work when reproducing video forms 4 hours and 12 hours for music.

Here is a very interesting ODM product by Black Diamond. Despite the tiny size (65x55x20 mm, the weight is 95 g) the device plays video, has two expansion slots (SD/MMC and CF), the screen is 2.5" with the resolution of 294x228 pixels. The announced battery life is 6 hours of video and up to 14 hours of music.

These are hard times for the PDA market, rivals attack from all the sides. On the one - smartphones and communicators, on the other - PMPs, which take a part of potential customers interested in multimedia functions only. The decrease of the dimensions of Tablet PC devices is thus that the appearance of the devices not bigger and heavier than PDAs is just around the corner.

Here are the other PMP and MP3 devices from the exhibition, joint photos.

Anton Kotov (anton.kotov@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Maria Mitina (maria.mitina@mobile-review.com)

Published — 21 June 2005

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