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Review of MP3-player LG FM33
LG is famous world-wide for being a company manufacturing a wide range of electronics and home appliances and a member of the world’s top five handsets makers. The extensive line-up of LG-branded devices includes a range of portable audio; however it hasn’t made it to Russia with everything it’s got yet. In the near future, though, this is changing for the better, as the company is planning on releasing a couple of truly fetching offerings aimed at the Russian market. “First-of-a-kind” gadget to open up the range of MP3-players is the FM33, launched back in September at IFA.
The device bases off flash memory and is in fact a classical MP4-player packing its features into a square-shaped plastic casing armed with a multicolor display. The spec sheet of the FM33 is up to the expectations: supported audio formats are ÌÐ3, WMA, WAV, ASF and Ogg Vorbis, video – proprietary format LG AVI or Windows Media 9, images – JPEG, text – TXT files. Built-in microphone and FM-tuner are also onboard, as well as 1, 2 or 4 Gb of memory.
Casing and design
Unlike its top-notch proposals, affordable electronics by LG, targeted at the mass market, as a rule cannot show off eye-candy “European” designs – it’s not a big deal to find out that the company has its headquarters in Korea and the design department is ruled by the Asian trends. Fortunately, the FM33 doesn’t play these games – it seems the designers from Seoul, riding high on the boom-effect produced by LG Chocolate, have broken new ground. Naturally, if you came up with a groundbreaking design once, what stands in your way to make use of its parts in other models or even gadgets – this is the thing LG has grasped best. The FM33 follows in the footsteps of the Chocolate – compact size and minimalism in its design suits it really well. The player comes only black, that blends with the austere curves of the casing. Managing the joystick activates four hidden arrow-shaped LEDs located around it, making it look the same with the handset. As a matter of fact, red goes with black quite well, so nothing offends your eyes – the icons aren’t out of place here. The player’s looks is pretty severe and yet stylish - much of the credit goes to the designers, as concealing icons and putting only display, joystick and own logo on the front is the right thing. At the same time the gadget doesn’t feel awkward owing to rounded corners and relatively bulky joystick.
The build quality of the FM33 has everything what it takes to get “excellent” – all plates are well-attuned and positioned.
The player makes use of vertically oriented controls – the front panel houses a right-angled display and a cumbersome joystick, whereas the rear and the bottom rim are bald – the panel features device information, while the bottom end holds Reset button. The controls in the form of four keys are mounted on the right panel; on the left you will find on/off Hold switch and grill of the built-in microphone. Finally, the top end offers audio jack and holes for a carrying strap (“a sleek player should be an eyes magnet!”) and USB socket covered by a rubberized plastic flap, which is tuned well – on the face of it, nothing will lead to it getting loose as time goes by.
The main, and along with it, the most striking control found on the FM33 is joystick mounted at the bottom of the front panel. Unlike its “siblings” it features enlarged knob and a round pad edged on the top. Basically, I haven’t experienced anything like this throughout test-drives of dozens of other players, so the LG’s designs get “A” for breaking the paradigm, since nowadays gadgets are “assembled” from time-proven details. As for its ease of use, the joystick found on the FM33 is somewhat similar to that of Sony PSP, sensitivity is fairly good as well – accidental press occur not more often than you expect them to, thanks to its shape and size, your finger slides off less, at least to my mind.
The rest of controls are located on the right panel and have the appearance of four buttons stretched length-wise – three of them are slightly drowned inside the casing and arranged in a single line, these stand for calling up the main and context menus and recording start. The last, but not the least key, serves for starting and pausing music playback. Convenience-wise the buttons are average – having considerable size and short stroke they notify you with a soft “click” at every press. At that you can easily locate any button blindfolded owing to two blocks of keys and good spacing.
All in all the controls of the FM33 bring nothing new to the table, yet they are quite handy – the only thing worth mentioning is the joystick, sporting somewhat remarkable yet appealing design.
Display and menu
Measuring 1,77 inches diagonally, the display is armed with TFT matrix, allowing it to show up to 262 K colors. The resolution it makes use of, though, is unveiled by the manufacturer, it appears to be 128õ160 pixels, which is average as of today, a kind of the bottom line. The rest specs of the screen are pretty good; this goes especially for brightness and contrast. The display fades in the sun, however information remains readable.
The vertically arranged main menu features large captions of all items and personal sharp icons for each item.
The menu consists of the following options: Music, Video, Photo, Radio, Record, Text, Setup, Total List.
Music, Video, Photo, Radio, Record, Text. These menu items serve for switching player in music, video playback, image viewing, radio, recording and text reading modes.
Setup. From here you’ll be able to adjust and attune every last feature of the FM33: playback mode and speed, sound and tags settings, rewind speed and wallpaper. Time per slide, video recording mode, microphone recording quality and voice activation, font color and scrolling speed, time when the display and player automatically switch off – these things are also very adjustable. But that is not all, you are at liberty to reset the device, wipe the memory, change language, check out system information, attune display brightness and have UMS mode activated right here as well.
There is an extra menu available – EZ Menu, called up using a corresponding button. It offers brightness, bookmarks and playmode settings; depending on currently active mode its contents differ, but it always contains the most frequently used stuff.
The menu layout made use of by the FM33 is nothing new, so anybody will master it in no time.
Lifetime and synchronization
The FM3 is powered by a built-in Li-Ion battery boasting not the highest capacity available – only 600 mAh, however even with this onboard the player puts up big numbers: on a single charge is remains good for about 30 hours (claimed lifetime is 35 hours) while listening to music, and more than 8 hours for video playback.
The device is recharged via USB cable or with the help of the bundled network adapter (for some reason manufacturers of MP4-players have been saving on these). The default USB cable doesn’t differ from any other one, so if it goes missing, replacing it won’t be a pain, even though you might not like to lose a good-looking plug with engraved LG logo.
When connected to a PC the FM33 is identified as a MTP-device, so that music and photo can be uploaded right from “My Computer”, where the player’s icon pops up (Windows XP SP2 is a must) or via compatible software (Windows Media Player will do for uploading music). In the former case the player accepts only supported files, at that there is an obvious flaw: the FM33 leaves you no chance to upload TXT files, regardless of the memory holding a file in this format by default. The company’s own memory manager allows uploading images, video and text, at that it seemingly converts them in the way that enables the FM33 handle the uploaded content
Using the menu you can switch the player in UMS (USB Mass Storage) mode – in this case your operating system will recognize the FM33 as a removable drive and allows uploading any files. Regrettably there is no way for viewing or playing back such content, as this mode is for temporary data storing purposes only.
FM-radio and recording
The bundled FM-radio has all standard features enabled, including manual and auto tuning and memorizing. The provided sensitivity is up to what other similar devices bring to the table. However the number of slots, available for filling up with radio stations, is quite limited – only 20, but after all it proves to be just enough for storing favorite stations.
The FM33 also enables you to record sound using the built-in microphone – within 6-8 meters provided that no unwanted noises are interfering, the sensitivity is quite good. Recorded files are saved in MP3 outright; on top of that you are at liberty to pick one of the following bitrates: 96 Kbit/s, 128 Kbit/s or 192 Kbit/s, which is more than enough for not letting someone’s words only rend the air.
Images, video, sound
The player has nothing against JPEG files alone, which means no pre-conversions are required. But to tell the truth, uploading high-resolution images takes loads of time – up to 10 seconds. Slideshow and background music are enables on the FM33.
As regards video clips, the player is extremely “ingenious” – to watch a video, you need to convert them into LG AVI prior to uploading, with the help of bundled software, further mode, the resolution gets scaled in order to fit the display well, whereas FPS figure is dropped down to 15. In light of the latter fact, clips feel not as smooth as on PC, but still look more or less fine, if you overlook the axiom that watching videos on a tiny screen is nonsense, of course.
Sound quality delivered by the FM33 lives up to the bar set by the “Koreans”, like MPIO, iRiver, Samsung. Equalizer with 9 presets is onboard, which is more than most players of this category can propose. Manual 5-band tuning and 3D Sound stereo widening are at you disposal as well – the latter feature make some difference in the FM33’s sounding, but here, like on vast majority of MP3/4-players, “stereo widening” is an option for lovers, actually.
The default earphones are mode of smooth black plastic with chrome-wanna-be framings, which make them look pretty good – not all headphones coming in one box with players can boast attractive trim and curves, frankly speaking. Nevertheless in the sense of sound quality, they are not a groundbreaking experience – medium frequencies aren’t bad at all, while basses are not even acceptable.
Conclusion and impressions
Don’t think of it as a coincidence that LG starts encroaching upon the market with its “thirty three” – the player has turned out to be a fetching proposal, and honestly, we never saw this one coming. It looks good, have handy controls, sharp display and good sound quality. The truth is, though, watching video and uploading music are a bit of a hassle, but as you might know, video playback on MP4-players is there just for the sake of it rather than to make all the difference, considering the display’s diagonal.
The price for the FM33, arriving in the Russian market by the New Year, is still to be unveiled, but expected to be on the same level (or slightly higher) with its rivals released under less famous brands.
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