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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

After the iPod Video release, we knew the market would be flooded with copycats – devices that would try hard to compete with Apple’s new object of desire. The problem with X-Micro’s MusePod is that the trying is not that hard at all. The company has released a good enough 20 GB MP3 player/recorder/FM radio that is also a mediocre digital video player. The basic features are executed as expected but the main one doesn’t deliver.

The MusePod was made to resemble the famous cousin in its form: a black cigarette-box shaped gadget, although the screen is slightly smaller and it lacks the easy-to-use patented clickwheel. But the main difference concerns video viewing: Apple’s iPod lets you see whole video files, like a legal download of a Lost episode for instance, while X-Micro’s MusePod only works with smaller files, like music videos. What a bummer!

The Musepod.Figure 1: The X-Micro MusePod.

Size comparison.Figure 2: X-Micro MusePod Size Comparison.

[nextpage title=”The Device Itself”]

The MusePod features the entire set of control buttons on its face. It’s powered by a rechargeable lithium battery that becomes fully juiced up after three hours and lasts for 10 hours in standard MP3 player mode. The device comes with a recharging unit, an USB 2.0 data transfer cable, and a line-in jack extension for traditional headphones (not included).

The 1.8 inch LCD is smaller than iPod Video’s 2.5 inch display and not suited for viewing widescreen files – they get even smaller. The MusePod comes with a few widescreen music videos (Britney Spears’ Oops I did it again and Ricky Martin’s Livin’ la vida loca) that play poorly on the tiny screen.

There’s a big LED on the center of the arrow buttons that is a completely waste of space: it could be a select button but instead it just lights up when you power up the unit. You gotta use either the play/pause or the stop/on-off button to accept the choices you make navigating the menu. Our finger kept on pressing the LED button instinctively while nothing ever happened.

The Menu.Figure 3: The menu.

[nextpage title=”The Features”]

The MusePod does not require any drivers to operate. As soon as you connect it to a USB port on your PC it’s instantly recognized as a storage unit. Just start dragging audio, text and image files. The installation CD-ROM comes only with a User Guide in PDF format (what a waste of media). There’s another CD with the conversion software that you have to install to view video files on the device – simply transferring .AVI or .MPEG files won’t work. And that’s our main beef with the product.

The InterVideo conversion software will transform any .AVI or .MPEG to a.3GP file (a simplified version of MPEG-4 for use on 3G mobile phones). The tool compressed a 174 MB video file into a 1.7 MB file in a couple of minutes – but instead of a 45-min video we got instead a 2-min clip. What is the use of a viewing device that won’t let you watch whole videos while there are competitors that do? Another problem: there’s no way to advance or retrocede the file while playing.

Aside from the sub par video viewing, the MusePod features standard digital music listening and a useful voice recording feature in MP3 files. The FM function, however, is prone to bad reception through the supported 87-108 band.

The Conversion Tool.Figure 4: Video conversion tool.

[nextpage title=”Specifications”]

  • Weight: 1.41 oz (140 g)
  • Height: 3.7 in (95 mm)
  • Width: 2.4 in (62 mm)
  • Depth: 0.7 in (18 mm)
  • Storage capacity: 20 GB
  • LCD: 160×128 1.8 inch TFT LCD 65,536 colors
  • Compression rate: 8Kbps-320Kbps (MP3/WMA)
  • Record bit rate: 32Kbps-320kbps
  • Connector: USB 2.0
  • Rechargeable lithium battery (800mAH)
  • Suggested retail price: USD 249.00
  • More information: https://www.x-micro.com

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

Strong points

  • Good MP3 playback.
  • Records voice in MP3 files.
  • Functions as a portable 20 GB HDD.

Weak points

  • Poor button assignment.
  • Bad FM reception.
  • Useless as a video watching device.