Reviewed By: LPMiller
For the longest time, everyone competed against Apple and the iPod. They still do, but there is also a group of players that, while they may target the iPod, really are competing against the second tier players, such as Creative and Sandisk. The Sansa, for one, has made a huge splash on the market, with better controls, a decent screen and a good price point compared to most second tier players.
How it all turns out is anyones guess, but X-Micro for one is not afraid to give it a go. Very recently, they released their new OLED based player, the X-VO F610, a player that directly targets the iPod nano, but misses the mark in a few key areas.
X-MICRO X-VDO MP4 F610 Featurs:
- 1.5inch 128 x 128 Dot-Matrix 262,000 OLED display
- MTV Playback
- WMA/MP3 Digital Music Playback
- Voice Recording and Playback
- FM Radio
- Photo Viewer
- Rechargeable Lithium battery
- WMA DRM 9 support
- Lyric Synchronous Display
- USB Mass Storage Device
- USB2.0 High Speed
- Multi-languages display of ID3
In The Box:
The F610 comes with everything you need to get started. USB cable, ear buds, manual, and a software disc containing a PDF manual and software for converting video to format playable on the F610. There is also a branded lanyard.
In just doing the layout for the photos, the F610 appeared very light, and didn't seem all that durable at first glance. The unit is slick looking though, and powering it up showed off a very bright screen that was a lot more colorful then I expected. Compared to an iPod Nano, it's not near as solid feeling, and the screen isn't quite as vivid, but the OLED display was very clear and easy to see even under a bright light.
Though it was darn near impossible to photo.
Overall, the initial impression was not of a another iPod, as the F610 really gives off a much different vibe. It's smaller than the Nano or the Sansa, lighter, and while I don't want to say it seems cheaply made, it's not as solid as those player in construction. Still, it's a very handy size - you hardly even feel it in your pocket - and the screen is very easy to read in all but direct sunlight. Also, while it doesn't seem all that durable, in practice it is actually a pretty rugged player. After letting my daughter use it for a while, I expected to get a cratched up unit back, but I've had the F610 for a few weeks now and there isn't a scratch on it. I couldn't say that about my iPod.
The easiest part of the F610 is in transfering music. The PC sees it as a USB flash drive, and it's really a simple matter of drag and drop to get your music or other files onto it - no software is needed. In fact, the only software provide is a simple program for converting video files to fit the screen dimensions, which worked well even with standard .avi files, but didn't like those encoded with say, xvid. Even then, once you convert a file, you just drag it over to the video folder and off you go.
The F610 will even display lyrics, if you like doing really small Karaoke
The player itself doesn't use a click wheel, instead offering up a series of buttons for navigation. These worked well enough, and in fact were much more intuitive then previous X-Micro offerings, but the menu scheme was rather confused.
As you scroll down the menu, you see a list like Video, FM, Music, etc. If you are highlighted on Music, you'll see Video up above, and About below. But if you scroll up to where you see Video, it actually moves to About, and if you scroll down to About, it goes UP to Video. This is really counter intuitive to what you see, and confused every single person I showed the player to. What makes it more confusing is the iconic representation of the menu that's on the left side of the screen, and there, scrolling down or up goes where you expect it. So if you scroll up to the video icon, the alpha menu scrolls down.
As confusing as that is to read, it's even more so in practice. Hopfully there will be a firmware upgrade to sync that up better, because it really is confusing.
Yeah I know, but taking photos of that screen is beyond my abilities.
Video playback isn't that bad, considering the tiny size of the player and the screen, but it isn't a smooth framerate, being just a touch jerky as it plays. In fact, if there is a lot of action, the playback gets really rough, as you can actually see the jumpcuts happen. So while I think it's kind of a neat feature, I don't think anyone will be riding the bus watching Lost or 24, not without getting a little dizzy.
The FM radio was quite good, oddly enough, as my experience with most mp3 players is that FM is really a crap shoot in terms of signal strength. But the F610 does really well here, and is pretty easy to navigate.
Music playback, the most important feature of the F610, is very nice. I wouldn't say it sounds as good as a Creative player running EAX or an iPod, and the included earbuds are a bit weak in sound quality. But I plugged in my Sennheiser HD202s and heard plenty of clarity, bass, and volume. I would have no problem with using the F610 for jogging, if I jogged, or walking, or household chores. Top notch as far as playback of MP3 files.
The Photo feature was decent enough, though with an OLED screen you really miss out on image clarity. Still, for just showing off the latest picture of the kids, it's a handy enough feature, and the screen is just big enough to make it worth while. Voice recording was easy enough to do, and playback was clear, though the microphone had a fairly limited range overall. Good for personal notes, not so much for recording your professor.
Little of This, Little of That
The F610 is a fairly feature rich player, but as an iPod killer it leaves a bit to be desired, especially in it's price range. The 2GB version reviews runs for $149 retail, which is about 10 bucks more than a Sansa with the same features, and it lacks the abiltiy to add SD cards (though a future model will add that ability). Size wise it can't be beat, and while the menu layout works against itself, the unit controls are easy enough to use and don't get in the way. While I like the concept of OLED, I think X-Micro might be pushing the technology farther than it can go with video playback being a bit too jerky for most folks. Still, my preteen daughter thought it was cool, and maybe that's the point.
I'd like to see a price cut, and I'd like to see a firmware upgrade that makes menu scrolling make sense. Other than that, I think the F610 is actually a great music player and FM radio, at a fantastic size for those on the go. It's certainly the best flash based player out of X-Micro, and I look forward to future offerings. It has a good 10-12 hours of battery life in it, and really only misses the mark of perfection by a little bit.
- Bright OLED screen
- Easy music/file transfer
- long battery life
- Feature Rich
- Little expensive
- Confusing menu
- Video Playback not smooth/limitations of OLED
Rating: 7 out of 10