MobiBLU, the people who brought us the Cube, is now bringing us an 8GB Microdrive based portable media player. It handles MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, JPEG, TXT, and PIX video file formats. While it doesn’t handle any of the major video file formats directly, the included transcoder will convert any video (XviD, DivX, MPEG, AVI, WMV, ect…) to the PIX video format. The video plays back on a bright 1.8” color LCD screen covered by scratch resistant plastic.
Those who like features will find that the DHH-200 packs in the necessities and some extras, such as FM radio, voice recording, line-in recording, lyric support, clock, alarm, and many others. All of this comes in a small, but not too small, form factor.
Inside the box you will find the player along with a USB cable, earbuds, a line-in cable, manual, and software. The earbuds sound just like your average earbud, but may be a bit too big for someone with small ears. The line-in cable is a standard 3.5mm to 3.5mm stereo cable used to hook into your CD player or other audio source for direct encoding. The manual is surprisingly thorough, covering every feature, but parts may need to be reread due to awkward English translations.
The MobiBLU website mentions that there is a carrying case and AC adapter available but I have yet to see either available for sale, nor have I seen a picture of them. The AC adapter will be nothing more than a standard AC to USB charger which can be found almost anywhere.
The MobiBLU DHH-200 gets a gold star for music transferring ease. It is UMS, allowing you to simply plug in the player and drag and drop files directly to the player’s hard drive without the need of additional software. This makes the DHH-200 compatible with any UMS capable OS, including: Mac OSX, Linux, and Windows.
The player does come with a few pieces of software to help you manage lyrics, ID3 databases and transcode video.
The lyric manager will allow you to automatically download lyrics into the player to be displayed real time on screen as they are sung. This works great for popular music but will fail to find lyrics for anything not on the top 40 chart. But you do have the option of painstakingly adding your own lyrics into the player manually.
The ID3 Manager will create artist, album, genre, and year based playlists on the player. This gives you the option to browse and play music by file navigation or ID3 navigation. Most MP3 players do this on the fly with the firmware; the DHH-200 just needs a little help from an external program.
The transcoder will create the proper video format to be played on the DHH-200. I will discuss this in detail, later in the video section.
The size of the player is nice- it is not too small or too big. The player fits nicely in your hand and nicely in your pocket. Overall the material feels solid, except for the “iJoy” wheel and the cover to the USB and line-in on the top. These two parts feel cheap and delicate. The screen and back of the player are made from a very hard glossy plastic and is surprisingly resistant to scratches. Unfortunately, with that glossy finish does come fingerprints.
The screen is a 1.8” 260k 160 X 128 color LCD screen. It is very bright, colorful, clear, and can be viewed at almost any angle. The resolution is not as high as some of the other players, but it is still a great screen for its size. The screen is great indoors and out. It can be seen easily in direct sunlight.
The navigation controls are made up of a 5-way joystick in the center, a play button to the top right, a record button on the right side, and a tactile scroll wheel that surrounds the 5-way joystick. All the controls can be comfortably reached when used in your right hand or left.
I am a big fan of tactile controls on MP3 players. I do not like the touch based navigation because they tend to be inaccurate when navigating though your music. The tactile scroll wheel, dubbed the “iJoy Wheel”, was what appeared to be a nice navigational tool. It is a great idea, but poorly executed. It feels cheap and does not move smoothly. Your finger also slips when trying to rotate it, because there is not enough grip on the front of the wheel.
Graphical User Interface
The controls, along with the GUI, have a bit of a learning curve and are not very intuitive. Using the DHH-200 will take some getting used to, but once you learn it, it is not that bad. The problem with the interface is that the button functions change when in different modes. For instance, the record button will change the repeat mode while a song is playing, but when the track is stopped it will change to the play mode, which also includes repeat mode, shown on a different part of the screen. But at the same time there are three different buttons that you can press that will play a track, depending on the mode.
The user interface is very colorful and pleasing to look at, but it lacks the intuitiveness to create a great user experience. The ease of use is probably the most important aspect of an MP3 player. Too many companies ignore the user interface and should spend more time developing this often overlooked intangible feature to the consumer.
The player supports album art, but not while the track is playing. The record button must be depressed for a few seconds. At that time the player will take a few seconds to load and display the album art. This must be done each time you want to view the album art- it is not automatic. Album art is always a nice feature, but in this case it is more of a hassle than it is worth.
Recording & Encoding
The recording and encoding features are very good on this player. All audio gets encoded in MP3 format up to 128kbps for FM and voice and up to 192 kbps for line-in encoding.
The voice recording is one of the best voice recorders I have seen. What makes this better then most voice recorders is the “VOR” or voice operated recording. This is a setting that only records when there is something to record. When you stop talking it stops recording, but will immediately start as soon as you start talking. Input levels can be adjusted for different environments. The quality of the recording from the tiny microphone on the side is very good.
The DHH-200 comes with a line-in cable that will allow you to connect the player to a CD player or any other audio source to record to MP3. This line-in function also has a feature called “ADT” or auto detecting tracks. (I know it doesn’t sound right; it must be a poor translation.) This feature will automatically split up the tracks into different files by detecting the silence between tracks. The DHH-200 performs very well when it comes to the line-in recording, especially being able to encode at 192kbps.
The FM receiver is pretty good. There is also an auto program feature for filling up the 20 presets.
TXT viewer, Clock, Alarm, Timer, and Play Speed (x 1/3, 1/2, 1, 1-1/2, 2)
The battery tests consistently rated at 10-11 hours audio playback and a little less than 5 hours video play back; both slightly under the rated battery time.
Photo viewing is not the greatest on the DHH-200. The pictures look nice on the screen but flipping through them is a very slow process. Each picture, depending on the size of them, will take anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds to load. Additionally there is no thumbnail browser; you must select photos from a file name list. Photo viewing is not bad if you have a few pictures, but if you have more than a handful of unnamed photos, it may be more trouble than it is worth.
The sound quality on the DHH-200 is average. It’s not bad; but it’s not outstanding either. I felt like the sound was lacking dynamics and the EQ needed to be tweaked. Luckily, the player has a decent set of EQ presets as well as two user defined 5 band equalizers. Your choices of presets include: Normal, Rock, Jazz, Classic, Pop, Dance, R&B, Hip-hop, Blues, Ballad, and Techno. A bit overwhel
ming, but surprising they are all useful. One of them will work for the music you are listening to.
Video played on the DHH-200 must be converted to PIX format. The .pix format is made by Pixtree Technologies and is a proprietary format derived from MPEG-4. The reason that the pix format is used is because pix video formats can be played on off-the-shelf MP3 conversion chips without the need of a video processing chip. So, you will have to convert all of your video to play on the MobiBLU DHH-200. Video conversion takes about half the time of the original length and takes up approximately 180MB for every hour of video. The included Pixtree Transcoder is very simple and easy to use.
The visual quality of the video play back is decent, but as with the audio, it is nothing outstanding. The screen has a claimed 260k colors, but when the video is converted it does not play back at the full potential of the screen. The video frame rate plays back at 15 frames per second, less than the standard 30 frames a second. So far it is not a bad experience. However, when you consider the audio quality of the video playback part of the equation it becomes a less pleasant experience. The audio track on the video playback sounds very hi-pitched and unnatural, almost ear piercing. It sounds just like a camcorder boot legged movie.
The user interface is frustrating at first. It does not work intuitively, which makes it the biggest set back to the DHH-200. However, once you get used to it, it becomes less of an issue. Video playback is a nice extra to have, but the performance is sub par due to the poorly encoded audio playback. I really love the size of the DHH-200. It is a great size for an 8GB MP3 player, making it small enough to fit in your pocket but big enough to comfortably use it. This player will appeal to those who love features, as this MobiBLU has plenty. This player also does very well at recording and encoding. Overall it is a decent player and should be considerd if you are looking for a Microdirve based MP3 player.
- Great Size
- Lots of Features
- Good Recording & Encoding
- Screen Viewable in Direct Sunlight
- Slow User Interface
- UI Lacks Intuitiveness
- “iJoy Wheel”
- Poor Audio in Video Playback