The ibiza Rhapsody is another attempt at direct wireless downloads- a path that has been blazed by the MusicGremlin and the Sansa Connect. I had a chance to check out this player last year at CES 2007 and it was one of the sexiest designs I have seen on an MP3 player. However, to cut production costs the ibiza lost its slick solid aluminum feel and just became just a pretty good looking player. Even though some of the design was lost, the many features and user interface remained intact. So how does it stack up against the pioneers or the wireless direct download, and is it worth the premium price tag? Read on…
- Quick Look
- Capacities: 4GB, 8GB, 30GB
- Price: $230, $250, $330
- Size: 2.4 x 0.5 x 4.1 in
- Screen: 2.5″ 320×240, 64k color screen
- Wireless: Bluetooth, 802.11 b/g
- Supported Audio: MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC
- Supported Video: MPEG4, WMV, M4V, AVI, H.264, MPG
- Battery: 3 hours video, 14 hours audio
- Other Features: Web Browser, AOL Video, Direct Download Podcasts, Downloadable Skins
Be sure to check out the abi>> ibiza Rhapsody Forums
The player comes with earbuds, standard USB cable, AC wall charger, a silicon skin, and software. Note that the earbuds look like V-moda Vibe IEMs, but they some cheap knock off and are definitely not a substitute for the real V-moda Vibes.
The bottom of the player has a proprietary dock (in addition to a standard USB plug) so there may be docks and other accessories for this port.
Most of the player is made of a lightweight painted metal; the back and front of the player included. The back antenna that protrudes is plastic but blends well with the rest of the player. These surfaces are matte finished and very scratch resistant. I have yet to see any small scratches on the player from setting it on hard surfaces. The screen is made of glass and will not scratch. Overall the device feels solid and well constructed.
The 2.5” 320×240 64k color screen looks crisp and responds quickly, but there is one annoying flaw with the viewing angle. Many LCD screen on portable devices have one “blind” directional angle; this meaning when you look at the screen from one of the directions it starts to wash out. Many manufactures orient this angle for top-down viewing. When you tilt the top of the screen toward you it ,will wash out. They use this angle here since it is the least viewed. The problem with the ibiza Rhapsody is the screen is “upside down” where it starts to wash out at a more natural angle; for instance, you’d have a wash if you set the player down on the table in front of you or held it in your hand with the top tilted away from you.
The user interface is a “pick up and use” interface: the buttons are laid out in a fashion that makes their function clear. There are a few shortcuts that are handled by long presses on the back, pause/play, and center pad buttons. A long press on the back button will bring you to the main menu, while the pause/play long press will take you to the now playing screen. A long press on the pad button will activate the options menu; this will differ depending on what feature you are using.
On the right side of the player you will find dedicated volume buttons and the power button. On the top there is a hold switch and a wireless button that will take you to the available networks screen.
The touch pad works well for a touch interface. It can be used by brushing up and down as well as left and right, functioning much like a laptop touch pad does. Each of the four sides of the pad can be tapped for moving one item at a time for more accurate selecting. If you have used the Zune Pad, it operates much like it but less organic. Not bad, just different.
Graphical User Interface
While the GUI is really nice to look at, it is probably the one of the ibiza’s weaker point since it can really lag at times. One thing that could potentially help this is to implement an option that would eliminate menu animations. While menu animations look nice, removing them would very much improve button response time. The menus do lag much more while browsing Rhapsody from the player. It cannot be fixed since it is just a limitation of the internet, much like you’d get lag on your desktop computer while browsing the internet.
One thing I would like to point out that lends very well to browsing long lists of music is the ribbon entry bar at the top of every list screen. Brushing your finger to the left and right allows you to select a letter. Once you start entering letters, the results w
ill start to filter. It will do this intelligently, not just by the first letter of the first word, but by every word in the list. For instance, it will filter using the artists first or last name.
The ibiza is an MTP device so transferring music can be done with drag and drop on Windows systems or any MTP based media player, which is the majority of them (Winamp, Windows Media Player, MonkeyFactory, ect). While you can use any of these media players, it is recommended that you use Rhapsody since there is a strong tie-in to the player with that software.
The ibiza Rhapsody has integrated podcasting support which can be automatically downloaded directly to the player over Wi-Fi. Under the podcasting menu there are a few hundred podcasts organized under categories so subscribing to one is a matter clicking on a listing. If there is a podcast you would like to subscribe to that is not listed, you can input the url.
The one disappointment I had with this is thatthe ibiza lacked the ability to download video podcasts. This does not make too much sense since the ibiza supports MP4 podcasts natively. I would assume that it is a simple firmware fix to get video podcasts up and running.
Reception on the ibiza is very good and the radio functions are very basic, but complete. It consists of a simple screen with the radio frequency displayed in the center. There is no ability to auto preset stations all at once, but bookmarking stations is as easy as pressing the center button. Stations are auto seekable by pressing and holding the right or left button. Pressing it once it will allow you to jump to the next bookmark. Tuning manually is handled by swiping left to right on the touch pad. The bookmark list is editable by holding down the center button.
The wireless feature performed very well and worked everywhere a standard sized home. I was even able to pick up a wireless signal outside across the street and then walk down the street and grab a few of the neighbors’ open networks, downloading with a decent speed. Once a network is detected and connected, it will be saved in the preferred net work list and automatically connect when detected. The player will also connect to encrypted networks with the key entered by the alphabet ribbon at the top.
The internet browser is not too different than a browser you would find on a mobile phone- usable but not powerful enough to do real web surfing. Pages designed for mobile phones did work great and many of these were pre populated in the bookmark list. If you add a new site it will automatically become bookmarked and removed if you like with a simple click.
I think what would have been more useful or in addition to the web browser would be a basic RSS reader- something much more practical for a QVGA screen.
Bluetooth works just as expected. I was able to connect to two different sets of headphones without problems.
Airskins are themes that can be applied to the device’s interface. New themes can be downloaded over wireless when new skins are available. Peeking into the player you will find a folder for these downloaded skins. Inside there are .tgz zipped files containing .png image files. This means that creating your own skins is a snap.
Download history is located under the extra menu. It will show you a list of the recently downloaded tracks. I don’t know how useful this is, but it is there if you like it.
Photo viewing is very basic and easy with a familiar folder & thumbnail matrix browsing. There are not slide show options so you will have to manually flip to the next picture with the forward and backward buttons. Photos collections or folders and files can be renamed and deleted as well.
Photos cannot be dragged and dropped to the player. They can for storage, but if you would like to view them, they need to be resized. Windows Media Player will do this when you transfer them.
The ibiza supports a plethora of different video codecs. The disappointment is that many of these must be lower resolution which means that many of your video will need to be converted. That is not terrible news since the ibiza has the ability to playback MP4 files- the same profile used on the iPod and PSP. There are more than a few dozen programs available that will convert nearly any video type to the ibiza. Unfortunately, the included Rhapsody software is very little help when trying to convert videos due to its lack of codec support.
In addition to being able to put your own videos on the player, the ibiza will allow you to browse and stream video from AOL Video, much like YouTube. Videos are categorized and easy to access. They look pretty good and don’t take too long to start streaming. Keep in mind that these videos are not downloadable and can only be watched while connected to a wireless network.
If you are an on-the-go playlists junkie you will love the ibiza’s ability to create, name, rename, and reorder multiple playlists. There is also a “queue list”, kind of a running list of songs you are listening to. The problem with this is there is no way to “save queue list as”. Two other music management aspects worth mentioning are the lack of book marks and the ability to delete content directly from the player.
Sound quality on the ibiza is top notch and has plenty of power for even larger headphones. The sound spectrum is very well balanced and clear. I like to listen to players at a flat EQ if they are well balanced- and this is the case with the ibiza. However, the ibiza doesn’t have an EQ for those who like to tweak their audio. It does not even have preset EQ setting.
I really like the ibiza, but it is not for everyone. To get the full benefit of the ibiza Rhapsody you must subscribe to Rhapsody. If you do not, it is just another player with the inability to use half of the features. If you are considering purchasing this player, plan on paying the $15 or so per month for Rhapsody, for which you will receive a huge all-you-can-download selection of music along with cool dynamic playlist features and artist bios. For the cost of a CD per month, I personally think it is worth it.
One of the other things to consider is the premium price tag on the ibiza. The flash versions of this player are priced $50 above similarly equipped players like the Zune, and the 30GB version of the Ibiza priced over $100 above similar player. I gasped when I first saw the price on ibiza, but after using the player and seeing the tight integration of Rhapsody and unique features, it made the price more justifiable. As the price drops, the player will be a much more attractive buy. The bottom line is if you are an all-you-can- download subscription music junkie or are a Rhapsody fan, the ibiza is definitely a player to consider.
- No computer needed
- Glass screen
- Dedicated volume buttons
- Great sound quality
- Multiple playlists and ability to reorder playlists
- No bookmarking
- No EQ, not even presets
- Occasionally Sluggish GUI
- No Video Podcast Support
I have yet to see the ibiza instores but you can pick it up at Amazon.