Monday, June 12, 2006

Bargain tech alert!

Just a heads-up to fellow frugal electronics shoppers out there... therefore, most Fry's Electronics locations too--have the Emprex MP-1003 digital music player on sale right now for $15. (Also on sale is a 2GB SD card for $60.) I picked up one of these about two months ago and have been really happy with it. The only three complaints I have about it are minor.

The unit fades the start of every track in, which isn't really a bad thing and isn't that noticeable unless you listen to an album with continuous tracks. The second complaint is a very faint warbling background noise produced by file access, only noticeable by picky ears like mine at high volume levels. These problems may very well stem from the fact that I purchased a slow, generic SD card and may be solved with a faster and higher-quality media. Finally, the unit can only play back MP3-format files, though they are so prevalent and easy to convert that this shouldn't pose much of a problem. Those looking for high-quality AAC formats should look elsewhere.

Other than these three minor details, the unit performs solidly with 15 to 20 hours of play time on a single AAA battery (located under the removeable silver panel on the face of the unit). Four different preset EQ modes further enhance the listening experience on this gem of a bargain. The packaging includes a pair of tiny stereo earbuds, one battery, a USB 2.0 cable to upload your tunes to the unit, and a mini CD that includes Windows 98 drivers (any newer version of Windows has generic drivers already built in).

The thing that sold me on this unit was the memory slot: it supports Secure Digital and MultiMedia Cards up to 4GB. No built-in limits, the size and speed of your portable music collection is only limited by your budget and is expandable in the future. I managed to pick up a 512MB card with mine for $18, bringing the total up to $33 plus tax. The closest thing to compare is the SanDisk Sansa 512MB at $60 or the trendy iPod shuffle 512MB for $70.

The bottom line: it's a solid, dirt-cheap unit with expandable memory that gets the job done.


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