Portable digital media players are all the rage, continuing a trend that really took off with the Apple iPod. The iPod started almost a cultural revolution, causing many competitors to enter field, and these devices are now as ubiquitous as cell phones. The initial format was a smaller, lighter version of the old Sony Walkman, offering access to digital music while on the go. No longer did you need to cart around bulky CDs, and instead could utilize digital storage and playback of MP3/WMA files. But MP3 is old news, and current market growth now centers on portable video players, from larger mini DVD players to smaller, handheld multi-function devices that also play movies, TV shows or music videos through a small LCD.
One of the companies counting on the portable digital video market is X-Micro, which offers a wide range of Video MP3, MusePod, and X-VDO MP4 players. The X-VDO MP4 models are the latest iteration of the X-Micro product line, and include several different designs, with LCD screen sizes from 1.5" to 2.5", and storage capacities of up to 2GB solid state and 30GB hard drives. The X-VDO MP4 F610 is the entry-level model in this line, and offers multi-function playback capabilities, while sporting a retail price that won't break the bank.
The first thing you will notice about the X-Micro X-VDO MP4 F610 is its size; this is a diminutive portable media player that weighs less than 50 grams and checks in at 3" x 1.75" x 0.5" dimensions. This is a "handheld device" in the true sense of the term, and it's light enough to carry in your pocket. The front of the X-VDO MP4 F610 features a 1.5" 128x128 262,000 full-color OLED (organic light-emitting diode). An OLED actually features organic compounds as the display layer, with the advantage of better colors, lower cost and decreased power consumption (due to no backlight). This models ships in three different formats, with 512MB, 1GB or 2GB of digital storage. That's also the limit, as there are no memory card slots for additional storage.
The exterior of the X-VDO MP4 F610 consists of playback controls (select, play, stop, fast-forward and rewind/chapter step) on the bottom-front of the unit, volume controls and a headphone jack located on the left-side, a menu button and USB plug on the right-side, and power on/off and lock switches on the top-edge. There is also a microphone located right above the OLED screen. The overall design works quite nicely, and the playback controls functioned extremely well in our testing. The only change we would make would be to provide a UBS plug cover that rotates out of the way, which would make it easier to attach the USB cord.
The X-Micro X-VDO MP4 F610 is also a true multi-function device, and offers video, audio and FM radio playback, photo viewing, and voice and FM radio recording. Video playback is limited to SMV files, rather than the more common MP4, DivX or XviD formats. X-Micro has included an encoder to transfer standard files to SMV format, but that still entails an extra step. Audio playback compatibility is better, and both MP3 and WMA formats are supported, while the photo viewer uses the JPG standard. Voice and FM radio recording creates a standard WAV file, and offers a few different formats such as PCM.
The USB 2.0 interface serves a double use, and not only transfers data back and forth from the X-VDO MP4 F610, but also provides it with power to recharge the 530mAh Li-ion battery. This is a very innovative solution, as the USB cable is much smaller and lighter than a conventional AC adapter and allows multi-tasking as the unit can charge during the data transfers. Of course, it also limits your recharge opportunities to when an open USB 2.0 port is available, rather than just a free power plug. Thankfully, this is a low power device, and the estimated battery life is for up to 18 hours of playback. The X-VDO MP4 F610 features a power indicator on the top-left of the display, which flashes when charging.
Basic functionality is enabled through a very simple user interface, which includes Music, Video, Record, Voice, and FM playback, as well as a Settings area for power savings and backlight options. There were some reported UI quirks with the intitial preview hardware, but this latest revision cleared that up and the menu functions perfectly. Underneath the visual interface, the key to understanding the X-Micro X-VDO MP4 F610 lies in its directory structure.
When transferring data to or from the device, just keep in mind the easy-to-understand format, where FM (recorded files), Music (MP3/WMA), Photo (JPG), Video (SMV), and Voice (recorded voice files) directories are arranged in a very logical manner. If you want to watch a movie, simply transfer it to the Video directory and it will be available to the player, and vice versa when you need to send a file to your PC. It's the same procedure for deleting files, although the unit itself also provides the functionality.