MP3 has established itself as the Internet's standard for music. It's approximate 10:1 compression lets you store about 1 minute of CD quality audio per MB on your hard drive - and now portable MP3 player. There are more MP3 players around now than you can shake a stick at, so is the MPress3 from Philex just another samey plastic offering?
The first thing we noticed was the tacky but subtle circuit board design on the translucent blue front cover. Overall build quality wasn't quite up to the standards we would expect from a product costing £150, but it was still fairly solid.
It's a first-generation player. It has 32MB built-in memory, with a slot for adding up to a 32MB SmartMedia card. At a sampling rate of 128Kb/second(essentially a measure of the recording quality of the MP3 music) you can fit 32 minutes of CD quality audio into the MPress3's flash memory. Reduce the sampling rate to 96Kb/second, which is still near-CD quality, and you gain an extra 11 minutes of playing time.
We tested the MPress3 with a range of tracks from our eclectic music tastes, and found that the sound quality was actually really good. It was incredibly loud too, which would be a bonus when you're on a noisy bus or out jogging. Talking of excercise, the lack of any moving parts means that you won't hear any skipping, a trait of some CD and MiniDisc players.
Other plus points are a built in microphone, so you can use the MPress3 as a Dictaphone, and a decent pair of 'backloop' headphones. The unit connects to your parallel port for downloading files, and it took about 10 minutes to copy 43 minutes of music on.
MP3 files can carry information about the songs, but the MPress3 unfortunately did not have this facility and only showed track number and time. Of course, the other disadvantage of these players is that, unlike MiniDisc, you can't have a collection of albums to instantly pick from - you have to copy the tracks you want each time you fancy a change.