NEON 4in1 128MB MP3 Player - Page 1
the past year, the gadget market has been swarmed with small-size memory devices
that can be used for a multitude of purposes: playback/record audio, store/exchange
data, listen to radio. Memory sizes initially were small, but as memory technology
progresses we can see today such devices produced with capacities reaching
up to the order of a gigabyte. Many devices exist in the market today
many of the features mentioned above. One of these devices is the NEON 4 in
1 MP3 Player from Neon-Drives that arrived in our labs for review.
dimensions of 80 x 30 x 24 mm, a weight of around 50 grams, and given it's
oval shape, the Neon MP3 Player is a small device that can
easily pop in your pocket, hang on your keychain, or by using the included
earphones, hang around your neck. The player provides more than
4 hours of music listening, and can reproduce files encoded in the MP3
The two-line multi-line graphic display with background lighting provides ID3-tag
information. New music files can easily be copied to the player without using
any special software. The player is recognized automatically as a removable device
by recent versions of Windows OS (2000/XP), and you can use it immediately
moment you plug it in. The Neon 4 in 1 MP3 Player can also be used as a recording
device, allowing more than 4 hours of voice recording.
We''ll begin with a detailed features and specifications list:
- Features & Specifications
||MPEG 1/2/2.5 layer 3 with ID3 tag display (English/Simple Chinese)
||No driver installation required (except for Windows 98)
||Internal FM radio (76MHz ~ 108MHz)
|| 128MB for Audio Tracks or Data Files (256 MB model also available)
||96x32 Graphic LCD with blue EL backlight
||Equalizer mode: 6 presets (bass/rock/jazz/classic/pop/flat)
||Digital voice recording in WAV format
||Lock up function, protecting data
||A-B repeat function and constant repeat
||more than 12 hours with one AAA alkaline battery (continuously)
||Red and Blue
||- Neon 128MB Player
- USB extension cable
- Necklace earphones
- CD driver disk (Win98 Only)
- User manual (English Only)
- 1 AAA Battery
2. Retail Package
NEON 4in1 128MB MP3 Player - Page 2
This is what you will receive, should you decide to buy the Neon 4 in 1 MP3
Player. As you can see, the sample we received came in dark red (personally
we would have preferred a blue one :-) ).
Let's open the package and see what's inside:
The packaging contains:
- Neon 128MB Player
- USB extension cable
- Necklace earphones
- CD driver disk (for Win98 Only)
- User manual (in English)
- 1 AAA Battery
Opening the box and taking out the Neon 4 in 1 MP3 Player, the first thing
someone will notice is its size. It is very compact, and as can be seen from
the picture above, it is slightly longer in size than a credit card! Something
that will easily fit in a pocket. Despite its
it looks very sturdy and solid. It uses one AAA size battery, and its total
weight is very light at around 50 grams.
Also included is a pair of in-ear necklace headphones.
Their quality is quite good, but there is a drawback that has to do with their
design. As you will see in the picture, you have to wear the earphones as a
necklace around your neck. The cable is not long enough, meaning that in order
to use the earphones, the player must be hanging on your chest while listening.
While its weight is negligible, some people could find it irritating, or they
might have reasons to want to have the player hidden in a less exposed
and probably safer place (like a pocket for example). You can easily solve
this "problem" though,
by just using another pair of earphones.
Also in the package can be found one AAA size battery, the USB extension cable
and the driver CD. As we said in the beginning, no drivers are needed to access
the player's memory, as it is recognized as a removable disk by Windows 2000/XP
and any other operating system that supports this functionality. For older versions
of Windows, like Windows 98, the driver CD is needed in order to be able to access
the player's memory. The device is assigned a driver letter (just like
a memory stick) with a capacity
128 MB (or 256 depending on your model), that you can use to transfer music,
files, easily and transparently by using the Windows explorer interface.
3. Tests - Page 1
NEON 4in1 128MB MP3 Player - Page 3
The Neon 4 in 1 MP3 Player stores the audio/data files in flash memory. The
sample that arrived in our labs had a capacity of 128MB, but there is also
model available. While 128MB might appear small to many of you, you can easily
about 2-3 hours of music (128Kbps MP3 format). This depends mostly on the bitrate
of the stored music. The greater the bitrate (and hence quality) of the mp3
files you store, the less playback
time will be available. But if you feel you have a greater need for storage
space, you can go for the larger capacity model. Apart from the difference
space, all models in the series are identical. Bear in mind though, that this
device can only playback music files encoded with the MP3 format.
The main advantage of players that use flash memory instead of a CDROM reader is completely flawless playback without skips. Since the player does not have any moving mechanical parts (like the optical pickup that a CDROM reader has), there is no need for skip protection mechanisms. Playback is smooth, and skipping between tracks is almost instantaneous. So you can use the player without annoying skips while jogging, or doing any activity that requires rapid movement.
There is another advantage as well, that stems from the lack of mechanical
parts. Power consumption is much less than a CDROM reader based player. This
is the case with the Neon 4 in 1 MP3 Player as well. It operates on a single
AAA size battery, which will give you many hours of playback time. In our tests
, we managed to get a little more than 13 hours of playback. Listening to FM
radio consumes even less power so you will get even more playback time than
The Neon 4 in 1 MP3 Player is controlled through two rows of small buttons/switches,
located lengthwise on either side of the device. All the Neon 4 in 1 MP3 Player's
functions are controlled from here. The 30 page user manual that is included,
will help you configure and use the Neon 4 in 1 MP3
Player without much hassle.
On the top side we can see (from left to right) the power on/off switch, the
lock/unclock switch, the stop button, and the builtin microphone (holes under
the "MIC" label). The lock unclock switch has two uses, depending
whether you are listening to music or using it as a removable disc in your
PC. In the former case, it locks the device's controls so that no button can
be accidentally pressed. In the latter case, it serves as a write protect switch
that prevents any modification to the data that exists on the device, operating
in the same manner as the switch that exists on floppy discs.
On the bottom side, we can see (from left to right) the menu button, the skip
forward button, the play/pause button, and the skip backwards button. Despite
what the arrows show, the device does not offer a fast-forward function. This
means that you have no way of skipping to the middle of a song for example.
The skip forward/backwards buttons also serve as volume up/down buttons when
pressed for more than 1 second.
On the the left and right extremes of this oval shaped device, you will
find the earphone jack and the USB connector, respectively. To expose the USB
you need to remove the cap. Because of the cap's small size, it can
get easily lost/misplaced, so be extra careful.
On the front side, there is the LCD screen, which is backlit with a neutral
blue light. The device's LCD screen is quite readable under low light conditions.
Below you can see snapshots from the Flash Recorder's menu functions:
4. Tests - Page 2
NEON 4in1 128MB MP3 Player - Page 4
We tested the Neon 4 in 1 MP3 Player's playback capabilities with different
types of MP3 files. We tried playing files with different bitrates, constant
bitrate encoded files. The device managed to playback
everything we threw at it with no problems, with the exception of files encoded
at 320 Kbps. At that bitrate, the files would playback with a stutter, like
someone is pushing the pause/resume button continuously. Another case where
minor stuttering would appear was while accessing the configuration menu
of the device during music playback.
The Neon 4 in 1 MP3 Player can read ID3 tags as well, and
it can display various information about the songs played, like the song's
title/duration/current position. All this information
is displayed on the device's screen, scrolling from left to right so that
all of the details can be displayed. The device is capable of displaying
English and Simple Chinese character sets.
As far as music quality is concerned, The Neon 4 in 1 MP3 Player performed very well, but not without glitches. When listening to well-encoded MP3s, the produced sound was good, but at low volume levels or where there were moments of silence during the songs, a very slight hiss could be heard. This effect tended to disappear if we increased the volume from the device.
The Neon 4 in 1 MP3 Player can be used as an FM radio as well. By selecting
the FM radio mode using the player's controls, we can tune in to our favorite
radio station by manually selecting the frequency or by selecting one of the
10 presets. There is a search mode as well in which you can control the 16
presets individually by storing in each one the station you want. The
quality of the reception was good with the earphones
acting as an antenna. What we would
liked to see as an option is the ability to disable FM Stereo mode,
in order to improve reception when needed.
Looking at the recording capabilities of the Flash Recorder, the device can
be used as a voice recorder using the built-in microphone. The device records
using the ADPCM codec which produces the well known WAV files. The details
of the recording are as follows: Codec PCM, Sampling Frequency 8KHz, Channels
sample 8bits. These settings are not adjustable, so the maximum time you could
record with the Neon 4in1 MP3 Player is around 4.5 hours. Each recording is
stored as a file with a .WAV extension in the player, and you can copy it to
your computer and listen to it directly.
The device supports the USB 1.1 standard, and although it offers limited speed
compared to the USB 2.0 standard, the speeds are acceptable considering
the size of the memory. To copy 128MB of data from your PC to the Neon
4 in 1 MP3
you will need approximately 4 minutes.
NEON 4in1 128MB MP3 Player - Page 5
4 in 1 MP3 Player is a handy little device that packs a lot of features
in a very small module. It has excellent battery life, featuring
12-13 hours of playback time with only a single AAA battery. You can listen
radio, record audio using the built-in microphone. Sound quality is not perfect,
but we think that most users will find it more than adequate for their needs.
You could probably squeeze more music in the player if it supported the
WMA format, but it is not something that is of such paramount
Another lacking feature that some might miss is the absence of FF/RW capability
in the player. It would be good to have all these features and some more that
we would find somewhat cool and be happy to have, but wait until you've heard
the player's price. It's retail price at the time of writing is at around ?70,
making it excellent value for the money.
We would like to thank
for sending us this unit for evaluation
- The Good
- Easy to use
- Great battery life with a single AAA battery: Appox. 13hrs of mp3 playback
(greater if using FM radio)
- Can be used as an 128MB removable disk as well with no extra driver
- Compatible with Mac and PC (Windows 9x/Me/2000/XP, Linux and others)
- Plays a wide range of MP3 data bitrates (except 320kbps where files playback
- Voice recording feature
- Good FM radio
- Great price
- The Bad
- No WMA support
- No Fast Forward or Fast Rewind capability during music playback
- Included necklace earphones can be a bit uncomfortable and restricting
- minor stuttering while accessing menus during playback