2. First impressions, look and "feel"
Terratec M3PO - Page 2
First impressions, look and "feel":
The player came in a fancy box of rather big dimensions. When we opened it, we faced a view we didn't expect to see: this drive is a beauty! It's aluminum-silver case with the 'Terratec' inscription on its top is very eye-catching, the buttons and the knob in the front-panel give you a quality impression, the remote's design is very elegant as well. As a whole, it's a device very well built, which can proudly accompany your home stereo system, giving it a consistent high-end tone.
Sticking to the outside, the device dimensions' are 430x65x270mm, not so much different from a plain CD player. On the front, there are 4 buttons (named 'Up', 'Menu', 'Stop' and one multi-functioning 'Soft-Button'), the big pressure-sensitive turn knob, the power switch, and a 6.3mm stereo headphone jack. At the back, there are standard RCA (gold-coated) output jacks and a power input connector, where you may insert a power cable similar to the one you use for providing electric power to your PC.
Opening the case we now came upon a view familiar to many computer users: A standard IDE Asus 40x CD-ROM drive and an (optional) Western Digital 43AA HD (with WhisperDrive Technology), both connected to a custom-made board through a standard IDE cable. There is also a small power supply, without any built-in fan (that might produce noise in excess of that coming from a usual home CD Player).
The custom-made board contained the main controller (a Hitachi SH703x 32bit RISC Processor), the Digital-to-Analog converter (Micronas DAC3550A) and of course the unit's "heart": the MPEG-1 Layer3 Decoder chip, a Micronas MAS3507D. On one side of the small board (at the dimensions of plain PCI card) stood (of course) an ATMEL flash-memory chip for keeping the unit's firmware. Everything (including cabling) was perfectly in place, except of the hard drive, which we found to be a little loosely fitted, something that might cause trouble in case someone moves the Player abruptly.
The unit's main features:
According to the manufacturer's published specifications, M3PO is able to:
o Playback MP3 files directly from a CD.
o Playback conventional audio CDs.
o Reproduce playlists in the widely used .M3U (WinAmp) format.
Moreover, the player supports:
o Additional installation space for a conventional
3.5 inch AT-bus hard disk. (It came standard in our evaluation unit.)
o ISO9660/Joliet and FAT16/32 file systems, both on CD and hard disk.
o MP3 data about artist, album and title (ID TAGS). All this is read and directly shown in the front-panel display.
o All MPEG audio bit rates, scan rates and variable bit rate streams (8-48 kHz, 8-320 kbps).
It is also equipped with:
o An easy to use infrared remote control.
o A 32-bit RISC processor for controlling operation of the unit.
o A High-Quality MPEG decoder from Micronas Intermetall.
o Variable playback speed is possible without affecting
o Quick access to titles using the shuttle is possible.
o The title list is saved in the internal RAM during playback operations.
o There are special playback modes for a variety of other uses.
o Future update of the operating system is possible with the use of a firmware pressed or burned on a CD-ROM.