Newman MP4/MP3 Media Player ReviewMikey 114 comments
Rarely does a product come my way that is flawed in so many ways it defies belief. The Newman MP4/MP3 Media Player sounded like it had the goods if the specs and photos were anything to go by, but alarms bells should have been ringing when I was unable to find a review for it anywhere online.
The Newman M918 Portable Media Jukebox features 512mb of internal memory to get you started, a colour screen, and SD memory expansion slot. It supports MP3 playback and allegedly can play ASF video and has upgradeable firmware. The latter I will touch on further into this review.
The box contains:
- 1 Newman MP4/MP3 Media Player
- Audio/Video output cable
- USB cable
- White headphones
- 1 pair of foam earphone covers
- Software CD
- Carry strap
Let's start with the good things the Newman M918 has to offer. The 2.5 inch screen is bright and has good colour range at 260,000 colours. The unit size (99 x 62 x 14mm) is compact and reasonably lightweight (100g) considering the metal casing.
There is no DRM (Digital Rights Management) to speak of, so all you need to do is plug in the provided USB cable and Windows automatically will allocate the next available drive letter for the device. And all you do is drag your media across. Painless.
That pretty much covers the good things. Now moving onto the bad...
The physical interface is awkward and clumsy. The buttons need to be pressed fairly hard (compared to other media players) and make a loud clicking sound when activated. To make it more difficult the buttons often have to be pressed twice (sometimes thrice!) where a single push is only required. That combined with the lag of the on-screen GUI makes quick navigation impossible nearly all the time. Although I am unsure if the button problem is the actual hardware or the software. Either way makes no difference to a user who has to struggle to navigate.
The GUI, put bluntly, is dreadful. Big ugly squares that surround what could easily be mistaken for Microsoft animated clip art icons make up the on-screen navigation.
The on-screen music list is by far the worst effort. You will not believe this. For reasons I can not even begin to fathom, Newman saw it fit to use what appears to be a DOS file name convention. No joke. Take for example my partner's Lilly Allen collection, which displays like this on-screen...
These are freshly ripped from CD tracks, with ID tags and filenaming set accordingly. Obviously identifying any song is completely impossible unless you have memorised the order of each track. The specs on the site we purchased it from state that ID3 tags are supported but this does not appear to be the case.
Video playback we eventually achieved at the expense of several hours of my own time. The manufacturer's web site (and the manual) claim that ASF videos are supported, yet I spent nearly an entire night trying to get any of my ASF files to work. I even created my own ASF files using several different software suites and even tried different formats anyway. All failed. Then used the software on the provided CD, which converted my ASF files to: ASF. And then they worked. What the?
The product feels like a prototype, or an alpha. With this in mind I went to the manufacturer's web site in search of the promised firmware upgrade only to find nothing. The web site is poorly constructed and the 2 buttons I needed most (Support and Site map) do not work at all. They are not even linked. So I thought I might get email support but alas their contact page only has email address for business enquiries. The customer service centre has a 12 digit phone number for a location in Beijing. In any event, I can't download firmware on the telephone even if I did speak Chinese.
Sound quality is passable but does not compare to other portable devices. Or perhaps I have just grown used to the stunning clarity of my W800i. The provided obligatory earphones are a little large and hurt when sitting in your ear for long periods. Ear buds are far superior and it's a shame more portable media manufacturers don't include them instead.
The user manual is rather poor and has terrible broken English. Testament to the overall quality of this unit is this statement on page 2:
"When frequently push in or pull out the earphone, the speaker or earphone may not sound occasionally. Please press RESET key or hold the power on/off key to restart the device."
Video output to a TV is not the best but then it is only 320 x 240 pixels, a long was shy of looking any good on our 37" high def LCD. On a regular TV it might not look so bad.
On the whole, the device is not a complete failure, but its shortcomings are too many to forgive. The interface lag, terrible file naming display and lack of any support of promised firmware (which usually fixes a lot of issues with hardware) makes the $150 price tag a bit too steep.
My advice, if you ever see this unit on any of the many online shopping portals is to avoid the temptation. You will be disappointed. Don't say I didn't warn you.