Product Review (May 2007) - Coby
MP-C951 Portable MP3/Video Player

Portable audio players are about as popular and common as DVD players, with just as many variations available from an array of manufacturers. Quite often, inexpensive models offer no frills displays with limited memory, while the more costly models offering color screens and internal hard drives. Coby's new MP-C951 fits the latter category with a sleek looking, full featured MP3 player capable of playing full-color video clips. The MP-C951 features a high contrast 2-inch TFT color LCD screen. The buttons on the face of the unit are elegant touch sensitive keys leaving the only mechanical switch to be the power/hold button on the top. The compact design of the MP-C951 has a sturdy feel with a solid chassis and measures 4.25" x 2.50" x 0.75" (HxWxD) and weighs 5.6 ounces. Don't let the small size fool you. Inside the unit is a large 20GB Hitachi Travelstar hard drive, which can easily store ample amounts of music and video files. As a result, there are no slots for flash memory devices. The front of the MP-C951 is glossy black with attractive red backlit illumination. The rest of the unit is white.

Impressive Display
Much of the good looks attributed to the MP-C951 comes from the TFT LCD display. Unlike many of the washed out looking displays we have seen on portable music players, this one has excellent contrast making it easy to read. The high resolution allows a lot of information to be shown at once. The top area has playback mode, current time, and a four step battery level indicator. The song, artist, album name and folder is displayed along with a progress bar,volume level, bitrate and sample rate. The bottom of the display has stereo level meters, color coded to indicate the volume level. The user can separately define the recording quality for the microphone, FM radio and inline audio. Below are the various recording rates supported by the player.

Recording Bitrates

 LowMediumHigh
Microphone64kb/s96kb/s128kb/s
FM Radio 96kb/s128kb/s256kb/s
Line Input 128kb/s256kb/s320kb/s

A sync detect feature will synchronize the recording when a signal is detected on the line input. The audio recorder can also be activated when the microphone detects sound. Equalization settings can be user-defined through a five band equalizer or set to predefined levels defined as Rock, Jazz, U-Bass, Classic and Normal. The menu system allows users to navigate through Music, Movie, Photo, FM Radio, E-BookExplorer, and Setup.

JPEG photos can be displayed on the player and with the high contrast screen they look good. However, the resolution and size is somewhat limited, so don't expect too much. The FM Radio uses the built-in digital tuner that can be adjusted using the left and right arrows. The frequency is displayed with large fonts and an indicator shows the signal strength along with stereo or mono reception. Pressing the OK button toggles between Preset mode and Frequency mode. Holding down the OK button lets the user select Presetting and save the station into the preset memory for future access. The E-BookExplorer is an application that can read text files while on the go.

Interfaces
The MP-C951 has a 3.5mm headphone jack and a line input jack for recording audio from external sources. The power switch is spring loaded in one direction and slides into the Lock position in the other direction. Holding the spring loaded position is used to turn the unit on or off. A small microphone is located in the center of the top panel for voice recording. When the user inserts the 3.5mm input plug, the unit automatically switches from the microphone to the external input for recording. This is a handy feature for those who have analog recordings they wish to capture into the MP3 format.

The remaining interfaces are for power and USB connections. Both standard and host USB connectors are provided. The standard USB interface is used with a computer to transfer various files to the player. We noticed a firmware update was available for the unit, so we downloaded it and placed it into the Firmware folder. Once the unit was turned on the firmware automatically updated the current version (0.556) to the latest version (0.568). The host interface allows portable devices such as digital cameras to connect and transfer files directly to the player without the need for a computer. Unfortunately, we were not able to get this to work with our digital camera (Kodak v530). The input power jack is used to charge the built-in Lithium-Ion battery using the AC adapter. There was no car adapter included with this unit so time will be limited between charges. Coby claim the unit can last as long as 12 hours on a charge.

Accessories
The MP-C951 comes with a variety of accessories including headphones, USB cables (standard and host), audio cable, AC power adapter, CD and a carrying case. Since I have issues with using ear buds (they never seem to stay in my ears), I decided to use our Shure E500PTH earphones to test out the unit. The included AC adapter produces 5 volts at 2 amps and operates from 100-240VAC (50/60 Hertz), making it useable in most countries. Unfortunately, no car adapter is included in the package. The padded carrying case protects the player from potential mishandling and the design makes it easy to insert and remove the unit. A CD containing the VirutalDub software for movie creation is included. Finally, a soft cleaning cloth is provided to help keep it clean.

Conclusion
The Coby MP-C951 is a stylish looking media player with a great 2-inch TFT LCD display. The versatility of the unit makes it a great companion for both car and airplane travel. The screen is a bit small for us old folks, but the resolution and contrast is remarkably good. Movies can keep you entertained for hours with this player and the conversion software included with the MP-C951 keeps the video file sizes under control. Playback time is greatly reduced when using the screen during playback. The lightweight design (6.1 ounces) is a big plus when carrying it around in a shirt pocket. Navigating through the menu system is simple and although it takes some getting used to, it is effective. The firmware is upgradable so any bugs that may be found can be addressed and fixed with upcoming releases. Street price for the MP-C951 is as low as $160 from reputable dealers, so compared to the competition, it is a heck of a bargain.

- Kevin Nakano






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Review - At a Glance


Coby - Portable Video/MP3 Player with 2" Color Screen

Features

  • Stores up to 10,000 Songs
  • 2" TFT Color Display
  • Up to 12 Hours of Battery Life
  • Supports MP3, WMA, OGG Music Files
  • Ultra-fast USB 2.0 Transfers (up to 40 times faster than USB 1.0)
  • Supports JPEG Image Files
  • Supports AVI Video Files
  • Ultra-fast USB 2.0 Transfers
  • Built-in FM Tuner
  • Built-in Voice Recorder
  • Real-time MP3 Encoding (no PC required)
  • 20GB of Internal Storage
  • Rechargeable Lithium Polymer Battery
  • Upgradable Firmware
  • Unit Dimensions: 2.50" x 4.25" x 0.75" (WxHxD)

    Package Contents

  • Installation CD
  • USB cables
  • Professional Stereo Earphones
  • Carrying Case
  • 100-240 V UL AC Adapter
  • Line-in Audio Cable


    Company Information
    Coby Electronics Corp.
    56-65 Rust Street
    Maspeth, NY 11378
    Phone: 800-727-3592

    Source: Manufacturer Supplied
    MSRP: $249.95

    Technical Assistance: techsupport@cobyusa.com
    Consumer Care Service: customerservice@cobyusa.com

    URL: www.cobyusa.com

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