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Aigo P750 20GB MP3 Player

As classy as its manufacturer thinks?

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Review Aigo, a relative newcomer to the MP3 player market, clearly wants us to think its P750 is a classy product. It's packed in a heavy-stock cardboard box held shut with a magnetic clasp. Within, the player lies nestled inside a mock-velvet cushion looking not unlike a jewellery box. It comes with a leather carry-case.

Aigo P750 20GB MP3 PlayerThe P750 itself is clad in patent-leather look black plastic, with the front and back panels separated by a matte silver plastic band. In size, it's half a centimetre or so taller and wider than my first-generation iPod and thicker too. But both have a similar, 1.9in screen size.

The P750's controls are mounted beneath the display - the Hold button, located on the left-hand side panel, is the only control not contained in the front cluster. Here, there's a Menu button, and the usual play/pause, track skip and volume controls. Between them is a scroll wheel and, just below it, the P750's microphone.

On top of the unit you'll find all the cable ports: power, USB, 3.5mm line-in and 3.5mm earphone sockets. On the P750's base is an SD card slot.

Turning the P750 reveals the blue-backlit display favoured by many Far East-designed MP3 players. The menu features six blurry icons for music play, the FM radio, player settings, recording via the microphone, recording via the line- in port and the file manager, respectively. The display can only handle four levels of grey - fine if you're presenting a simple UI like the iPod's, but insufficient for the P750's more picture-based UI.

While the P750 mounts its 20GB hard drive as a USB mass storage device, it prefers its songs are transferred not by drag and drop but by its own software. While you can drag and drop MP3 files over to the player - as I did - you can't create playlists without running the Windows-only prosaically titled Music Playlist Editor (MPE) app.

Dragging files to the player's Music folder, as you might do on a Mac or Linux box, works just fine. But the first menu item becomes redundant since the player appears to rely entirely on data files created by MPE to list tracks by artist, genre, album title and so on. Using the P750's File Manager to navigate to the Music folder allows you to select and play individual tracks or even folder-fulls of songs, but there's no way of browsing as you would through the Jukebox option.

Indeed, despite receiving a music-less player, the Jukebox browser still listed all the songs installed by an earlier reviewer despite their absence from the player. If other MP3 devices can scan stored files and read their ID3 tags, there's no reason why the P750 can't.

Playback itself is fine, though I found the bundle earphones were a little muted in the higher frequencies. If the sound's not quite right for you, the P750 has four equaliser pre-sets and a five-band custom EQ.

The FM radio's fine, though inevitably slightly hissy as is almost always the case with radios that use the earphone cables as an antenna. Which is also why they're easy to go just off-tune. Up to 20 station frequencies can be store as pre-sets.

Recording with the player's own microphone works, but the quality is very poor, not so much a result of the low encoding bitrate but from the clicks and pops the microphone - or the recording circuitry - adds to the track. Without a suitable cable - there wasn't one in the box - I couldn't try the MP3 line-in recording, but it's there if you need it, and there's a clever auto-separate feature to create individual songs from a continuous input stream - provided there are clear quiet sections between each track, of course.

Aigo claims the P750 will provide "up to eight hours of playback", and on the basis of my own tests I can't argue with that. But it's still disappointing, particularly on a modern player. Apple might have been able to get away with it because of the iPod's numerous other advantages - real or perceived - but the P750 doesn't have enough going for it to compensate.

Verdict

And that's the problem with the P750: it has no stand-out feature. It's not bad, neither is it good. It's a classic 'me too' product that, alas, fails to inspire at any level. That's no reason to mark it down, of course, but the P750 did lose points for its inconsistent UI design - the File Manager uses different navigation keys at different points in the disk hierarchy, for example - and the disconnect between drag-and-drop file transfers and the on-board Jukebox software.

As for its looks, well I couldn't find anyone who thought it even remotely appealing visually, certainly not among women, who the packaging design suggests are the P750's target audience.

Aigo itself shouldn't be written off. If the company's Consumer Electronics Show presence last month was anything to go by, there's some much more thoughtfully designed products on the way, such as the F660 and the P880. They may prove something special. But the P750 won't. ®

Aigo P750
 
Rating 60%
 
Pros — SD card slot; line-in MP3 encoding; drag and drop file transfer; leather carry-case.
 
Cons — Unimpressive, uninspired design; large size; poor earphones; only 20 quid less than an iPod.
 
Price £200
 
More info The Aigo site

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