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Aigo P880 20GB MP3 photo player

Does music too

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Review Apple's iPod line-up has, like it or not, become the benchmark by which other personal digital music players are judged. That's not to say they always measure up to the competition, and they've usually taken longer to adopt new features, such as colour displays and photo browsing, than their rivals have.

Aigo P880 Music/Photo PlayerBut whether it's marketing savvy or marketing dollars that have done the trick, the iPod range has come to define what a significant number of consumers expect from a media player, to the extent that almost everyone is now targeting the Apple players directly.

Aigo's P880 is pitched at the iPod Photo, matching the latter's picture and music playback facilities, and throwing in a heap of other features for good measure. The P880 is certainly an improvement on Aigo's other hard drive-based player, the more standard-iPod oriented P750. It's better looking, sports a funkier user interface and, like the Photo, boasts a colour display - in spite of which, it still manages to offer a better battery life than its stablemate.

Not that Apple needs fear for the future of its iPod Photo. For starters, the P880 is a chunkier beast, massing it up to 11.2 x 7.1 x 2cm to the Apple product's more svelte 10.3 x 6 x 1.6cm. Inside is a lower-capacity hard drive - 20GB to the iPod's 30GB - and a less long-running battery - 11-odd hours to the iPod's claimed 15 hours.

The P880's 65,536-colour screen is, however, slightly larger - 2.2in in the diagonal to the iPod's 2in job - and looks great. The bright light in the centre of the P880's four-way navigation control offers fewer colours - seven, in fact - but it's nice that you can change it if you wish.

The control itself requires a fair push in each direction to get it to engage. That's less of a problem when you move through the P880's iPod-like sequences of menus, but it does quickly become a chore to scroll through a long list of songs, up and down the FM radio spectrum or through a large folder of photos. Scroll-wheels and even jog-dials have a clear edge here.

Viewing pictures is just a matter of navigating the appropriate folders on the P880's hard disk and working your way through the icon, preview or full-screen views. Since the screen is so small, why you need an intermediate size between the icons and the full-screen view is anyone's guess.

There's a handy auto-play feature and, oddly, a separate option called Slideshow. The latter differentiates itself by playing a backing track. You create slideshows not in the relevant Main Menu entry but through the Photos option, where you can also activate the auto-play facility. What's the point of having two features that do the same thing, I originally thought. But then it struck me that saving slideshows allows you to come back to them later, the photographic equivalent of a playlist. Fine, but since the slideshow just grabs all the contents of whatever folder you're viewing at the time, you may as well just navigate to the right folder and choose auto-play.

Next page: Verdict

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