Pebble micro MP3 player
Does it rock?
The Pebble employs a decidedly old-fashioned icon-based menu system. The tiny display permits only one icon at a time, so you don't know what you can change until you go and look for it - unless you want to carry the manual's menu map around, of course. Oddly, there's enough room for full-length menu titles, but the player adopts abbreviations.
One other grumble: if you wear the player around your neck, the controls and screen are both upside down when you lift the device up, so you have to twist it round. It would have been better to put the lanyard loop on the bottom, stopwatch style. Speaking of which, the Pebble has a stopwatch mode just in case you find yourself adjudicating athletics meetings while you're out and about.
The Pebble's bundled with a USB-to-3.5mm-jack cable to connect it to a host computer and both transfer tracks and recharge the built-in battery. The player's a USB Mass Storage device, so it should operate with any operating system. It ships with an application called Music Friend, but since this just calls up Windows to transfer tracks, it's as easy to do it manually, especially since Music Friend is so weak. There's a music player, but you can't select a track and press play - hitting the play button just invokes the Open... dialog. And there's an unnecessary photo tweaking tool - redundant for a player that can't display photos.
But I shouldn't let poor software drag down the hardware. As I say, the Pebble mounts on your desktop ready for tracks to be dragged and dropped over. I tried it on a Mac but even with the Mac OS' metadata files removed, I still kept getting 'MP3 ERR' appearing on the display. Some songs did play, though they were all encoded as 128KBps MP3s in iTunes from CD. I re-ripped a couple of CDs in Windows' version of iTunes and these played just fine. The gadget can handle MP3 and WMA files - but not, it seems, DRM-protected WMA tracks.
Playback can be augmented with the usual set of EQ pre-sets, some of which exposed the "limitations of the source tape" as CD booklets used to say. There are two entries in the list of EQ pre-sets for user-defined equalisations made using a three on-screen sliders.