The Opus also carries over two features from the Spark, one of which we like and one we don't. The first is the ability to display album cover art as the background of the Now Playing screen. The second is the rather lengthy amount of time the player takes to update and load the media library when it is switched on. As you would expect, the update time gets longer the more media your Opus is loaded with. We suspect that waiting for a fully loaded 16GB Opus to get its act together could become just a shade wearisome after a while.
Navigation aid: 'Now playing' appears as a shortcut at the end of the main menu
The Opus supports MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC and Audible (.aa) audio files along with WMV and AVI – DivX/Xvid – video and JPEG image files. It’s a reasonable selection, with H.264 being the only glaring omission, though it would have been nice to see Ogg support too. Like every other device with a 2.8 or 3in screen the Opus falls into a sort of a PMP no-man's-land – for decent video playback you really need a screen that is at least 3.5in corner-to-corner, while just music library access can get away with 2.5in or less, so the player can be smaller.
Even with that caveat, the Opus is no more than an adequate video player. To start with the 4:3 screen has a habit of rendering certain files in full screen and since there is no option to change the aspect ratio you are stuck with a squashed image. Secondly, the Opus is wholly intolerant of files above its native resolution; hence, content usually has to be reformatted, but there is bundled software to take care of this. Finally, the maximum fast-forward / rewind scan speed is x4 – which is too slow by a factor of at least two.
To wrap up the video negatives the Opus doesn't support SubRip (.srt) subtitle files nor can you add bookmarks to video files, though it will at least remember where it stopped playing the last video file accessed. This last fault is particularly annoying as you can add bookmarks to audio files. On the plus side, video playback proved clear, crisp and bright with decent colour saturation. The screen was remarkably tolerant of oblique viewing angles too. The Opus also supports PlaysForSure DRM, so you can watch videos downloaded from iPlayer. By way of a test we downloaded an episode of Top Gear and found it eminently watchable on the Opus.
As with the GoGear Spark, sound modification software is limited to Philips’ proprietary FullSound system. We were impressed with FullSound when we first came across it on the Spark and are no less impressed with it on the Opus. It's easy to use, gives the music a pleasant sense of warmth and depth and doesn't require that you spend half an hour setting it up as is the case with iRiver's effective but mind bogglingly complex SRS WOW system. The Opus also offers ten EQ settings.
Head candy: undoubtedly, one of the loudest PMPs we've tested
After chucking a selection of our favourite albums at the Opus, we wouldn't say it is the best sounding music player we have come across of late – that accolade still belongs to Sony's S-Series Walkman – but it’s certainly up there with the best of the rest from the likes of Sandisk, Samsung, iRiver and Cowon and is considerably better than anything you can get from Apple. It also has a lot of volume on tap. In fact it’s just about the loudest player we have tested of late.
re: screen size
The Archos 9 looks like blurring the line between an MP3 player and a PDA, for people with 9" pockets.
"Another feature worthy of comment is that, when navigating through long lists, you can hold the navigation arrow down and the player will start to flip through the letters of the alphabet, rather than title by title. It’s an idea nicked from the iPod, but one worth nicking."
This idea has been on GoGear mp3 players for a number of years now; so did iPod nick it from GoGear or vice-versa. Apple are not unknown for adopting good and often naturally intuitive ideas!
the key issue isn't screen size
This is the third generation of sound devices making progress, only to be hijacked by visualists. The useful functionality, which could be used for good sound playback, is piped into pictures, and handling or listening suffers. Why is a 4 inch screen better than 3 inch one? Why not wait for a 21 inch beauty? Or why not get a media laptop?
These things are all much better than tape walkmen. I enjoyed the step-up that the Shuffle brought, even with the earbud headphones, I'm moving on, for two reasons mainly: I'tunes has lost its simplicity, and the useful USP file access has been blocked by my IT department.
What had good sound, and is simple and enjoyable to use? Philips, as a hi-fi company, had a chance, but the enhanced MP3 playback of Creative or Sony made the front running - I ended up getting an X-FI.
OLED, cameras, bluetooth etc, are a risk of distraction from the main job.
Back at AC #2
No, not all bundled phones are "shit". The phones that come with a Sony S639 are pretty good. The bottom line is you shouldn't have to pay $500 for phones (Shure's RRP for a set of SE510s) on top of the cost of your player. Supplying terrilble phones is a con Apple have been allowed to get away with for far too many years. But be that as it may, the problem with Apple products is only partly down to the quality of the standard phones, its also down the electronics. I recently tried my son's iPod Touch through a set of Sennheiser HD465s. What a racket! I'm concerned enough about sound quality to not use an Apple music player.
Back at AC
Don't talk total pish. And fanboi, please. How old are you?
Everyone knows packed in headphones are shit - you must have mumbling ears. Paying top dollar for something like a top end ipod or sony walkman and using the pack ins is like hooking up a blu ray player to a CRT.
And you have the cheek to call me deaf.
I'm concerned enough about sound quality to use Shure 500s.