Lossless music files, like FLAC, sound better than MP3s and are great for archival purposes. Encoding your CD collection to FLAC is pretty painless as you only need to use Exact Audio Copy (EAC).
iTunes is a popular way to rip CDs to MP3s, but you can encode high-quality MP3s without it too. Using Exact Audio Copy and LAME, you can create MP3s that sound fantastic.
The Philips Connect 3 Android Wi-Fi MP3 Player is a low-cost alternative to its Android cousin, the Samsung Galaxy Android MP3 player. Both devices also compete with the Apple iPod Touch. These are much more than just music players of course––with color touch screens, Wi-Fi connectivity, web browsing, and mobile app support––these are miniature tablets. Unfortunately, Philips sacrificed too much to make the Connect a value choice and ended up making it just a poor choice.
- Less expensive than competitors
- Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread pre-installed
- Easy to use
- Supports Android Market and Amazon Appstore
- Poor screen
- Mediocre sound quality
- Poor battery life
- No camera
- No memory expansion slot
- No wall charger
- Lots of crapware
BUILD & DESIGN
The Connect looks like a miniature smartphone with large, physical control buttons. The buttons, however, aren’t backlit like on most Android smartphones, so you’ll have to hunt for them if you’re in a dark environment.
The right side of the Connect has volume buttons and a multifunction power/sleep button. The Connect’s built-in speaker is located on the same side and sounded slightly better than I expected. However, it’s still a poor substitute for quality headphones or a speaker dock.
The 3.5mm headphone jack is located at the bottom of unit, next to the micro-USB port. The left side of the Connect has a pinhole reset button and the top of the player has what looks like a lanyard anchor, though no lanyard or strap is included in the box.
Overall, the Connect feels pretty solid. The plastic housing doesn’t flex when squeezed and the buttons respond well when pressed.
The Connect has a 3.2-inch screen, which is smaller than both the iPod Touch (3.5-inches) and the Galaxy 4 (4-inches). The small screen size took a little getting used to, especially when trying to use the on-screen keyboard. Small screen aside, I was extremely disappointed with the display quality. At a resolution of 480×320, text looked terrible, which made reading emails in the Gmail app a pain. Icons and images looked slightly better though. Games like Cut The Rope looked acceptable but were by no means, high quality. YouTube videos worked OK, but colors were washed out and the glare was difficult to get over. A red stop sign on a test video looked orange on the Connect.
Philips has always supported tons of audio and video codecs–one of the most appealing aspects of their audio/video gear. The Connect is no exception when it comes to codec support. Unfortunately, all my test audio files sounded just awful. My lossless FLAC audio files never sounded worse. I tossed the included headphones after two songs and plugged in a set of Etymotic HF5 IEMs. Surprisingly, swapping out the headphones improved the audio quality only slightly. I also tried a pair of Monster iSport headphones and it was the same story.
The Songbird software for music library management is OK, but nothing exciting. The Connect comes pre-installed with several Google apps and some music apps. Unfortunately, the music apps can’t be uninstalled.
The Connect 3 supports both the Android Market and Amazon Appstore, so there are a lot of apps you can use with the Connect. I installed Cut The Rope, Bejeweled 2, Google Music and Winamp without any problems.
The version of Android on the Connect is 2.3.3 Gingerbread, the most current version of Android available until Ice Cream Sandwich starts rolling out. I’d be shocked if Philips pushed ICS out to the Connect, even if it were powerful enough to run it smoothly, which it isn’t.
Battery life on the Connect is rated at 25 hours for audio and 5 hours for video. The battery life for audio is significantly less than that of the iPod Touch and Galaxy. Granted, if I’m just listening to audio, 25 hours is plenty, but this isn’t just a music player, is it? It only lasted a few hours of tablet-type use (playing some games, checking email and surfing the web). The Connect doesn’t come with a wall charger either––just a USB cable. If you need to travel with the Connect, you’ll have to get your own USB charger or make sure you have your laptop with you.
For kicks, I decided to install and run the Quadrant benchmark to see how the Connect stacked up to other Android devices. It scored a 995, which is actually higher than phones like the Droid, Nexus One and Samsung Galaxy S, but lower than the Droid X.
The Philips Connect 3 Android Wi-Fi MP3 player is a disappointing Internet-connected music player. Sound quality is lackluster, screen quality is poor, and there’s no camera on the Connect. It also isn’t priced nearly low enough to be appealing, given all of its flaws. Unless you can find the Connect 3 at a blowout price, I’d recommend crossing it off your list and investing in an iPod Touch or the Samsung Galaxy.
8GB model available from Amazon.com for $139.99.
16GB model available from Amazon.com for $189.99.
* Review sample provided by Philips
The very first portable MP3 players were introduced in 1998 but didn’t really catch on en masse until Apple released the iPod in late 2001. Apple chose to use their own audio compression (AAC), which had better sound quality than MP3. Apple’s iPods are ubiquitous now with portable music players but believe it or not, there are other music players that offer features equal to those of or better than the iPod. Philips offers the GoGear ViBE as an alternative to the iPod nano by appealing to one very important consideration: value.
- Very good value
- Good user interface
- Good sound quality
- Good battery life
- Supports MP3, WMA, and FLAC formats
- Firmware upgradeable
- Decent FM reception
- FullSound “feature” is a gimmick
- Songbird application is weak
- Cannot update firmware without Songbird
- Short 90-day warranty
- Earbuds are awful
I personally found the sound quality of the GoGear ViBE to be very good. Its signal-to-noise ratio is very good compared to that of other high quality music players. I did an A-B comparison with a SanDisk Sansa CLIP+ player. The CLIP+ is considered my many audiophiles to have one of the best audio chips in a portable music player so it made an ideal measuring stick for the ViBE. I used several FLAC files as well as Lame VBR extreme files for my comparison. I also used an Etymotic hf5 audiophile earphone and tossed the terrible included earbuds. I have to honestly say that the differences were very subtle. While I personally still preferred the SanDisk’s sound quality overall, the Philips GoGear was no slouch. However, the FullSound feature really is a gimmick. It’s essentially just another EQ preset to me and it really boosted the lows but caused undesirable distortion in the mids and highs. You are better off using the included 5 band equalizer and setting your own custom setting or leaving it flat, which is my preference. If lazy, you can also select one of several presets available as well. I also really liked the volume limit feature because it will help me keep it at safe level for my kids when they use it.
I found the interface of the ViBE to be very easy to use and the sceen was easy to read. The navigation controls are on the front of the player. It simulates a typical d-pad style layout though the directional buttons took a few tries to get used to. Additionally, there are two buttons just below the screen. One of those buttons is a return button while the other provides options depending on which feature of the player you are currently using. The volume up/down buttons are on the top of the player and aren’t as easy to press. I probably would’ve preferred a volume dial at that location. There are no buttons on either side of the player. The bottom of the player has the USB and headphone ports along with the power/lock switch and mic. I found no issues with the headphone port as reported by another reviewer. My earphones and the included earbuds plugged in firmly and stayed in. Twisting the connector around in the jack did not cause any static whatsoever. The 1.5″ screen is easy to read and you have 3 color-based theme choices. Though the demo video and photos looked pretty nice and could double as a photo/video viewer in a pinch, it is really too small for regular use and more trouble than it’s worth, especially for video. One thing I didn’t like too much about the screen was how it uses album art as the background while playing songs. Some album art didn’t make great backgrounds because it sometimes made the text (song title, album, artist, time, etc.) difficult to read.
I rarely have had good luck with FM tuners that were built-in to my devices so I was pleasantly surprised when the GoGear ViBE actually got good reception. It pulled in stations better than my SanDisk Sansa CLIP+. It also supports RDS, which can display information like the station ID, song title, and artists. You’re allowed 20 presets and the autotune feature worked pretty well and it scanned all the frequencies before selecting the 20 strongest.
The battery life indicator was at 2 out of 4 bars when I first turned it on. I plugged it into my PC using the 6 inch or so mini-USB cable and it took another couple of hours to reach a full charge. I actually preferred the small USB cable because I happen to have a box full of longer mini-USB cables from a variety of other devices I own including digital cameras and Blackberries. Unfortunately, you are limited to charging only via a powered USB port from a computer as no AC adapter is included. This could be a problem if you decide to travel with the GoGear ViBE without a laptop but there are a lot of universal USB chargers available these days. I myself can just take my old Blackberry charger along, should the need arise. The rated battery life is 24 hours of audio but that is probably with all the battery saving features set at aggressive levels. It’s also likely that certain audio codecs like FLAC will also drain more power. If I can get 75% of the rated life (18hrs) then I’ll be very happy. One neat battery save feature is to have the screen shut off after a period of time but you can choose to display the date and time. I’ve only seen this work with the music player. In FM mode, the screen just blanks out.
I’m not an experienced audiobook listener, but decided to get Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol since I hadn’t gotten to reading the physical book. After ripping the discs, I loaded them onto the GoGear ViBE and Dan Brown showed up as an artist and The Lost Symbol as an album. I selected play all and it began playing the files in order. I paused the audio and turned the player off and turned it back on to find that the player had remembered the point I had paused it. I may have found myself a new way of catching up on my reading
The GoGear ViBE comes with a custom copy of Songbird. I tried to install it on my Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit computer and it gave me an error message that some features may not work correctly in my version of Windows. Come on Philips. There is no reason not to have full 32-bit and 64-bit support. It installed fine however, and I was able to add my music to the player and use it to transfer music to the GoGear ViBE. Firmware updates are performed from within the customized version of Songbird as well. I downloaded a more current version of Songbird but the non-customized version did not have the option for updating the firmware and there is no way I know of to update it without using the included version. Boo Philips! The firmware version on my player was v1.33 and when I checked for updates, was told that was the most current. I don’t care for Songbird so I chose to use Winamp. The only problem with using Winamp was that it copied the music into the root directory of the player rather than straight into the “Music” folder.
The Philips GoGear ViBE 8GB MP3 Player is a very good player with lots of good and useful features. I found the sound quality to be good and the player very easy to use. It’s unfortunate that Philips only provides an anemic 90-day warranty, but fortunately, the build quality appears solid. It is a good value. If you don’t need the large screen for viewing album art, photos and video, I highly recommend the SanDisk Sansa CLIP+ instead. The GoGear ViBE is not the cheapest 8GB MP3 you can buy, but it certainly offers a very appealing feature set for the money and I have no qualms about recommending it.
Available from Amazon.com.
* Review unit provided by Philips