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Since I first came across the MP3 format I have been predicting the downfall of the major record labels. Having portable MP3 playing hardware is part of the scenario, so I had great hopes for the Pontis MPlayer 3. It didn’t match my expectations. There are serious flaws that stop it from being a practical proposition.
The music is held on a card much like the kind of Flash card used in digital cameras. It isn’t exactly the same, meaning that the flash-card market, which already has two competing formats, now has another. The largest capacity card holds just 16MB, enough for about 15 minutes’ music. This isn’t much, but there’s room for two cards to be loaded. Even so this gives a maximum of 30 minutes of music, which is, as far as I’m concerned, useless. If you did want to increase its capacity, an additional 16MB card will set you back an extra £30.
The troubles don’t end here: before you can listen, you must download it from your Mac to the MPlayer. This is done via a serial cable, which not only precludes it from use with any currently shipping Mac, but it also takes forever to download – around twice the time it takes to listen to the music. A full 15 minutes of music takes 30 minutes to download to the player. To me, this just about makes it unusable.
On a more positive note the sound is excellent – it is not CD quality, but it is close enough for me to barely notice. You can also set the sampling rate for your music. You need to use 128bit for best quality, but lower rates are acceptable and give you more audio capacity.
There is a lot of room for improvement here, and that improvement can be made by Pontis, or the others in the MP3 player market. The minimum capacity for a useful player is about one hour – less is a waste of time, especially if it takes so long to load music files. In the future, we should see players that use USB, which will be much faster for transferring music. Until then, save your money.