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GeIL iBALL MPV Player


Product
Multifunction Audio/Video Player
Date
15th March 2005
Manufacured By
Supplied By
Price
Author

In Use :::...

The screens you'll be seeing most of are the main information screens displayed during MP3 playback.

Top left is the battery status symbol, then there's the current equalizer and repeat setting, and to the right is the current volume level. Below this are the track number and duration and further down in blue is the artist, title and bitrate information.

Artist Information

 

All the songs I tried, encoded at a vast range of bitrates, all played without incident.

Encoding Bitrate

 

During actual song playback the display changes to show a single-mode 7 band spectrum analyzer display and time elapsed.

Spectrum Analyzer Display

 

Files can be paused, resumed and stopped in the usual manner. There's no stop symbol on any of the control buttons, this is achieved by pressing and holding the pause button.

Song Paused

Unfortunately video files are listed in amongst your MP3 files so you'll have to scroll though possibly hundreds of files to get to them.

PC Software:

The software is supplied on a small, 8cm CD with a simple, easy to use front end.

Supplied on the software CD are a pair of utilities designed to convert your videos and images to a smaller, more manageable format.

PIC TOOL resizes your images and also creates a slideshow that cycles through them automatically. All you do is choose the images and set the speed at which they change. I assumed that a Play Rate of 0.5s/f meant 0.5 seconds per frame but the resultant slideshow moved too fast to even see so you use a little trial and error to get it right. You can't preview the results in the software so you have to transfer the files to your iBall to check it's all working as expected which can be a bind.

 

MPV TOOL converts your videos to a format suitable for playback on the iBall. It accepts video files in the *.avi, *.mov, *.qt, *.wmv, *.asf, *.wma, *.mpg and *.mpeg format and converts them to the *.mpv format. You can specify the video quality and thus the filesize with settings from 4 to 20 frames per second at various audio quality settings.

I tried converting a couple of videos, one of which worked fine while the other somehow got its audio completely screwed up. Unfortunately again you can't preview your finished file using the software and have to transfer the file to your iBall to play it.

FM Radio Performance:

Overall, while not super-sensitive, the radio tuner did a pretty good job of sniffing out m available channels. Whether it would perform quite so well in weak reception areas I'm not so sure but I guess for most users it would be perfectly adequate.

My biggest gripe is that when the tuner reaches its upper or lower frequency it doesn't cycle back to the start, you have to search all the way back through the entire frequency range to get there. So if you get to 108MHz and decide you wanted to listen to a station at 89MHz you have to reverse direction and tune down.

There's no option to manually input the desired frequency which wouldn't be a difficult task even using just the buttons.

Voice Recording:

Recording quality was surprisingly clear, even though I've yet to discover where the microphone aperture is. It must be behind the USB port somewhere at a guess?

Finding, deleting and generally organising your voice files is a real pain unless you remember the file number, in fact file management generally on this device is weak which is a shame as you could potentially have so many of them to trawl through.

MP3 Performance:

Sound quality from MP3s was generally excellent, but the weakness again lies with management. There's no facility for creating any kind of playlists or reordering playback. You either listen to the next song in the series or you hit the "Next Track" button.

Video Performance:

Despite the tiny screen I found video to be ridiculously watchable. You'll probably develop a migraine if you try and sit through the whole of Titanic in one go but for short music videos and occasional clips of the kids it actually suffices. I'd never have believed it had I not seen it myself but, even with the lack of detail from such a relatively low resolution display, it's clear enough to almost enjoy.

General likes and Dislikes:

For such a small device I was quite impressed with the battery life. I'm only on the third full charge but so far I'm getting between five and six hours constant MP3 playback on a single charge using power saving mode 1 (display dims after 5 seconds), and at around 85% of full volume. This may well improve after a few more charge/discharge cycles.

One major gripe with this device in my book is that when it's connected to your USB cable it immediately goes into charge mode and you are unable to use it in any way at all. You can't watch a video, listen to an MP3, view pictures or croon along to the tunes from your favourite radio station until you unplug it again, which essentially means it's out of action for an hour and a half until you've juiced up the battery again. An hour and 30 minutes to full charge is the time stated by GEiL but as I mentioned earlier, the charge animation plays continuously so I couldn't confirm this was accurate.

 

Conclusion

The 3DVelocity 'Dual Conclusions Concept' Explained: After discussing this concept with users as well as companies and vendors we work with, 3DVelocity have decided that where necessary we shall aim to introduce our 'Dual Conclusions Concept' to sum up our thoughts and impressions on the hardware we review. As the needs of the more experienced users and enthusiasts have increased, it has become more difficult to factor in all the aspects that such a user would find important, while also being fair to products that may lack these high end "bonus" capabilities but which still represent a very good buy for the more traditional and more prevalent mainstream user. The two categories we've used are:

The Mainstream User ~ The mainstream user is likely to put price, stock performance, value for money, reliability and/or warranty terms ahead of the need for hardware that operates beyond its design specifications. The mainstream user may be a PC novice or may be an experienced user, however their needs are clearly very different to those of the enthusiast, in that they want to buy products that operate efficiently and reliably within their advertised parameters.

The Enthusiast ~ The enthusiast cares about all the things that the mainstream user cares about but is more likely to accept a weakness in one or more of these things in exchange for some measure of performance or functionality beyond its design brief. For example, a high priced motherboard may be tolerated in exchange for unusually high levels of overclocking ability or alternatively an unusually large heat sink with a very poor fixing mechanism may be considered acceptable if it offers significantly superior cooling in return.

 

The Mainstream User ~

Easy to carry, easy, if a little slow, to add songs to and a pleasure to listen to, but a total nightmare to navigate. Perhaps GeIL need a few lessons from Nokia or Samsung on how to develop intuitive menu systems that are simple to find your way around.

By allowing the iBall to be detected as a mass storage device, adding MP3 files is as simple as dragging and dropping, though ideally you need to use the supplied conversion software to convert your pictures and videos to a more manageable size for playback, and a more manageable file size for storing.

If you want a quality MP3 player plain and simple then you could probably get the same sound quality for less cash, but for all the extra functions it's not a bad deal at all.

 

 

The Enthusiast ~

Small and stylish enough to become a fashionable device to wear, decent enough quality for those who like their music, and clever enough to appeal to gadget lovers the world over. Throw in an emerging display technology and a clever voice recording function, not to mention the FM radio, and the iBall is already looking like hot property.

That's not to say all is well though. The clumsy, counter-intuitive menus need a total rethink, as does the clunky file management system which makes simple housekeeping tasks a truly laborious process, but that only partially detract from the smug feeling you get from whipping out something no larger than a small biscuit to show your mate your fave band's latest music video complete with quality stereo sound.

Flawless it ain't, but as a first attempt it looks like it could be the next trendy lifestyle gadget if GeIL use their resources to market it properly, work on the menus and perhaps increase the screen size by another 20 or 30% or so.

USB1.1 makes file transfers slow and there's really no excuse for not using USB2.0 these days, particularly for the 1GB model.

All in all though the iBall is a clever little device with a lot of character that may well grow on you and is certain to prompt a few admiring glances. Its low weight is also a great asset, though if I'm honest it's actually too light for my tastes.

A very nice product that should form a solid foundation for further devices to come.

 

We're always looking for ways to make our reviews fairer. A Right To Reply gives the manufacturer or supplier of the product being reviewed a chance to make public comments on what we've said. They can explain perhaps why they've done the things we were unhappy with or blow their own trumpet over the things we loved. It's easy for us to pick a product apart but sometimes things are done a certain way for very specific reasons.

Should GeIL decide to exercise their "Right To Reply", we'll publish their comments below:

 

 

 
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