The portable video scene is getting a kick out of the PSP – with new firmware and home brew movie players, it’s proven to be an excellent portable video player without being overly expensive. I bring up the PSP here because that’s almost exactly what the Kingston K-PEX 100 portable media player looks like. Only, it’s less than half the size.
Being small, it fits very nicely in your hand and is a lot lighter, making it easier to carry around unlike the PSP. Of course, the PSP has a much larger screen, but the 2-inch screen on the K-KPEX isn’t all that bad. It’s a standard aspect, 4:3 screen with a resolution of 220x176, which is what most mid-level mobile phones come with, these days. The quality of the picture on the screen is good, but it has a very low viewing angle. This is important because you’re not going to hold the K-PEX in your hand for 2 hours while you watch a movie; you might want to keep it on your desk and watch it. Also, it doesn’t come with any form of a stand to let you do that.
The splash screen when the K-PEX starts up has some good artwork, but the main menu looks very bland with a gradient background and icons. Beyond that, there’s not much of a menu – it takes you to 'the function' directly. The fonts are very DOS-like and the interface beyond the first level is an eyesore. It works and the simplicity of the buttons (distinct menu, select and four direction buttons) makes it easier to get used to, than the Mitashi or the Transcend. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s ugly.
The K-PEX supports videos in its own MPX format. A transcoder software is provided to convert existing AVI, MPEG and WMV files to work on the player. Quality of the video was good, but the low frame rate leads to very choppy video playback. Audio quality from the speakers is decent, but it distorts at higher volumes. Now this isn’t a good thing because the medium level of volume is too low to actually hear anything. You’ll be better off using earphones. The earphones do a decent job, but purchasing better earphones/headphones would go a long way.
Speaking of audio, the player supports MP3, WMA and OGG music files. It also has an FM radio tuner, which is definitely a plus point in the city. The photo viewer only takes JPEG files, which actually isn’t a problem because most of your photos are JPGs anyway. There’s also a text reader, but don’t expect to be able to read full books in here.
The K-PEX is available in 1GB and 2GB capacities. That’s a good amount of space available right out of the box and you can always add more with extra miniSD cards that the K-PEX supports. Transfers are simple USB drag-and-drop, but there’s a disconnect-reconnect procedure required to get the device into USB Mass Storage mode, which doesn’t really make any sense. The player also doesn’t go into USB mode when the battery is low and is charging.
Another problem with the USB functionality on the phone is the inclusion of a rarer miniUSB 'B' type slot, instead of the more common 'A' type on most cameras and a lot of phones. Type 'A' cables are more commonly available and just one cable plugged into the PC can fit into multiple devices, so this isn’t such a good idea. The player also supports USB On-The-Go, so you can hook up a digital camera to the player and directly transfer media (mostly photos) without requiring a PC or Mac. For that, they bundle a regular full size USB adapter cable in which you plug your camera’s USB cable.
The player boasts 17 hours of battery life when continuously playing back MP3 files. We tried out a combination of movies and music and it lasted for around 8-10 hours approximately. This is good battery life for a device with such capabilities.
At around Rs. 8,500, the 2GB K-PEX 100 is just a bit cheaper than the 2GB iPod Nano (Rs. 9,800). What do you get by saving a few hundred bucks? Video playback? FM radio? USB drag-and-drop and On-The-Go? While that sounds like a good deal, the over-all performance of the device is not worth the money. Get a SanDisk Sansa instead; it offers much better quality.
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