Linophir International BC-688

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Linophir International BC-688
  • Linophir International BC-688
  • Linophir International BC-688
  • Linophir International BC-688

Pros

  • Cheaper than an iPod

Cons

  • Appalling video quality, tiny screen, poor quality audio playback, frustrating interface

Bottom Line

A substandard MP3 player with support included for video files, its tiny screen and poor audio quality leave the Linophir BC-688 flailing in the wake of the competition.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 5 stores)

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Possibly one of the worst products we've reviewed, the Linophir BC-688 Digital MP4 Player delivers performance that ranges from substandard to almost useless in each of its numerous functions. After several days of continuous (and frustrating) use, we were unable to identify even a single redeeming feature on this product.

Video playback is awful. Developers of future portable media products take note - a one and a half inch screen is not enjoyable to watch, even if it's only meant for music videos. Portability and convenience be damned, this is simply ridiculous. Video is so cramped and pixilated that support for it would have been better left out of this player.

We might have been more inclined to look favourably on video playback on the Linophir, if getting it to work wasn't such an ordeal. The documentation that came included with the player was flat-out wrong about several of its features, and proved to be thoroughly confusing at best. After extensive experimentation, we were able to determine that the Linophir uses a very obscure file type for video playback - .amv. A minidisk, included with the player, contains a program to convert video files. After crashing our PC several times, the program reluctantly installed itself, and converted one of our .wmv files to .amv format. We found that quality was reduced to the point where it was unwatchable. The screen simply didn't have enough space to render the video properly, and we were left with a hazy, distorted mess.

MP3 playback was fairly similar; functional, but of poor quality. A frustratingly linear navigation system means that finding a track takes almost as long as listening to it, a problem exacerbated by the lack of playlist support. A built in equaliser offers seven presets and no options for customisation. Sound quality is so poor that only the most ambivalent and undiscerning of users will be able to abide listening to the BC-688 on the provided headphones. We noticed a slight improvement when using our own preferred headphones, however there was still a dull buzzing and occasional crackling present in the audio.

The story was the same with peripheral features. E-books were only supported in .txt format, and needed to be edited first to avoid line breaks in the middle of words. Voice recording was barely audible, and highly directional; certainly not suitable for anything apart from personal use. FM radio is probably the best feature on the player, mostly due to its simplicity - the fewer features there are the less can go wrong. Unfortunately, the poor sound quality we experienced during mp3 playback was a trend continued by FM playback.

Finally, a confusing, unresponsive and laggy interface ties all these threads together to create a worse than average product. The controls are some of the most illogical and poorly laid out we have come across. A total of five buttons are present on the Linophir, and as far as we could discern, their functionality in different contexts appeared to be entirely random. Sometimes the menu button was needed to make a selection (a process which had to be precisely timed, since holding it down for too long returns the user to the main menu, while not long enough elicits no response), other times it was the combined play/pause/stop button. Volume adjustments, track skipping, track fast forwarding and rewinding, menu selection, and radio tuning all suffer horribly from a one to two second lag, making adjusting settings a tedious process. Even after several days' use, we were still battling with the interface for effective control of the player.

Linophir's website proclaims that their products "will be distinguished from competitors by quality, sophisticated interfaces, advanced industrial design, and accelerated market entry." The BC-688 has none of these, let alone to levels comparable with competing products. A thoroughly unimpressive device, the Linophir proved to be an overly complicated and frustratingly confusing product. Its small size renders video next to useless, while even its peripheral features performed poorly. Even with its incredibly cheap recommended retail price, the Linophir BC-688 struck us as a most unwise purchase.

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