- Sounds good, Great voice recording
- Poor design, Interface lacking
A fairly average MP3 player. If you want an audio device that doubles as a voice recorder this might be a good choice but there isn't much else that really pushes this above the competition.
Price$ 89.00 (AUD)
Since the digital music explosion a few years back, the MP3 player market has been flooded by solid yet competitively priced players. Laser's 256MB MP3 player is one such offering that provides reasonable quality audio but has some design issues with firmware and its physical interface.
We were a pleasantly surprised by the sound quality the Laser presented. Tonal balance was fairly even across the full spectrum of sound and it exhibited none of the muddy bass problems we often encounter in other models. However it was let down by the included earphones: they sounded tinny and lacked any sort of definition. This is common with budget models: we tried our own headphones and all of these problems disappeared. One big advantage this player has over other Laser MP3 players is its support for 3.5mm headphone jacks (many others use proprietary ports), allowing you to bypass the default earbuds. We strongly recommend you purchase some third party headphones to complement your player, something like the Koss KSC-75
While the audio quality on this player was fairly good, the voice recording was excellent. This was undoubtedly the best element of the device. We tested it with several minutes of recording, and were surprised to hear it not only picked up the target audio material, but managed to record background noise with a reasonable level of clarity as well. Everything from our colleagues talking, to phones ringing could be heard when we played the file back. This is even more impressive when you consider the microphone appears to be concealed somewhere on the player. We hunted for it for at least five minutes to no avail. For those wanting a cheap method of recording university lectures or work related presentations, this device is a great choice.
The radio quality was of a similar standard. It suffered from many of the innate flaws present in radio broadcasts, notably a fuzzy, static sound running in the background, but overall we were quite pleased with the quality of the signal, particularly when coming in through such a compact device.
Aesthetically, the unit is an extremely standard design, so much so that we mistook it for another product multiple times. It is shaped like an elongated postage stamp and painted in brushed silver with a small screen on the front. The controls are in a strip along the top of the device, but these are very poorly mounted. Several of the buttons sit at odd angles, and we repeatedly had problems with their responsiveness. Changing tracks particularly proved to be an ordeal, often requiring three button presses to register the action. This was worsened by the fact that the Laser takes a good three seconds just to change tracks, fading out the first one before playing the second; very annoying.
Buttons aside the unit feels quite sturdy, and is a little heavier than it looks. It is designed to be worn around the neck: Laser don't really give you any other choice as the default headphones have a cable length of less than half of a regular pair. There is no way anybody can carry this player in their pocket and be comfortable with the default headphones, so a third party pair is almost mandatory.
Interface and Functionality
We found Laser's interface to be serviceable but confusing; users are likely to get frustrated before they even start navigating thanks to the on/off system. The player has a small on switch along its base, which fires the player up. When flicked, it gives you a message saying 'Starting'; all well and good you think, but after a few seconds it tells you to 'Press key ON', then shuts back down again. Suffice to say, we were confused. It took us a few minutes just to get the device up and running. Eventually we worked out you had to flick the switch, wait, then hold down the play button for several seconds to get it going, but having to read the manual just to turn something on is a big negative in our books.
Once you have it up and running the screen greets you with a scrolling menu that grants access to the player's functions. In addition to basic music playback there is the voice recorder, FM radio, telephone book and file management. Unfortunately the poorly designed keys coupled with some illogical navigation choices mean it can be difficult to perform basic functions. Voice playback for example has its own menu tab, instead of being under either recording or music. If Laser could streamline everything a little bit and fix their key mounting, things would be better.
Like their previous MP3 players, this one acts as a plug-and-play removable drive which is a big bonus. Despite the fact that it comes with a driver CD, simply connecting it to your machine brings it up as another drive, and you can drag-and-drop files as needed. This makes the whole process considerably easier than having to use proprietary software and means the device doubles as flash memory for quick file transportation.
The unit supports all the standard formats, including MP1, MP2, MP3, WMA, WMV, ASF and WAV. We did notice the lack of a true lossless format (WAV is lossless, but also uncompressed) however it only comes with 256MB of memory and you'd barely fit a single lossless CD in that space so it isn't a huge omission.
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