Laser MVP 1G
- Looks just like the iPod Nano, reasonably priced, decent range of features
- The interface from hell, clunky, slow and cluttered. Video playback all but useless
As iPod imitators go, you aren’t likely to see a more convincing copy, apart from the fact it barely works
Price$ 179.00 (AUD)
The first point listed on the back of the Pocket MVP's box mentions the player's "unique appearance and design." Unique, eh? We have a feeling we may have seen a somewhat similar design before. Let's see. The MVP is white on the front and polished silver on the back. The back of the player has the manufacturer's details etched onto the metal. The controls on the front are laid out in a circular design. The unit comes with white headphones. The top of the unit has a switch that toggles back and forth. If you haven't got it yet, the player's dimensions are exactly, and we mean exactly, the same as the iPod Nano. Even the box is identical. Perhaps not so "unique" after all.
As the MVP is blatantly a direct copy of Apple's Nano it's tempting to do a direct comparison between the two products. So tempting in fact, that this is exactly what we'll do. Of course, there's nothing wrong with looking like the iPod Nano. The Nano's design has a great deal going for it: it's svelte, lightweight and very attractive. The MVP does a good job of imitating all these features, though it's clear from the finishing details that Laser haven't spent quite as much time as Apple on beautifying their product. No iPod would be seen dead with screws visibly protruding from the side. One other major change is to Apple's patented control wheel, or lack thereof. This is one feature that Laser isn't allowed to copy, even if they wanted to. There aren't any extra buttons however, which keeps the design simple while simultaneously making it more complicated to control. One final difference is the sliding button on top of the unit. On the Nano pressing this locks the controls preventing accidental button presses. We tried doing this on the MVP and were surprised to find the player turned off. It turns out that Laser have used the button as an on/off switch.
When it comes to using the MVP it's clear that Laser could do with a few lessons in intuitive interface design. The main window is so cluttered when playing songs it's hard to tell what is going on. This isn't helped by the fact that song titles are truncated, so you don't actually get the full name of the song scrolling across the screen. Navigating the menus can be a tediously slow process as the MVP struggles to keep up with rapid button presses. Most annoyingly, the MVP uses the most ridiculous system to select songs we have ever seen. If you loaded a couple of hundred songs on here it would literally take five minutes to find the one you wanted. We were quickly left longing for the Nano's scroll wheel and zippy interface.
The MVP does however excel in the field of file transfers. As pretty as iTunes may be, it can be a right hassle to use. The MVP bypasses the middle-man and allows simple drag and drop functionality in Windows. This is so much easier.. Take note Apple.
The MVP also beats the Nano in terms of features, though a couple of them offer such a degraded experience their inclusion is almost entirely worthless. Take for instance, video playback. Sounds good in theory, though the reality is somewhat different. Is there really any point attempting to view videos on a 1.5 inch screen? We don't think so, unless you're an ant. Then it would be like visiting the cinema. Unfortunately, the number of ants reading this review is probably fairly low, so they'll never know. Videos also have to be converted to an obscure format, AMV, using proprietary software. This is more complicated than it needs to be, partly due to the inadequacies of the 'manual'. We use inverted commas here as the so-called manual is actually a single piece of photocopied paper. For a complex device such as an MP3 player to come without a comprehensive manual is pretty poor. Whilst Apple doesn't seem to care much for radio the inclusion of the FM radio and voice recorder are useful in the Laser.
Of course, sound quality is an important factor to consider. The MVP does fairly well in this respect. The sound via the included headphones is a little flat at times, but more than acceptable. This is fortunate, as Laser have opted to use a mini headphone jack of the type seen on some mobile phones. This basically means you are stuck with Laser's headphones, unless you happen to have some spare ones from an old mobile. However, we weren't convinced by the bizarre two-in-one headphone and combined lanyard. A rather tricky set of wires and silver beads is supposed to keep the player round your neck while simultaneously playing music. It does just about work, though looks a little odd.
Laser has kept the price down on the MVP by offering a disk size of 1GB, mirroring the low-end Nano. The price of the MVP is considerably smaller however, especially if you shop around, which is a big advantage over the Nano. Laser also includes a rubber sleeve, similar to those used with the Nano, saving the need to fork out a further $25. It is advantages such as these that will lead some people to immediately prefer the MVP.
Too often we see an MP3 player and end up thinking that it's nice, but wish it was as small as the Nano. Well, at long last there is a product that's not only is as small as the Nano, it pretty much is the Nano. The MVP may fail miserably against the usability of the iPod, but its extra features and lower price may well tip the balance for some people.
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