Media junkies who don't want to leave home without their favorite videos, songs, and photos will find a compelling option in the Coby V-ZON PMP4320. Priced at $349, the PMP4320 costs the same amount as the current king of portable media players, the Archos 604, and it even one-ups the Archos in the features department by including built-in TV recording and memory expansion via an SD Card slot. The PMP4320's performance and usability, however, are a different story.
With gadgets increasingly becoming as known for their slick appearances as they are for their functions, the PMP4320 makes a pretty good first impression. Its black-and-white body gives the player a sleek, modern appearance. At 8.2 ounces and nearly an inch thick, this video player should easily slip into a coat pocket or backpack. We liked the PMP4320's fold-out legs, which let users prop the device up during extended viewing sessions.
Once we powered up the player, it quickly became apparent that its guts were not as impressive as its shell. The icons on the main menu screen look fine, but as soon as you open any of the menu options, you're greeted with an old-school menu system that seems straight from the Commodore 64 school of design. Another example of this player's lack of polish is that the Photo menu presents a simple list of image file names instead of a group of thumbnails. There is no way to alter the interface, either, save for a few color tweaks in the Settings menu.
Photos and videos looked decent on the 4.3-inch (320 x 240-pixel resolution) widescreen display, but we would have preferred a brighter, more colorful LCD. Fortunately, the TFT screen kept reflections and glare to a minimum, and the viewing angles were good. We also appreciated the ability to toggle between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios, depending on whether we were watching TV shows or movies.
The PMP4320 supports most of the major video formats, including MPEG-4, MPEG-2, and DivX. Unlike competing video players, however, this device doesn't support WMV files or any DRM files. That means online video services such as Amazon Unbox, CinemaNow, and Vongo are off limits. On the plus side, you don't have to spring for a $99 module to record TV shows, as you do with the Archos 604. Coby includes a set of A/V cables for this purpose, as well as a set of A/V out cables for watching on the big screen. Unfortunately, you can't schedule recordings, so you'll have to manually press Record and Stop.
The PMP4320 comes with a simple but effective music-player app that displays artist information, song length, file name, and bitrate. Other audio perks include an FM tuner with recording capability, integrated speakers that deliver enough volume for kids in the backseat, and the ability to display song lyrics. Intuitive controls let you raise or lower the volume of songs or videos by pressing up or down on the D-pad. The Right and Left buttons move you forward or backward through your library but with obvious and annoying load times, most likely resulting from the slow processor. We often waited for the unit to play catch-up with our commands.
Oddly, you can't charge the PMP4320 via USB, which means you must carry the AC adapter when traveling. It also means that the player's battery drains while you're transferring content from your PC to the PMP. With real-world use playing both music and video, the PMP4320 lasted a very respectable nine hours on a charge.
The Coby V-ZON PMP4320 offers a lot of bang for the buck-and looks pretty good on the outside-but the execution should have been better.
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