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Oregon Scientific Waterproof MP3 Player and PedometerMP121 has FM radio built in
The business of marketing MP3 players is getting to be more difficult all the time, particularly if youre not selling iPods. Apples popular music players command such a gigantic market share, only scraps of the market are left over for other players. The solution to this dilemma is to offer niche products that accomplish specialized tasks. Oregon Scientific has done just that with its MP121 waterproof MP3 player with FM radio and built-in pedometer ($149.95). Now runners, walkers, skiers and even swimmers can enjoy high-fidelity music and keep track of their exercise progress at the same time.
When you push the power button on the Oregon Scientific MP121, youre greeted with a rich-looking blue screen which transitions into amber and then purple. Underneath the screen glows the Oregon Scientific logo, giving you the impression that this is not just any MP3 player. And its not. Its sealed up in such a way that you can immerse it in three feet of water for a half an hour and not worry about ruining anything. This smallish player, which measures just 2.72 x 2.07 x .83 inches, includes two separate headsets, one specifically designed for swimming with earplug-like earphones, and the other more-traditional earbuds.
As soon as I plugged in the included USB cable, the player promptly appeared on my computer screen, acting as if it were any other disk drive. To test the MP121, I quickly transferred music into it, noting that its 512MB internal flash drive can hold more than enough music for the average exercise session. Since my daily walk lasts approximately an hour, it only took me just a few seconds to transfer about 30 MP3 songs into the player via USB 2.0, enough to listen to music the whole way with plenty to spare. It was easy to drag and drop the songs into the folder, and then it was ready to go.
Next it was time for me to learn how to navigate the menus of this music player. Consulting the documentation, I was rather disappointed to see how sparse the instructions were on the use of this player. It was immediately obvious that Oregon Scientific spent little time considering its users, with whom I sympathize when theyre confronted with a device thats as complicated as this. Since this is a highly versatile device thats able to play music from both digital and FM sources, as well as function as an odometer, its operation is not immediately apparent. This is certainly not made easier by its labyrinthine menu system, which is difficult to fathom even for an electronics technology journalist and reviewer whos regularly encountered far more complicated devices than this. Shame on Oregon Scientific for not writing more thorough and user-friendly documentation for this complex product.
On the plus side, those three different-colored backlights?user-selectable between blue, amber and purple?do an excellent job of illuminating the LCD screen, which is not really a video screen but would be more accurately characterized as a large array of dots. Anyway, once I got used to its quirky menu system, I became more comfortable with using the MP121. Perhaps Ive been spoiled by Apples click-wheel technology, which is so intuitive that many peoples household pets could operate it. Not so with this Oregon Scientific player, but after a concerted effort it was possible to learn it and use it.
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