Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Playaway, review by Brendan

B just sent me a written review of his experience using the Playaway we bought last week:

My Review of the Playaway digital audio book.

I was skeptical at first. To be honest it looks a little cheap and is powered by a normal AA battery, but it wound up being very good. I have a couple of issues with the design. I found the earphones too big so I switched them out for my apple ear buds. The Apple ear buds are too big for most people I know so I doubt that these earphones would fit in most people. To minimize the number of buttons there is only one volume button, which to be honest you only really need to set once. This poses a problem that if you want to turn it down you have to go all the way up and blow out your ears to get to the lowest. The other buttons work well skip forward and back, fast-forward and rewind, and Play and pause all work well. I was nervous that there was no hold lock. I thought that when I tossed it into my bag the play button might get pressed and I would lose my spot or run down my battery, but that did not happen. You have to press the play button twice to activate it, once for it to load your last place, which takes a couple of seconds, and again to play. The buttons don’t seem too prone to accidental pressing.

The book that I was listing to was a double feature Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, by Road Dahl and read by Eric Idle. This gave me the opportunity to use another feature of the Playaway. While the first book is good and fun the Glass Elevator is not that great of a book so I used the speed up button. There are three speeds you can listen to book in, normal speed, one star, which is a little faster, and two stars, which is much faster. It speeds up the rate at which the book is played back. At first it sounds a little “chipmunky” but you get used to it real quick. This is such a cool feature. I wish I were able to do it with my iPod.

The one button I did not use was the bookmark button. I did not have to. It remembered exactly where I was when I restarted. I would be cool if it rewound a couple of seconds before you played so your not immediately thrown into new stuff, but that’s not that big of a deal.

Hears another kicker. I listened to both books, total time 7 hours (it is closer to 5.5 since I listen to the second double time); the battery is still _ full. If I was to listen to this on my iPod it would have taken 7 hours and I would have had to charge it at least once, or kept it plugged in. The price is comparable with both the CDs and the MP3s available from the iTunes music store.

The sound quality was quite good, but this book was rather short. I wonder if for longer books, like The DaVinci Code, if the storage inside is expanded or the audio is compressed. I don’t think it would be as good if it were more compressed and tinny.
To answer his last question, according to the Playaway website the audio is never compressed - the memory inside is expanded to accomodate longer books. And just to mention a previous point, some of the books are comprable pricing, but some Playaways are much more expensive than the ITunes version.

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