Given the troubles I talked about last week with my MP3 player, I decided to break down Monday and go to J&R to investigate Coby‘s PMP-3522. They actually had one on display with some battery power left that I was able to try out before I bought it. I was pretty impressed with it on the floor, but it had no price on it. I figured this would be the beginning of disaster, but I had my printout of the website price and was ready to defend my position if necessary. I found a sales clerk pretty quickly and asked for a price check. He told me it was $70, and I said I would take it.
I took it home and the first thing that impressed me was the sheer amount of cabling that was included. Most players try to nickel and dime you to get the additional cabling you need to actually use the product. This item came with no less than 5 cables and that’s not including the headphones that were included. The other thing I was pleased to see is that the USB was a standard mini-USB plug-in. This is a pretty common standard and I already have a couple of these cables lying around, so that was nice to see. The output cables seem proprietary, but I don’t plan on using these very much anyway.
The player itself has an impressive large touch screen, and a tucked away stylus to use on it. Movie playback is a joy. I watched The Princess Bride on it and it was a very nice experience. The quality of the output is very good and the sound was great.
This also applied to the audio I listened to. It all came across very nicely and some of the podcasts I listened to sounded better than on my previous player. Both audio and video players can remember where you last left off on the movie or audio you were on, so when you turn it back on, you can pick it up again.
The FM tuner was pretty good. It had a nice scan function that scanned the dial and marked the frequencies that had a quality connection. It was very easy to flip between stations. You do have to use headphones with the FM Radio as they serve as the antenna. Reception was acceptable but not stellar.
The games that come with this are not very good. If you are intending to get this for game play functionality, forget it. The 200+ word dictionary is good when you want to pronounce a word you know how to spell, but it is less good for spelling words you can’t remember how to spell. It has no spell check functions or anything to help in those situations.
The e-book reader, calculator and most oddly paint software are all adequate, but I don’t foresee myself using these features very often.
The battery life on this is pretty impressive. In watching The Princess Bride, I used the external speaker and turned up the brightness levels and still had significant battery power left after the credits rolled. I’m hopefully that the battery life for this item will continue, but since it is detachable, you could buy a new one to replace it.
Now, I will mention some of the problems that I’ve had with the player. Certain podcasts, for no observable reason that I’ve noticed, cause the player to crash. It also took a few tries to get the right format of videos playing from DVDs I had ripped. The instruction list a wide variety of formats that the player plays in, but I did have some trouble with some of them. Sometimes no video would be displayed and sometimes no sound. I did eventually find a reliable format, and when I did the movies ran very well. Just be sure to have a good conversion program at the ready. The conversion program provided by Coby did not run in Vista, but seemed to work fine in Windows XP. There are many fine conversion programs out there though. I’ve been using Handbrake for a while.
Amazingly, this item is completely incompatible with an Intel Mac. It won’t even see the player as a portable hard drive, which is quite a disappointment. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but is something you should be aware of.
Overall, I’m very impressed with this unit for the price I got it at. I wouldn’t pay it’s retail price of over $300, but for $70 it has a lot of functionality at a good quality.
Any questions on my review? Leave a comment here.
UPDATE: Since the time I bought this, it has been removed from J&R’s website. It is still available at Amazon, but either direct for over $300 or from a re-seller for about $150. At those prices, you are probably paying too much, but you may want to keep your eyes open to see if the price comes down again.