|| waphles on 09 Oct : 09:42
[re: [poll] winamp media library]
alright thanx alot... ill look into it
mellowhite on 08 Oct : 20:36
[thread: iSkin avalible]
The iSkin is now avalible! 30$ and you have color choices and their is a glow in the dark version. You can get it here L[..more]
bthall on 08 Oct : 13:06
[thread: Archos AV340 For Sale]
Archos AV340 in perfect working order. LINK
dura on 08 Oct : 10:24
[re: Etymotics ER-6 or Shure e2c?]
I listened to both MDR EX70 & 71 for two years.
Fine headphones, comfortable (could wear them for 14 hrs!), not too[..more]
dura on 08 Oct : 10:15
[re: Got the NW-HD1, first impressions]
When the ipod was more expensive then its competitor, everyone explained it with quality. LINK [ Edited Fri Oct 08 2004, 1[..more]
Gateway DMP-X20 Full Review
by Austin Vaughan on Thursday 30 September 2004
For Christmas I had the oppurtunity to add another DAP to my collection. I was considering the iRiver iHP-120 most of all, but also the Creative Zen Xtra, the Rio Karma, and in the end, the Gateway DMP-X20. The Gateway model just went on sale this month (December).
I went down to the local Gateway store to check it out. Only one display unit there, but they let me play with it. I loved the way it looked, and the screen and controls were top-notch. It was smaller than it looked from the pics on Gateway's site. I found it very easy to handle and navigate through the GUI. I didn't have a chance to listen to it, but I decided that I had to have one. I ordered from Gateway's website, and it was at my house in 3 days.
First, let's run down the main features of the Gateway DMP-X20:
- MP3, WMA, Audible support
- 20gb capacity
- ~10 hour playback per charge
- Internal, rechargeable Lithium battery (Non-removable, possibly replaceable)
- 2.5" (diagonal) mono LCD (160x128 pixel) with blue backlight
- 16mb flash memory buffer
- FM radio with 12 user-selectable presets
- Voice recording with built-in mic
- USB2.0 (backwards compatible with USB1.1)
- Retail package includes in-line remote control and protective case
- Size: 3.99" x 2.64" x 0.83" inches
- Weight: 7.7 ounces
- Mass Storage device support
- 3.5mm headphone output
- compatible with Windows-based PCs
- On-the-fly playlisting
- Drum-wheel style controller for navigation & volume control
- Built-in clock
• Package Contents
The retail package is a fairly plain paper box in plastic shrink-wrap. I was relieved that it was not one of those thick plastic "blister-packs" you get with Creative, Rio, and iRiver products. Inside I found: the DMP-X20 player, Carrying case with belt clip, earhugger-style headphones, an in-line remote, install CD, AC power supply, USB2 cable, 3.5mm mini-jack to RCA-jack cable, the User's Guide, a User's Guide Update (just a slip of paper), Limited warrantee card, and a quick-start guide. That's a solid list of included accessories, nothing left wanting. These are discussed in more detail later. Everything was in good condition.
Software installation was very easy and the whole process took only 5 minutes. My PC is a home-built, 2gHz AMD machine running Windows XP Pro. I took the install CD, shoved it in, the install program started, and it installed Windows Media Player 9 and the Gateway DMP-X20 plug-in driver for WMP9. No hiccups.
• Build quality, Hardware
After ripping it out the package, the first thing I did was inspect the unit's construction and build quality. I expect a good fit 'n finish, and I was not disapointed. My first impression, is that it is very close in size to my 2nd generation iPod. A side-by-side comparison confirms this. It's a few millimeters wider and taller, but still, the size is acceptably compact. It is a little heavy at almost 8 ounces, but it has a solid, strong feel to it. There is no body flex. All the buttons and controls have a respectable firmness to them. Only the ON/OFF switch has a little wiggle to it.
• Construction and Layout
The back side of the player is metal, coated with scratch-resistant black paint. The front bezel is a polished steel alloy, I believe. The face of the unit is mirrored, with a plastic (Lexan?) protective layer. All the buttons are metal. There are rubber port-coverings for both the mini-USB port (top) and the Power input (left side). The main controller is a drum-style wheel for use with your thumb. Right above the drum-wheel is a play/pause button, and right below it is the "back" button. Around the circular perimeter of the control are 4 buttons: Mode, Menu, FF/Next, and RW/Previous. The Mode button switches between MP3 mode and FM Radio mode.
There is also a Record button off to the left-hand side of the controller. On the right-hand side of the controller is a small microphone opening. There are 2 mini torx-screws on each the right and left hand sides of the unit that hold the base and the face of the player together. The On/Hold/Off switch, mini-USB port, and 3.5mm headphone jack are located on the top side. The bottom side has only the Model and serial number. The screen is obviously large for a player of this size, bigger then the iPod's screen when I put them next to each other. Between the main controller and the screen is a holographic (rainbow-colored) Gateway logo. Very nice.
One of the main selling points for me was the design of the DMP-X20. It has a familiar layout with screen up top and controls on the bottom half, like the iPod. The most striking features are the mirrored face, large screen, chrome trim, and drum-wheel controller. It has a sexy, contemporary appearance. This inspires the same kind of pride in ownership that you get with a new iPod.
The large, high-resolution LCD is the best of any DAP I've seen. It's both sharp and easy to read. The backlight is bright and uniform. It looks blue in normal light and purple under fluorescent lighting.
The scroll wheel deserves attention. This is my favorite style controller for navigation and volume control, rivaling the iPod's touch-wheel. It has a smooth roll and firm clicking-action. You can adjust volume quickly and precisely. This is useful for me at work since some songs play louder than others. It feels like an analog-style volume knob. Much better than the separate UP/DOWN buttons you find on most players.
My only beef with Gateway's design is the On/Hold/Off Switch which is a sliding mechanism. I would prefer an independent lock button (disables button input, for instance, while it rides in your pocket). Also an On/Off Button would be preferable to a sliding switch. If the player turns itself off from inactivity (idle time is adjustable), then the sliding switch is still left in the ON position. You have to slide it OFF and ON again to restart it.
I find the controls on the DMP-X20 easier to use than Apple's iPod, especially the new iPods (version 3). The iPod combines a Play/Pause/On/Off button, and a Menu/Back button. I find it much more convenient to have a separate Menu, Back, and Play/Pause controls like Gateway's player. The new iPods have touch-sensitive controls that are finicky to operate. They may be less prone to failure than mechanical controls, but I prefer tactile response. iPods do have a seperate Lock (hold) switch, however.
The DMP-X20 uses an internal Lithium-Ion battery, the rechargeable type. This not the kind of battery you can change out or easily replace. The reason for this design is that helps keep the overall size (and cost) of the player to a minimum. The iPod and most other drive-based DAPs share this configuration. There is a negative side to this approach:
- If you run out of juice when you're away from an AC Outlet (or your AC Power adapter), there's no way to pop in new batteries.
- All rechargable batteries degrade over time. Some can be rated for hundreds of charge cycles, but eventually, the battery will not hold a charge. If (when) the battery dies, and there is no way to replace it, then the player becomes useless as a portable. Disposable even. The iPod has been in circulation long enough that some people have allready experienced this problem. Apple got enough complaints about it that they now offer a battery replacement service for $99.
- Gateway has not announced any battery replacement program on thier website. However, I have reports that Gateway Technical Support will replace the DMP-X20 battery for $80. This requires shipping the player back to Gateway.
The large screen, easy navigation/volume controller, and simple GUI makes this the best player in my collection for use while driving. Superior to iPod for this purpose.
The mirrored finish is nice, but it does pick up fingerprints and smudges quite easily, just like the back of an iPod. Not a big deal and I wouldn't change it. A classy and functional design.
• OS and GUI
The Gateway DMP-X20 runs on e.Digital's MicroOS, according to the "About" screen from the Main Menu. Version 1.96HM came loaded on my unit. The Copyright however says Gateway. Whatever the case is, the Graphic User Interface (GUI) is... basic. Functional, but nothing fancy. The simple menus remind me of iPod's GUI. No pretty graphics or icons, just text. The font is bolded and easy to read, and allows for 8 lines of text plus the Screen Header (Main Menu, Track List, etc). The OS feels quick and responsive. The player boots to the Main Menu in just a few seconds.
The software used in the DMP-X20 has been extremely stable. I have not experienced any lockups, unusual behavior, or other random glitches you sometimes get with new a brand new player. Good job on Gateway's part. Rio Karma owners were not so lucky. The only weird thing I experienced was when my headphones were not 100% seated in the headphone port. In that case, the headphone plug can make contact with part of the headhphone jack that is normally used by the in-line remote, which can in turn make the player stop playing or jump to next track. Just make sure the headphone plug is securely seated and there's no problem.
Ease of Use
After playing with the DMP-X20 for about a week, I will say that the GUI and menu system is as easy to navigate as the Apple iPod, which is an accomplishment. Anyone can pick this thing up and figure it out in a minute.
• Menu Structure
Main Menu (Hit MENU button from any screen)
(Scroll down to get to bottom of Menu)
- (Hit Mode Button to go to FM Radio)
- (Hit Menu Button to go to Now Playing Screen)
- Resume Last Track
- Displayed: Available Playlists (Alphabetical)
- (Select existing playlist)
- Delete Playlist
- Add Track to Playlist
- (choose Track from list of all tracks)
- Add Album to Playlist
- (choose Album from list of all albums)
- Add Artist to Playlist
- (choose Artist from list of all Artists)
- Displayed: Available tracks within that Playlist (Alphabetical)
- Create New Playlist
- Audible Audio
- Displayed: Available Audible files (Alphabetical)
- (Select existing Audible files)
- Voice Recordings
- Music Bookmarks
- Displayed: Music Bookmarks
- (Select Bookmark from list)
- Audible Bookmarks
- Displayed: Audible Bookmarks
- (Select Bookmark from list)
- Flat, Rock, Jazz, Classical, Dance, or User
- My EQ
- Lower Frequency
- Low Frequency
- Mid Frequency
- High Frequency
- Higher Frequency
- Select Always Off, 1,2,5,10,20,30,60 seconds, Always On
- Text Display Speed
- Play Mode
- Play, Repeat, Shuffle, Intro
- Auto Power Timer
- Always On, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 minutes
- Mic Sensitivity
- FM step size
- Reset the settings
- Displayed: File system, Used space, Free space, Capacity
- Reformat the player
- Displayed: Company & Model Name, OS version, Copyright
Play Screen (Hit MENU button from Main Menu)
- Displayed: Track Time Elapsed, Track Time Remaining, Time, Battery Meter, Play Mode, Play/Pause symbol, Artist, Album, Track # (in current list)
- (use drum-scroller to adjust volume)
- (Click drum-scroller for Hot Tracks screen)
- Add to Bookmark
- Add Track to Playlist
- Add Album to Playlist
- Add Artist to Playlist
- (Hit Menu Button to go to Main Menu)
- (Hit Back Button to go to last list)
FM Mode (Hit MODE button from Main Menu, wait 5 seconds)
- Displayed: Volume, Time, Battery Meter, Preset #, FM Station #
- (Click drum-scroller)
- Displayed: Available Presets
- (Select Available Preset to skip to it)
- (Select Empty Preset Slot, Click drum-scroller, hold 2 seconds - saves Station #)
Recording Mode (Hit REC button from Main Menu)
- (Recording automatically starts)
- Displayed: Time Elapsed, Time Remaining, Battery Meter, File Name (Current Date/Time), "Press Record Key to Stop"
- (Hit Record Key to Stop)
• Browsing Music
The thing you'll end up doing most with your player, aside from listening, is flipping through all the music you have loaded. It's important to have it organized in a useful, efficient, and easy-to-navigate manor. The Gateway DMP-X20 does well on all accounts. You can browse all the audio files loaded on the player by Playlist, Artist, Album, Track title, Genre, Audible files, or Recordings. These selections are all available directly from the Main Menu. Most MP3 players have similar options nested under "Music Library" or "Browse" from the Main Menu, but the Gateway player skips that step. A nice change, I think. Lists of Artists, Albums, Tracks, etc are all in Alphabetical order. The alphabetical listing scheme is fine for most lists, except that it affects the tracks listed in an Album as well. In other words, when you want to play an album, it does not list and play them in the same order as the original CD, instead, it lists and plays albums in alphabetical order. The issue is discussed in more detail at the end of this article.
The dynamic music library on the DMP-X20 is possible because it uses an "ID3 tag database" to index the audio files, built from the ID3 tag data contained within each MP3 file. ID3 tags are just bits stored within the MP3 file that contain information like the artist's name, album name, track title, track #, genre, year, etc. When you rip a CD to MP3, that software can query one of the internet album databases and fill this information into each MP3 file for you. You can also add or change the tag data in any MP3 file yourself using Tag-Editor software on your PC. MP3s downloaded off the internet often have missing or incomplete tag data so you may need to manually correct them. Why bother? Here's an example: an MP3 player will see the artist "Doors" and "The Doors" and 2 separate Artists. If your files are tagged erratically, it makes for a messy music library on your MP3 player, and it can be hard to find what you want. It's usually worth spending the time to get your MP3's tagged accurately. Just about all high-capacity MP3 players use an ID3-tag database.
The tag database is automatically created and updated by Windows Media Player 9 when you load music onto the player.
A good shareware Tag Editor, the one I use, is MP3 Tag Studio. A good site to find information you may need to fill in holes in a track's ID3 tag, is allmusic.com
A couple more details to note about the browsing through the system... When browsing lists (Genre's, Artists, Albums, etc), you can loop from the top (A) to the bottom (Z) and back. For text items that are too long to fit onscreen, when you highlight them, the text starts to scroll (left to right) so you can read the whole thing. The scrolling is fast and smooth. This is most useful for long song titles. These features are noticeably missing from the iPod. Also note that the drum-wheel controller is speed-sensitive, so the faster you roll it, the faster you will scroll down a list. Gateway hit the mark.
• Sound Quality
It doesn't matter how many slick features a DAP has unless it sounds good. Sound Quality is the most important attribute for many people, and it's high on my list too. MP3 players are kind of limited by their nature since they run on compressed music, but they can still sound great and the portability is unbeatable. They are most useful in places away from home where ambient noise would probably nullify the difference between a properly-encoded MP3 and the original CD.
There are 3 main factors that will affect the apparent sound quality:
- The quality of the MP3s. The same audio track ripped from a CD can sound like FM radio (at ~96kbs bitrate) or close to CD (~192kbs). The best way to convert CDs to MP3s is documented HERE, using EAC and LAME software (both freeware).
- The quality of the headphones. Headphones are every bit as important as the player itself. Don't bother using the cheap earbuds that come with this or any other portable audio player. Visit the Head-Fi.com forums to learn more about headphones and portable audio gear. Some low-cost suggestions: Sennheiser MX500 ($20), Koss KSC-35 or PortaPros ($35), Grado SR60/SR80 ($60-$90), or Sony V6/7506($70-100). I highly recommend audiophile-quality monitors: Etymotic ER4S ($300).
- The sonic qualities of the player itself. MP3 players each have different components and circuit designs that affect how they sound. What I want is a player that is as neutral as possible so that the audio is not "colored". I want music to sound full and dynamic. What I don't want to hear is excessive background noise (hiss). Manufacturers try to quantisize these qualities with an SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) rating... but we don't know thier testing methods and we can't verify the results, so don't bother with it. The best way to pick the good ones is to use your own ears.
So, I have to recommend you try this player out for yourself to decide on its sound quality. Check for a local Gateway store, or order one to demo in your home - if you don't like it you can return it, but there is a 15% restocking fee.
With that said, the Gateway DMP-X20 sounds excellent. I've been listening to it for about a week and it's been very enjoyable. No complaints. I will say that it leans towards the "bright" side.
I also tested the DMP-X20 against my 2nd generation iPod by loading the same MP3 files on both players. They sound much alike, but I prefer the iPod by a small margin. It was hard to nail down why, but I found a track that illustrates the difference. Playing "Comfortable Liar" by Chevelle, the iPod has deeper, better extended bass and more "punch" to it. The iPod had me more involved (foot-tapping, head-bobbing kind of stuff). I'm not an iPod-zealot by any means, but it's a hard one to beat. Again, the differences are slight, and I suspect most people would not be able to tell the difference.
The DMP-X20 used in this review was tested with MP3s created with EAC and LAME (-APS), and headphones including Sennheiser MX500, Koss KSC-35, Sony EX71SL, and Etymotic ER4S.
• Loading music, Required software
This is a weak point of the DMP-X20 experience. You absolutely have to use Windows Media Player 9 (WMP9), with Gateway plug-in driver, in order to load music onto or off of the player. Granted, it's better than MusicMatch Jukebox that Dell sticks you with (on the Dell DJ), but still, I'd prefer something else. Preferably no software or drivers at all. Some models have a Mass Storage Device interface wehre you can plug it into any computer, and simply drag 'n drop music to (and from) the player. This is a more difficult task for players using an ID3-tag database, but it can be done (like the iRiver iHP-120). WMP9 is just a clunky program that I've never had use for. Microsoft could have streamlined this thing and made it a little more user-friendly, but you know, it's Microsoft.
Anyway, using WMP9 to load music onto the DMP-X20 is easy enough. Here's all you gotta do:
- Turn on player, plug it in via USB.
- Start WMP9.
- On the taskbar on the left-hand side of the screen, select "Copy to CD or Device".
- A dialogue box will pop up, asking if you want to "Reconcile the DMP-X player's music database?" - Select Cancel.
- On the right-hand panel, go to the top drop-down box, and select the Gateway DMP-X20 player from the list of devices.
- Now, On the left-hand side panel, either A) drag and drop some music from Windows Explorer, or B) use the drop-down box to search your hard drive for some music files. You will see the selected music appear under the "Items to Copy" column.
- In the very upper-left hand side of the screen, hit the Copy button.
- Watch as each file is transfers. Woohoo!
- Close WMP9.
- Disconnect the player properly. Turn it on. Enjoy.
In all fairness this is about as easy as using Creative's MediaSource, or Rio's Music Manager. Using iTunes with iPod is a little easier, considering you can simply drag and drop music files to the program and they will automatically transfer to the iPod.
For some people this may be easier...
- Turn on player, plug it in via USB.
- Start Windows File Explorer (hint: Go to Start > Run > type explorer)
- Click on My Computer to expand the list of connected devices.
- You will see the Gateway DMP-X20 player show up as an external drive (labeled as Local Disk)
- You can now drag and drop music and/or data files, or folders full music and/or data files to the player.
- After it finishes copying, load WMP9.
- On the taskbar on the left-hand side of the screen, select "Copy to CD or Device".
- A dialogue box will pop up, asking if you want to "Reconcile the DMP-X player's music database?" - Select OK.
- The software will then search the player for new music files and rebuild the ID3 tag database.
- When reconciling is done, you can close WMP9
- Disconnect the player properly. Turn it on. Enjoy.
Note that this last method is also how you load plain data files onto the player, except that you don't need to bother with WMP9 or reconciling.
The DMP-X20 has a USB2 interface, which is backwards compatible with USB1.1. As already discussed, transfers are made through the Windows Media Player software. My PC uses an Asus nForce2 motherboard, complete with onboard USB2 ports. Transferring music to the Gateway player is extremely fast, about 1-2 seconds per 5mb (average) track. Transfers from iTunes to iPod (over Firewire) is faster, but the difference is negligible. No complaints here. One quirky thing I noticed was that after you plug in the mini-USB head to the Gateway player, it will display a message indicating low-battery for transfers, UNLESS the AC power cable is plugged in. It doesn't matter if the player was just fully charged, that same message appears until you feed it AC power. However, it doesn't really matter if the power is plugged in or not as long as it has enough juice.
• Feature Spotlight
Radio is not my thing, but it's nice to have. To get to the FM radio, go to the Main Menu and hit the Mode button. Switching between MP3 player mode and Radio mode takes about 5 seconds. Once there, the current frequency shows up in the middle of the screen. There is a signal strength meter next to it. The current preset number, Time, and Volume level are also displayed. Click the scroll wheel to bring up the list of Preset stations. Or user the Next and Previous buttons to change frequencies. Holding the Next or Previous button down for a second starts it scanning for the next station. If you want to save the current station into the Presets, then click to bring up the list of presets, select a slot (12 available) you want to save it in, then click and hold down the scroller for 2 seconds. How is the quality? It's OK. I get all the local stations I want and they are reasonably clear. I have heard better fidelity from the same FM stations on an iRiver iFP-300 series MP3 player. I don't use the radio much myself, so it's not an issue.
The DMP-X20 offers voice recording in WAV format, 16 bits @ 8.01 kHz Mono. Gateway says this means approximately 1MB of storage per minute, and 1GB holds over 16 hours of voice recordings. There is an small hole to right of the controls where the internal mic is located. There is no support for an external microphone. I've used this feature, and it works well enough, but it is rather basic. There are no level meters during the recording. There is a small red button to the left of the main controls that activates the recording. Hit that button, and it takes a few seconds to switch to that mode, and it automatically starts recording. Recordings are saved as filenames taken from the current date and time. For instance, "03DEC28_02_41_42". You can access the list of saved recordings from the Main Menu, under Voice Recordings. You can transfer these recordings off the player to your PC from the Windows File Explorer. Go to Start > Run > type explorer. Click on My Computer and you get a list of available devices. The DMP-X20 shows up as "Local Disk". Select it and go to the My Records directory, and under that is the Voice directory. Here your WAV files are saved. Now just drag and drop them to your computer's hard drive.
In the player's settings, you can set the headphone output to either "Headphone Out" or "Line-Out". Gateway says you should set it to Line-Out when connecting it to your home stereo, so you can control volume from the stereo. Basically, all the Line-Out feature does on the DMP-X20 is disable volume control on the player. This is not a true Line-Out feature in the traditional sense. For other audio products, the purpose of a Line-Out is to provide a separate signal path from the source audio, a signal that doesn't go through the product's built-in amplifier. This provides a superior signal that can be coupled to an external, high-quality amplifier. To provide a Line-Out signal they use a completely separate output port. There are several MP3 players with a dedicated Line-Out port, including the Nomad Jukebox 3, Rio Karma (on the base), iPod version 3 (base), iRiver iHP-100/120, and others. Even so, this feature still has a legitimate use when connected to your home stereo, to keep your speakers from getting blown out if the player's volume was accidently cranked up.
This only warrants a brief mention, but the DMP-X20 has a feature called Visuals that was turned on by default. With it on, the Now Playing screen shows an animated hourglass icon and level meters. The level meters didn't seem to correspond to the current music and the hourglass was unnecessary so I turned this feature OFF. If anything, they could add digital VU-meters like on the Rio Karma.
The bookmark feature lets you name a point in any song or audio book that you want to want to return to, directly. To set a bookmark while listening to a track, go to the Now Playing screen and click the scroller. The Bookmarking and Playlisting options pop up. Select "Add to Bookmark" and the next screen will display the track name and bookmark time. Click it again to Save. The saved bookmarks are available from the Main Menu, under Bookmarks. Easy enough.
The playlisting features of the DMP-X20 are impressive. It supports playlists imported from Windows Media Player 9 and it supports building playlists "on-the-fly". This means that you can create and edit playlists on the player itself, even as you are listening to music.
From the Main Menu, you can select Playlists. This takes you to the list of playlists and the option to Create New Playlist. If you create a new one, you are prompted to enter its name. You use the scroll-wheel to select letters and use the Next button to go to the next character. When all characters are entered, click the Scroll Wheel. Now you can Add Tracks, Add Albums, or Add Artists. Adding an Album or Artist adds all the tracks under that album or artist. A nice touch is that you can select multiple tracks, artists, or albums at the same time. For instance, when looking at a list of tracks to add to your playlist, you select one and it puts an arrow next to it, indicating you've already added it, then and you can continue to go through the list and add others. It puts an arrow next to each one you select. Hit the back key to return to the playlist and see all the tracks you've added. You can then select tracks in the playlist and move them up or down in the list or delete them. Even if you are currently listening to a playlist, you can add to, remove from, and reorder tracks in that playlist. You have the option to delete any playlist and start over.
You can also add a track to any playlist from the Now Playing screen. When playing a track, click the scroller and several options come up: Add to Bookmark, Add Track to playlist, Add Album to playlist, or Add Artist to playlist. If you choose to add it to a playlist, you get a list of available playlist names or you can Create a new one.
You can use and access all the playlisting features while listening to music, with no interruption.
The only drawback here is that the DMP-X20 only supports 20 playlists. This wouldn't be such a big deal but you need playlists to make any album play in an order other then alphabetical. This problem is discussed later in the review.
Overall, this is a good playlisting system. The only better one I've seen is on Creative's Nomad players. The main advantage of the Nomad system is that when albums or artists are added to a playlist, those tracks are nested under the name of the Artist or Album. On the DMP-X20 it simply dumps all the individual tracks from an Album or Artist into the playlist, so playlists can get very long and messy. With the DMP-X20 you have to delete tracks from a playlist individually, whereas on the Nomad players you can remove Artists and Albums (nested) in one swoop.
I prefer the leave my players on a flat EQ setting, but being able to customize the EQ is an important feature for some people. The DMP-X20 has a few EQ presets (Flat, Rock, Jazz, Classical, Dance) or you can set your own. From the Main Menu, Go to Settings > Sound and you can pick EQ or My EQ. Under My EQ, There is 5 bands that you can adjust. Strangely, the bands are not listed by actual frequencies. Instead, you can choose Lower Frequency, Low Frequency, Mid Frequency, High Frequency, or Higher Frequency. You can select them and adjust them from -5 to +5. For me, the DMP-X20 sounds great without adjusting the EQ, so I won't be using it.
Mass Storage Device
Besides playing music, the DMP-X20 doubles as an external hard drive and you can store any kind of file on it. Mass Storage Device support means that it does not require software or drivers to use this function on any (Windows) PC with USB. Just plug in through USB, and it shows up in Windows File Explorer as "Local Disk". You can drag and drop files to and from the player. If you drag music to the device, you will need to run the Reconcile function in Windows Media Player 9 before the player will index that music into your library. iPod and iRiver players share this ability, but Rio and Creative players require special software to use them like an external drive.
The hardware is set in stone, but there are still enhancements can be made to the player's software (firmware). Hopefully Gateway will listen to thier customers' requests and continue development. Creative, Rio, and iRiver are well-known for providing new features for thier exisiting models. Apple, however, has earned a bad reputation for iPod software support. Here are some features that I would like to see added to Gateway DMP-X20:
- Ability to select an Album to play, and have songs on that album playback in the sequence specified by the ID3 tags within those songs... without having to build a playlist.
- Ability to delete music tracks, albums, and artists directly from the player itself. This is useful after dumping a lot of new music on a player. It's handy to be able to delete songs I don't like as I listen to the new music. It can be a hassle to keep a separate list of tracks or albums that I want to delete later. The Nomad Jukebox supports this but the iPod does not.
- OGG codec support. OGG Vorbis (OGG) is a newer compression format that works just like MP3, but it's completely open and patent-free. It's more advanced than MP3, producing better quality audio at smaller file sizes. MP3 works well enough, and the number of devices that support it is unequaled, but OGG may supplant it eventually. There is enough demand for OGG that several manufacturers have added support to their players, including the Rio Karma and the iRiver iHP100/120. Here is a FAQ about the Ogg Vorbis format.
- Ability to read Text files on the player. With such a large and detailed screen, it would be useful to be able to read books and notes while listening to music. A few other players support this including iPod and iRiver iHP-100/120.
- ustomizable startup screen. The Gateway Logo on startup is plain. I'd rather have my own startup graphic, like I can on my Nomad Jukebox 3 boot screen. But, not a big deal.
- Reconcile function on the player itself. This would allow true independance from Windows Media Player 9 or any other software. The iRiver iHP-100/120 support this feature - you can use Windows File Explorer to drag and drop music to the player, and the player can then scan its own hard drive for new music and build its own ID3 tag database. Complex, but it can be done.
• The Accessories
Product Manual, CD, Quick Start Guide
- Boring, average, not very detailed. The product is simple enough that you don't really need them.
AC Power adapter
- Light and compact.
- Input: 100-240Vac, 50-60Hz, 0.5A Max.
- Output: +5Vdc @ 1.5A
- Made by Spec Lin Enterprises Co Ltd, China. UL, CE certified.
- Yup, it's a USB2 cable. Terminates to a mini-usb head on the side that plugs into the DMP-X20.
3.5mm mini-jack to RCA-plug cable
- Use this to connect the player to your home stereo. Low quality, Radio-Shack type cable. But hey, it's free, and most players don't come with one.
- I haven't seen this style earbud included with any player so far, but that doesn't make them any better. Toss them in your closet and get a real set of cans. Visit www.Head-Fi.org to learn more about headphones and portable audio gear.
- Simple, basic design. NO LCD. Plastic construction. Very light. Has a clip on the back, also plastic. You step on this thing, and its a goner.
- The remote terminates to a 3.5mm mini-jack that goes into the regular headphone port on the player.
- Controls include Play/Pause, FF/Next, RW/Previous, Stop, a Volume Dial, and a sliding Lock Switch.
- NOTE: In testing the in-line remote, I feel it slightly reduces the sound quality. This is probably due to the internal resistor used with the volume control dial. The difference is small, but at home, you're not going to want it plugged in.
- This is the highlight of all the accessories. Gateway includes a high-quality case with belt clip and velco-closing top. There are cutouts on the front for both the screen and thumb controls. The case is thick reinforced nylon with quality stitching. Feels sturdy. There is a cutout on the top flap for the headphone port, but not for the USB port or ON/HOLD/OFF Switch. There is no cutout on the side for the AC port either. If these are a big deal to you, just break out your Xacto knife and do a little customizing. Since there is no protective plastic over the screen viewing area, so you may want to pick up some of those PDA-screen protectors and cut them down to size. This same kind of case for the iPod would run you an additional $20-30.
This kind of thing is hard to quantify, but I can vouch for the DMP-X20's durability.
There I was, sitting at my desk, headphones on, attached to the Gateway player on the desk next to me. I'm sure I had a reason, but I got up quickly.... and *shoom* the player goes flying off the desk. We're talking about a 1 meter drop to my hardwood floor. Can you imagine the horror? But all is well. Not a scratch, not a problem.
By the way, all my drive-based DAPs have suffered similar shock from time to time. These things are tough, I tell ya.
• Comparison to e.Digital Odyssey 1000
I mentioned this earlier, but the Gateway model is based on a design from the California-based e.Digital company. The e.Digital player was called the Odyssey 1000 (O1000) and went on sale April 2003. I had been eagerly waiting for this model for about a year, and was one of the first people to buy one. e.Digital's previous audio players were... primitive and ugly, but this one looked great. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations, and I eventually eBay'd the thing.
HERE is my original notes on the Odyssey 1000.
- Size: 73.5 x 111.5 x 27.6mm (4.39 x 2.89 x 1.09 inches)
- Weight: 233 grams (8.2 ounces)
- 160x128 LCD with blue backlight
- 20gb capacity, using a standard 2.5" notebook-style hard drive
- Internal, rechargeable battery (non-removable, factory-replaceable)
- 10 hours playback per charge
- Support MP3, WMA codec only
- Voice recording
- VoiceNav (natural voice recognition for navigation & playback)
- SRS WOW bass effect
- No software required to load music (Drag n Drop with Windows Explorer, use Reconcile function on player)
- FM Radio with 12 presets
- NO ID3 TAG DATABASE
- Long boot-up (10-15 seconds)
- The included case was functional, but cheap 'n ugly (IMO)
- No capability for remote
- The way you had to store music on the player was overly-restrictive. Music MUST be stored in 2nd-tier Directories (example: ROOT:\JACKSON\THRILLER\billyjean.mp3)
- New Firmware offers some improvements. Originally there was no ID3 tag support at all, but now it displays basic ID3 tag data in the Now Playing screen. Also the issue with the Back button not functioning in the Now Playing screen has been addressed.
- Expensive at $350/20gb. Creative's Nomad Zen (20gb) was selling for about $250 at that time.
Compare to the Gateway DMP-X20 Specs
The DMP-X20 is smaller, lighter, and of better quality all-around. The smaller dimensions are possible because the Gateway player uses a 1.8" hard drive versus the 2.5" drive used in the O1000. Both have a mirrored face, but the Odyssey had a plastic bezel and polished steel base. The LCD looks identical on both models. The controls are almost the same, the only change being the play/pause button which is located directly above the scroller on the DMP-X20. The AC power input, USB port, and headphone port are in the same locations. The DMP-X20 supports an in-line remote where the Odyssey did not. The Gateway's GUI is its own, but retains much of the Odyssey's look and feel. Check out the O1000 Product Manual to see what I mean. The biggest difference between them (in function) is that the Gateway model supports an ID3 tag database, like other modern players. The DMP-X20 boots to the Main Menu considerably faster (3-5 seconds). Gateway includes a higher-quality case with their model, and a better return policy. The one advantage the Odyssey has over the DMP-X20 is that the O1000 does not require any special software to load music (using the onboard Reconcile feature), while Gateway's player does require Windows Media Play 9.
e.Digital recently discontinued the Odyssey 1000, so you'll only find them on eBay. Gateway may have rights to the design now. I'm not sure which entity will be providing firmware support.
• Screen Flicker
Straight out of the box, I flipped the player on, and the first thing I noticed was that it has a slight defect: the backlight flickered in intensity. Enough that it made my eyes hurt to stare at it. Annoying, but otherwise the player appeared to function normally. I thought maybe it wasn't charged up correctly. I plugged in the AC Power, and yet, the screen continued to waver. I decided to let it fully charge and then check it again. Ahh, the pain of waiting to play with a new toy. A few hours later, it was done, and to my dismay the issue persisted.
I sent an email to Gateway requesting an exchange. Tech Support advised I should try this: leave it on and let the power drain completely, then charge it completely again. I did this, and it appears to have resolved the flickering screen. I am still watching for any signs, but so far, it has not re-occured.
• Album Playback Order
I did find one issue that is cause for concern.
Albums do not play in the track order that they are tagged. After selecting an Album to listen to, you will find that all the tracks are listed alphabetically. Regular Play mode goes through them from the top down. There is no setting for it to play an album in the same order as the tracks are listed on the original CD. Basically, having an album play in alphabetical order by default is the same thing as shuffle play... except that you can't turn it off.
This may sound like a minor issue at first, but really, it's vital to play many kinds of albums in the same sequential order that they appear on the CD. This includes classical pieces, stand up comedy, audiobooks, live concerts, theatre, continuous trance/techno mixes, nature recordings, etc...
All the information a player needs to playback an album in the right order are contained in the MP3 files themselves, in the ID3 tag data. As I described earlier, ID3 tags are bits within an MP3 file that contain information about Artist, Album, Track #, Title, Genre, and other relevant information. MP3 players use this data to index the music and to determine the playback order of an album. All my MP3's are already tagged with Artist, Album, Track #, and Title... but they still don't play back in the right order.
On my other MP3 players, after selecting an album to play, it will list and play the included tracks in the correct album order. They do this natively. After you transfer albums to the player, there is no additional work you need to do to listen to the tracks in the right order (assuming the track #s are correctly tagged).
Here is an example of how the iPod handles this. After selecting an Artist, you can choose All Tracks (alphabetical) or you can choose from a list of albums. Selecting an Album brings up a track listing for that album in the correct order. Creative and Rio players work in a similar fashion.
There is a work-around solution. You can make a playlist for each album. For me, this is an unnecessary hassle.
First of all, there is a problem with relying on playlists because the DMP-X20 supports A MAXIMUM OF 20 PLAYLISTS. If you have more than 20 albums to playback in order, tough luck. [NOTE - New firmware 02/2004 claims support for 4000 playlists]
In addition, having to use a playlist for each album defeats the usefulness of an ID3-tag database. Playlists are not nested under an Artist's album and track listing. For instance, normally people browse by first looking through the list of Artists, selecting one, then a list of his albums and tracks comes up. They pick an album, and it should play in order. A problem with having to use playlists (to hear albums in the right order), is that playlists don't show up under an Artist's list of albums and tracks. Even if you have a playlist called "Thriller", it won't show up under the Artist "Michael Jackson"... instead you have to go to the Main Menu, choose Playlists, and then browse through just the playlists that are loaded. I hope you can remember which playlist goes to which artist and album, because that's not displayed until you start playing one. I imagine this could get confusing.
I am aggravated with this issue. I looked through the Product Manual before I purchased the DMP-X20, but it failed to mention that you need to use playlists to get an album to play in the right order. I don't see how they missed this during R&D. A simple comparison with similar MP3 players makes it obvious. I don't have to mess with making playlists for every album on my other players. Correct playback order is a basic feature of Apple, Creative, and Rio players.
I confirmed this issue with another DMP-X20 owner, and with Gateway Customer Support as well. Here was their response:
"Thank you for using Gateway's Online E-mail Support. From your e-mail, I understand that when you try to play the music files stored on the Gateway DMP-X20 20 GB Digital Jukebox Player, the jukebox player plays the tracks in alphabetical order. Also, I understand that the player does not play the tracks in the order the tracks are present on CD, unless you make a playlist of the album."
"Austin, the Gateway DMP-X20 20 GB Digital Jukebox Player requires playlist to be created if you want the tracks to be played in particular order. You need to create playlist for all the tracks, that needs to be played in some order; as, the player is configured to play tracks in alphabetical order by default."
So... what now?
I say, Gateway should produce a firmware patch that supports playback of tracks within an album in the order that they are tagged. Owners could then download this and update their player. I will present the request to Gateway, but there is no telling if or when they will address it. If you feel the same way about this issue, please send an email to Gateway and let them know. The best way to get thier attention is with overwhelming demand.
I brought this up in a thread at Head-Fi.org where more than 100 active users have a drive-based DAP. In a poll, most people there (75%) considered it a significant problem.
• Final Thoughts
I do like this new MP3 player. A strong showing for Gateway's first try.
The Gateway DMP-X20 is a good alternative to the mainstream Digital Audio Players from Apple, Creative, or Dell. It has a unique and attractive design, it's easy to use, sounds excellent, has a huge screen, solid build quality, it's been proven durable, and did I mention it looks great?
The only problem that needs to be addressed is with the album play. Users should be able to play an Album and hear the tracks in the same order they appear on the original CD, without having to mess around with playlists. All competing players support this.
Hopefully Gateway will take care of it in the near future with a software patch that owners can download. I would also like to be able to delete tracks from the player. And down the road, OGG-codec support.
Since the battery is fixed, I'd like to see Gateway offer a battery-replacement program similar to Apple's. I've heard that replacement service will be available for $80 (reasonable). If true, Gateway should make it official by posting the details to thier website.
I recommend the Gateway DMP-X20 for people who want an easy-to-use, no-nonsense digital audio player. I also recommend this model for anyone who needs a player that is easy to view and operate while driving.
However, if you want to listen to most of your albums in the same order they appear on the original CD, this may not be the player for you. I am optimistic, but there is no guarantee that Gateway will address the order-playback issue. They may not even see it as a problem. Remember that the DMP-X20 supports only 20 playlists at this time.
All in all, a fair deal at $300 including the nice case and remote.
• Summary: Pros and Cons
(no particular order)
- Large, top-of-class LCD
- Drum-wheel scroller excellent for navigation and volume control
- iPod-like size is pocket-friendly
- FM radio with 12 presets
- Voice recording with built-in mic
- Quality accessories included (Case, In-line remote)
- Sufficient capacity (20gb)
- On-The-Fly playlisting features
- Functions as external data drive
- Excellent sound quality
- Strong headphone output
- Dedicated "back" button
- Looping lists and scrolling text for long names that do not fit onscreen
- Attractive design
- Durable construction, good fit 'n finish
- Acceptable battery life (10 hours)
- Moderate Price ($300)
- Albums do not play in correct track order without using a playlist
- Maximum of 20 playlists
- Battery is not removeable or user-repalceable
- Playback time could be longer (12-16 hours on Rio, Creative, and iRiver players)
- Relatively heavy (7.7 ounces vs iPod's 5.6 ounces, 28% heavier)
- Line-Out feature does not support true line-out function
- Plastic construction of the in-line remote
- Recorder does not support an external microphone
- Loading music requires Windows Media Player 9 with plug-in driver
- Only 90-day Limited Warantee
- Gateway charges 15% restocking fee on all returns.
- Albums play in correct track order as determined by ID3 tag data
- Ability to deleted tracks from the player itself
- Battery-replacement policy from Gateway
- OGG Vorbis codec support
- Customizable menus, startup screen
- Reconcile function available from the player itself
- Gateway's commitment for firmware upgrades (like Creative, Rio and iRiver)
• Related Links
Gateway.com DMP-X20 Purchase page
Gateway.com support page for DMP-X20
e.Digital Odyssey 1000 Manual (see the similarties)
Another DMP-X20 review
PC Magazine review of the DMP-X20
NOTE: Production of the DMP-X20 was Discontinued 05/2003.
Short life, only 5 months...
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