Portable Multimedia Players

These days, portable media players are everywhere. Devices such Apple's iPhone manage to pack video and picture playback into common everyday devices, whereas units such as the Creative Zen Vision W offer a more dedicated media playback solution.

Audio/Video recording and output

Top-level Portable Media Players will allow you to record audio from a line-input, microphone or built-in FM radio tuner straight into memory. Other models even allow you to record TV shows directly from your TV and come with remote controls for a VCR-style setup.

Note that most Portable Media Players allow you to output to your television, but there are few things you should check first.

  • Does your PMP's TV-out support PAL (Australia's TV standard)?
  • Does your PMP come with a dock to make TV recording/output even easier? Is an infrared remote control included?
  • How good does a movie formatted for your device's small internal screen look when viewed on a TV? How important is this to you?
  • Does your PMP allow you to view photo slideshows on the television?
  • Can your PMP's internal screen playback movies that are formatted for the higher resolution of TV displays?

Recordings are usually converted straight to compressed media format files (generally MPEG-4 for video and MP3 for audio) but sometimes you can nominate a format or possibly be forced to use a proprietary type.

Recording audio is particularly handy for recording live performances, making verbal notes or taking meeting minutes. Some devices include built-in microphones, which is more convenient than having to plug in an external one.

Personal Information Management (PIM)

Some Portable Media Players have software extras such as text readers, to-do lists, clocks, alarms, calendars, dictionaries, address books and other PIM utilities.

A player with PIM functions can be a possible replacement for a Personal Organiser/PDA, particularly new models that include built-in wireless networking, plus Web browser and e-mailing capabilities. The Archos PMA 400 series is a good example of this sort of device.

Integrated photo/video camera

Equipping a PMP with a camera lens can turn the device into a photo or video camera. This is a great idea that is sure to be explored more in future, especially on hard disk models.

To date, there are only a few examples and the Megapixel (Mp) ratings remain around the same as mobile camera phones. For instance, Archos offers an optional 3.3Mp camcorder attachment for its older AV300 series and Olympus' MR-500i has a built-in 1.2Mp camera.

The Olympus MR-500i has a 3.7-inch display, 20GB hard disk, can playback music (but not movies) and take photos courtesy of its built-in 1.22Mp camera.

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