MPZOO Exonion

The main concept behind the "feature-rich Exonion is its ability to play regular audio CDs while also boasting MP3 playback at variable bit rates. Capable of reading both CD-R and CD-RW discs, the Exonion simply ignores all non-audio data on a disc.

As it's possible to burn many MP3s (roughly 170 songs) on to a "single CD, finding the one you want might be a chore. Not so with the Exonion, as you can manage play lists and search for songs by Artist, Title, Genre or Directory, using ID3 tag information if available or otherwise by using FIF. The latter, standing for Fields in Filename, is a convention for naming tracks following the pattern Artist-Title-Genre.mp3. The Exonion comes with PC software to help you easily handle such tasks.

The $499 Exonion is cheaper than hard disk MP3 players and it is fairly robust, lighter (just 270g), and has a smaller form factor. The Exonion clearly outclasses flash memory-based MP3 players that struggle to store a complete album. It places itself a cut above its rivals with features such as the large, highly informative, indigo blue backlit display and the eight minutes of anti-shock protection to ensure playback isn't disturbed by bumps such as those experienced when jogging. The latter is something often poorly implemented in earlier products. I was able to shake this unit silly without a single skip.

The Exonion performed well, building a database of the CD's contents in just a few seconds before it was ready to go. The graphic equaliser and bass functions worked well and the maximum volume exceeds what most users should find ample.

The integrated line-out audio jack was a plus, and value is also added by the bundled in-ear headphones with remote controls, rechargeable NiMH batteries (stated to have around 10 hours life), power supply and car "cassette player adapter, and one-year warranty.

MPZOO Exonion

5 stars; Price: $499; Phone: 0414 486 053; URL: www.mpzoo.com

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