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TrekStor Vibez MP3 Player Review

It seems the market continues to be flooded with portable MP3 players chasing the iPod. And although Apple dominates the market share, their popularity encourages competition, and with competition comes choice, which is always a good thing. Germany's best-selling brand of digital portable media players, TrekStor, has introduced their first hard drive based MP3 player for the US market, and it is large capacity portable called the Vibez.

Design & Operation

What happens when the Germans design things? In my opinion, they look great. TrekStor comissioned one of Munich's top design studios for the Vibez, and it definately stands out from the pack. The resulting design resembles a sleek candy-bar style wireless phone more than it does a portable MP3 player. The front of the unit is black, with two large "circles" dominating the design - a screen on top, and a huge scroll wheel under it.

Let's start with what I don't like. The top circle is not a round screen, but a round plastic "disk" that contains a traditional screen masked in a rectangular black border. This plastic disk/screen is glossy, which invites glare. The rest of the front unit, including the scroll wheel, is a very cool, rubberized matte black. The glossy plastic disk just detracts from the otherwise sleek and elegant appearance of the device.

The rear of the Vibez is a stainless steel (think iPod) easily removable cover (definitely NOT iPod) that allows access to the battery and accessory slot. The entire unit is rounded and curvy, and looks pretty cool. At the bottom of the unit is the headphone and USB jack, and a loop for attaching the included neck lanyard. There is also a silver triangular button between the two circles that controls the volume and power on/off.

The screen is a 1.5" color TFT that feels small for the size of the device. I would rather have seen a larger screen than the round, plastic circular design used to mask the small screen. Inside the Vibez is a chipset from US-based SigmaTel, as well as the company's new 1" hard drive, which has a considerably smaller footprint than the current 1.8" drives found in many other players. Using the smaller drive enabled TrekStor to include a slot for an optional FM tuner card. Later this year, TrekStor will offer another card for video playback.

The card slot is located behind the removable and replaceable Lithium-ion battery, all of which is accessed by popping off the stainless steel rear cover. Again, this design is very similar to many wireless phones I have used. In fact, the battery seems almost identical to the one in my Nokia. This is a huge selling point for the Vibez. Talk to any iPod owner who's battery has died, and you will see how welcome this easy to access, replaceable battery feature is. TrekStor offers replacement batteries for $29.99, and the battery is rated for 20 hours of playback per full charge. Recharging takes approximately 3 hours.

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