Review: Kingston's Media Player Puts A Lot In A Little Package

Kingston's K-PEX 100 all-in-one media player is small, light, and loaded with interesting features, although it has some limitations and its interface could be better.

Barbara Krasnoff, Contributor

October 10, 2006

5 Min Read

Given the choice, I am a proponent of the "Swiss Army knife" philosophy of electronic devices. My ideal carry-along is a small, lightweight digital device that will play my music, show my latest photos, offer a quick video, let me read the latest novel, and make me a cup of coffee. The Kingston K-PEX 100 Portable Media Player isn't quite there, but it comes close enough.

The K-PEX is an impressively small and lightweight media player that plays MP3 files and video files. It also acts as a voice recorder, includes an FM radio, exhibits photos, and can accept files from USB flash drives. The device comes in 1GB and 2GB models;, it also comes with a slot for a miniSD expansion slot for additional storage.

The design of the K-PEX is interesting, but takes a while to get used to. On the left side of the 2-inch color LCD display is, from top to bottom, a button that serves for both Menu and Game Exit; four cursor keys (up, down, left, right), and the Power button. On the right side of the display is a Select button, a Power button, a power light, and a Play button. There are other buttons on the top edge of the device -- Mode, Repeat, and Record -- and on the bottom -- a Lock button (to keep it from accidentally going on when it's bouncing around in your backpack) and Volume buttons (which I never used, since the cursor keys can be used for the same thing).

Despite their labels, some of the buttons offer a variety of functions, depending on what you're doing. For example, the Play button also operates as a Pause button, and when you're in, say, the Music mode, you can access your file menu by hitting the Esc key. In fact, I often found myself pressing several buttons in a search for the right one to use; I have to assume that if I used this continually for a couple of weeks, eventually I would learn the right sequences.

Once you have the system down, the K-PEX is actually not difficult to use. Files are copied to and from the device manually using the unit's File Manager -- you drag and drop the files from your computer to the appropriate files in the player. When the unit powers up (which takes about half a minute), you scroll through the various features by pressing the left/right cursor keys. These features include:

  • Music. Most MP3 players sound basically the same -- it's the headphones that make the difference -- and the K-PEX works as well as the others I've tried. A nice addition is the ability to switch the EQ (by hitting the Mode button) to settings such as Pop, Jazz, Classic, or Rock. However, you can't reorder your playlist or randomize it.

    Game. The K-PEX comes with two games -- an old-fashioned arcade game and a graphic adventure -- and though pretty basic, they could come in useful when things get particularly boring. FM Radio. I was impressed by the FM radio, which came through clearer and with less interference than with other portable players. I did find the method of setting up the presets a bit daunting, though. Record. A nice, simple addition -- if you want to record your voice just hit the Record button. You can also record from an external source using the included line-in cable. Video. The K-PEX runs videos, but only in the MPX format, so you have to convert any videos to that format using the Transcoder software that ships with it. I converted a 43-minute AVI file; it took about 20 minutes, and the resulting video had the slight strobe effect that results when you lose a bit too much data. All the same, because of the clarity of the 2-inch display, I had no trouble watching the video. Text. Because I'm an enthusiastic reader, I was heartened to see that the K-PEX offers a text reader among all its features. Unfortunately, the text file I loaded was barely readable -- the feature has lines like a child's elementary school notebook, and the text lines went past the left/right margins, with no way to scroll to them (although I could scroll up and down). Photo. When you select the photo viewer, you get a list of your photos; select one to view it. From there, you can use the cursors to go through your collection. Host. This feature allows you to transfer files from a USB flash drive to the K-PEX, using the included cable. It works, although the process is very awkward.

The K-PEX also comes with a rubber case, a set of reasonably good earbuds, and a USB cord for both transferring data and powering the unit.

On the whole, this is a very neat little gadget. The sound quality is good; you get, according to the manufacturer, 17 hours of power when fully charged (this is assuming you are using it strictly as an MP3 player; your mileage, of course, will vary); the screen is sharp and clear. And at an MSRP of $130 for the 1GB version and $180 for the 2GB version, it's not a bad choice.

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