Although Apple largely dominates the hard-drive based MP3 player market, the company hopes to also lead in the flash-based market with the iPod Shuffle. There's no shortage of competitors out there. One notable challenger is the SF2000 by Medialine, Inc., an easy to use, versatile player you might call a Shuffle on steroids.
The SF2000 is about the size of a pack of Bubblicious gum and weighs 1.5 oz.
I tested the 256MB version which retails for $149.99. It also comes in a 512GB version for $199.99. The gadget not only features digital music capability, but also FM radio, voice recorder and recording from external sources.
The SF2000's display offers a four-line, 96 x 64 orange and blue OLED.
Indoors, I had no problem viewing the display, but it was difficult to view outdoors. You Navigate the menus using the five-button joystick and three buttons along the side of the device.
The 256MB version can hold about 70 songs. File transfer and charging are handled through the USB 1.1 plug. Its design allows the plug to flip out of the device on one end. I found the built-in plug useful because it eliminated the need to carry both a charging plug and transfer cable. It's 2005, so Medialine should have built USB 2.0 support into the player.
When playing music, the player supports the MP3, WMA and OGG standards. Sound quality is excellent, especially when using the high-quality headphones included with the SF2000.
The SF2000 features equalizer presets and the option to specify your own presets. The company claims to support 15-hour playback on a single charge. In my tests, I was able to get an impressive 16 hours.
One of the features that distinguishes this player from its competitors is the ability to display lyrics timed to song playback.
Included software downloads lyrics from the Internet and attaches them to song tags. Unfortunately, the lyrics database is limited. Out of the 64 songs I put on the device, only about half of the lyrics were found. It is possible to create and time your own lyrics, but who wants to do that?
The FM radio is very high quality and features a 20-station preset. I found the reception on the radio comparable to the reception of a car radio. One possible reason for this great reception is the innovative use of the headphones as the antenna.
Another great feature of the device is its recording feature. You can record voice, FM radio and external source recording. While listening to the radio, you just push a button to record. To use the voice recorder, you simply use the joystick to navigate to the voice option. The recording quality is exceptional. I compared the quality of voice recording to a dedicated Sony Digital Voice Recorder and I found that recordings of the SF2000 were actually better than the Sony. The player allows for a maximum of 36 hours of voice recording.
The biggest downside to the SF2000 is its limited storage capacity (players these days store gigabytes, not megabytes) and low-quality accessories. The player comes with a skin-irritating plastic lanyard. An included flimsy plastic carrying case provides almost zero protection and takes away from the aesthetic appeal of the device. In order to use the uncomfortable included armband, the ugly plastic case must be used.
If you are looking for a good and versatile player and don't mind limited storage, the SF2000 is definitely a great choice. The integrated FM radio, voice recorder and lyrics display make the $50 dollar price difference with the iPod Shuffle seem trivial. But if you care more about storage, price and simplicity, you might want to check out other options.
Sorell SF2000 256MB $149.99
Sorell SF2000 512MB $199.99