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Lexar LDP-200: Less For Less

Lexar's LDP-200 audio player is more notable for what it doesn't have than what it does have. Its long list of missing features includes an FM radio, play list support and CD-ROM disk with extra software. Its three-line monochrome LCD display can best be described as simple and it has fewer control buttons that any other player I've seen. But then, it's also missing one other thing - a big price.
Lexar's LDP-200 audio player is more notable for what it doesn't have than what it does have. It's long list of missing features includes an FM radio, play list support and CD-ROM disk with extra software. Its three-line monochrome LCD display can best be described as simple and it has fewer control buttons that any other player I've seen. It doesn't even come with any built-in flash memory.

But then, it's also missing one other thing - a big price.

The LDP-200 goes for simplicity and relies on SD disks for storing music, which is why it has no built-in flash memory. You can buy the device without an SD disk for a paltry $49, although I tested the $89 version, which comes with a 256KB card. Versions with SD disks with as much as 1GB of storage also are available.

Your reaction to the LDP-200 will be completely a matter of perspective. If you like your gadgets as geekified as possible, this music player won't compute. But if money is scarce or you enjoy the elegance of simple things, the LDP-200 has a certain undeniable attractiveness. It's also great for people who tend to drop, crush, lose or forget their gadgets - it's not painful when you need to replace it.

Like The Competition, Sort Of

Lexar isn't the only vendor taking the add-on storage approach. Its arch-rival in the flash storage space, SanDisk, also is offering a media player that can use SD disks. And, superficially, both players are the same. Both are simple devices that use AAA batteries instead of rechargeable ones. Because of the SD slots and the use of disposable batteries, both are bigger than many comparable players that reliable on flash memory and rechargeable batteries.

But that's where the similarities end. Lexar's LDP-200 is about an inch shorter and a bit less wide than the SanDisk device. That might not sound a lot, but it is when you're talking about devices that can be comfortably hidden in the palm of the hand. The Lexar device also doesn't have niceties like an FM radio and some of the other features offered by SanDisk. But the Lexar device is also cheaper. With the LDP-200, it always seems to come back to that.

Besides a USB slot and a hold button, the LDP-200 only has only three other buttons, all on its front face. One button turns the device on and off, another displays the menu and the third, a four-way toggle, is for selecting menu options, moving to the next or previous song or adjusting volume.

There isn't a whole lot to choose from within the menu system. You select music to play, whether you want to play in shuffle or normal mode. If offers an equalizer that can play in normal, jazz, classical rock and pop modes. That's about it.

Are The Annoyances Worth The Price?

I didn't particularly care for the controls - not because they are so sparse but because the middle toggle button is not precise. For instance, pushing the toggle backwards should take you to the previous song but you have to hit it just right or it does nothing.

Sound quality is acceptably good but not stellar. As mentioned previously, it has a handful of equalizer settings, but no other ways to tweak the sound. I was a bit surprised to see that the device has only a 12-hour battery rating, about five hours less than the SanDisk device. And, sure enough, it ran out of juice after just about that much time. It's curious that battery life could be so weak given how few features the LDP-200 has.

The device suffers from a few other minor annoyances. For instance, even though it supports USB 2.0, it takes forever to transfer music since it is writing to the SD disk, which is an inherently slow process. And, while this is virtually becoming a boilerplate complaint in audio player reviews, the included earbuds were average. These particular earbuds, however, were more average than most and didn't even come with foam coverings.

Despite the fact that there's more missing than included in this device, I'm left with the overwhelming need to say: "What do you expect at this price?" Lexar's LDP-200 works as advertised and is fire-sale cheap so it would take more chutzpah than I can muster to complain too much.

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing