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Review: mobiBLU B153 Music Player

This all-purpose music player isn't for everyone. But if you crave monster battery life, or are frustrated by iTunes, or want extras like good voice recording and FM radio in your player, you'll love the B153. But if you want simplicity and elegance, look elsewhere.
So How Does It Sound?

Overall sound quality is very good, especially in the mid and high ranges. Bass was problematic, sounding boomy and flat at the same time. It's likely that the bass problems are earbud related, so sound might be awesome if you replace the earbuds.

Equalizer settings present pre-fab options: Normal, Rock, Jazz, Classic, Pop, Live, Dance and SRS, but you can tweak these using more familiar frequency slider bars in the setup menus.

Podcasting

Unlike iTunes, which is a huge application that has to be updated frequently, installs a bunch of files all over your system and updates your registry, the B153's podcasting software is already installed -- on the B153 itself. Open the gadget as a drive on your PC, double click on PodcastReady.exe, and it launches an application called myPodder. Nothing is installed on your PC. I wish iTunes did that.

myPodder launches your Web browser and, after shutting itself down, takes you to the PodcastReady service.

When you select a Podcast offered by PodcastReady, you're taken to a page that lists all recent episodes on the right, with options to "Send to a Friend" and "Retrieve Episode." On the left, you can choose to Subscribe to the podcast, with a couple of rational options.

Once you've selected your podcasts or changed your settings online, you're ready to sync with your device using the myPodder application – which is now closed. You have to go find it again, then click a button to sync. I could not find an option to leave myPodder open while launching the PodcastReady service.

Call It The Un-Nano

The Gold Standard in this category, of course, is the Apple iPod Nano. And the mobiBLU B153 has quite a few features that the Nano does not have.

Like many digital video recorders, you can actually speed up or slow down the audio, which makes a lot of sense for podcasts. Unfortunately, it has just one notch up for faster, and three notches down for slower. I'd love to be able to speed it up or down in much smaller increments. Still, it's a nice feature.

The B153 acts as a voice-recorder, and can also record from another music player or stereo system. The voice recorder has a neato timed-record function, so you can tell it in advance when to "roll tape," and then leave it to record. It's perfect for ditching class without missing the lecture.

Recording audio requires the included connector, which has a standard audio-out jack on one end, and the small end of a USB mini-B 5-pin connector on the other. Plug one end into your stereo, and the other into the MobiBlu, change the mode to "Line In," then press the Record button. The RIAA must hate this device.

The FM radio worked and sounded great, although picked up only very powerful nearby signals. The player supports up to 20 station presets. And you can record from the radio!

The B153 isn't for everybody. But if you crave monster battery life, or are frustrated by iTunes, or want extras like good voice recording and FM radio in your player, you'll love the B153. But if you want simplicity and elegance, look elsewhere.

Editor's Choice
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing