capsule review

MobiBlu US2

At a Glance
  • MobiBlu US2

    TechHive Rating

The MobiBlu US2 delivers top-quality audio and plenty of features at an affordable price of $130 (as of 1/9/07). The model we tested contains 2GB of flash memory for storing your media, but a 1GB version is available for $100. The included earbuds double as a lanyard, so you can wear the player around your neck. The earbuds have two plugs that connect to jacks on either side of the player to make it hang straight; this design also lets you and a friend plug in two pairs of headphones and listen at the same time.

The metal-bodied player is about the same size as an iPod Nano, but at just over an ounce, it weighs a little less. Its 1.5-inch OLED screen has a resolution of only 128 by 128 pixels. The menus and track listings display nicely, but the screen isn't great for watching video. The player's five-way controller is made of etched metal, a bit like the keyboard on a Motorola Razr mobile phone, and its blue backlighting makes seeing it in the dark easy. The controller looks nice, but requires firm pressure, and navigating the menus and browsing your music takes some practice.

The two buttons above the screen are a little too small. One works as both the power button and a play/pause control, while the other lets you switch among the equalizer and surround-sound modes. You can customize the eight equalizer presets. The slider across the top of the player locks the controls to prevent accidental presses.

Unlike the iPod Nano, the US2 has a built-in FM tuner and uses the headphone cord as an antenna. Reception can be spotty in some areas, but the radio works well enough when you need a break from your own music collection. You can record shows from the radio and set a timer to schedule recordings.

The US2 plays MP3, WMA, and Ogg Vorbis music files. It supports Microsoft's PlaysForSure digital rights management system, which lets you download tracks from a choice of online music stores, including Napster, Rhapsody, and Yahoo. The device can display JPEG images, but you must convert other formats, such as GIF, BMP, and PNG, to the MSJ format using the included MJPEG Converter software. You also use this program to convert AVI, WMV, ASF, and MPG video files to its MSV format. It's a shame the app can't display video files directly, but it does reduce the resolution to fit videos on the small screen, which makes the files smaller as well. The player also comes with software for loading lyrics that display as you listen to songs. The US2 cannot display album cover art.

The user manual describes how to copy media to the player using Windows Explorer, where it appears as a removable disk drive. We found it easier to sync using Windows Media Player or a program like Napster.

The sound quality from the US2 is excellent for such a low-priced player, though you'd do well to replace the included earbuds with a better pair of your own. We registered more noise than average in our distortion test, but the US2 earned high marks in our other tests.

The MobiBlu US2 looks good and performs well. If you can master the controls and want an FM tuner, the unit is worth considering as a more affordable alternative to the iPod Nano.

Paul Jasper

This story, "MobiBlu US2" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Dual headphone jacks, a built-in radio, and good sound quality make the affordable US2 worth considering.

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