Haier Sport Video MP3 Player Is a Great Workout Companion
At a Glance
The Haier Sport Video HHS1A-2G MP3 Player ($50 as of November 10, 2009) is a smooth, water-resistant MP3 player with a 2GB capacity and some nifty features for workoutaholics. The player itself is lightweight and easy to work out with, and sports some cool features (such as a pedometer and video playback), even if some, such as video playback on a one-inch screen, seem a bit pointless and gratuitous.
The HHS1A-2G looks like a soft black-and-aqua pebble. It's also slick like a pebble--and potentially slippery when the going gets sweaty, so the accompanying armband is a real plus. The player's dimensions are about 2 inches high by 1 inch wide, and it has a 1-inch, 128-by-64-pixel OLED screen. The controls, which are fairly intuitive, include a play/stop button; a fast-forward, rewind, and volume control on the main navigational wheel; a menu/power button on the top; and start/stop and reset buttons on the sides (for the stopwatch feature). The USB and headphone jacks are located at the bottom, which I found a bit annoying, but forgivable, when I exercised with it.
Though I had no problem navigating the menu, the smooth buttons were sometimes a bit hard to press, especially during a workout. One cool feature is the screen's "flip" option, which lets you see the menus right-side-up when you're looking down at the player from above (while it's attached to your arm, for example). Unfortunately, the screen is so small that I looking at it strained my eyes, especially when the player sat high up on my bicep.
Audio sounded very good through the included in-ear headphones, which also did a fine job of canceling outside noise (they were so effective, in fact, that I almost got hit by a car on the streets of San Francisco). The earphones come with three different-sized earbuds, and feature over-the-ear loops (which tended to fall off my ears). When I listened through even higher-quality earphones (Bose noise-canceling headphones) the sound quality was better yet. You can add songs can by dragging and dropping them in Windows Explorer, and you can alter the particulars of a song entry (artist, album, and so on) in the properties section of the MP3 file. Also, you can use Windows Media Player to synchronize the player; among the supported file formats are MP3, WMV, and WAV. The player includes an option to create an on-the-go playlist by adding songs to a favorites list.
The player comes with a free version of ArcSoft Media Converter 3, an app that was a bit of a hassle to work with. I could get it to convert files from MPEG to MJPEG only (it's not compatible with Xvid or DivX codecs), and even then converting a 30MB file took 25 minutes. On a positive note, after converting the file, the program automatically uploads it to your player.
Video playback was pretty good, considering. Britney Spears's "Womanizer" played back perfectly--smooth, no skips, and with good sound quality--but the tininess of the screen undercuts the overall experience. Trying to concentrate on Britney's hair flips on such a tiny screen began to give me a headache after a minute or so, and I can't see the point of video playback in a compact sport-oriented player, anyway.
The HHS1A-2G's "sport" features--which include a stopwatch, a pedometer, and a BMI calculator--worked reasonably well. The device is water-resistant (though not waterproof), and it didn't miss a beat as I sat by the pool and let people splash me. It's also extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear with the arm band during a workout.
The package from Haier includes a durable armband, sporty in-ear headphones, a USB 2.0 cable, media-converting software, and 35 free song downloads (with a free 14-day trial subscription to eMusic). Haier says that the 2GB player can store up to 500 songs--the equivalent of 15 hours of audio playback.
The pedometer and stopwatch are pretty cool, and the audio quality is great--but the video and picture features are superfluous on a player with a 1-inch screen. Though the radio feature worked well, it too was hardly essential. Call me crazy, but I want a fairly simple player when I work out. I don't want to have to worry about a bunch of extra features that will only slow me down. I also found the unfriendly included software and the Windows machine requirement boo-worthy. Bottom line: This is a decent player for working out with, but having so many features in such a tiny device seems excessive.