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Wolverine ESP 5000
Sometimes, function prevails over form and finesse. That's precisely the case with Wolverine's second-generation media player, the $499 ESP 5000 Series. This unit's modest, slate-gray design lacks the elegance of Apple iPods and other competing portable video players, but it's a highly capable and versatile device with an unusually large hard drive and handy media-card slots.
The ESP 5000 is tailor-made for digital-photography enthusiasts who want to view their photos. At the top, two sturdily constructed slots accept cards in any of seven formats, including CompactFlash, SD Card, Memory Stick variants, and XD Picture card. Slip a card in, and the device prompts you to back up the card to its 120GB hard drive. I found the transfer reasonably speedy: 1GB of images moved from my CompactFlash card to the device in 3 minutes or so. And once the image files were loaded on the device, I could easily view them in either JPEG or RAW format (Wolverine supports 11 RAW formats, including those from Canon and Nikon, plus Windows Media DRM and a slew of video and audio formats).
Conveniently, you don't need any proprietary software to upload content to the ESP 5000. Just jack it into your PC's USB 2.0 port, and Windows will recognize it as a mass storage device. Use Windows Explorer to transfer images, music, video, or data into the preconfigured folders, and the content will be visible on the device. The model I tested came with a 120GB hard drive, putting it at the top of its class for capacity (most competitors max out at 80GB or less). The unit runs on a standard, removable NP-100 lithium ion battery; and the company rates battery life on a single charge at about 13 hours for music playback, 4 hours for video playback, or 20GB for memory card transfers.
The ESP 5000 isn't the bulkiest media player I've seen, but it's not particularly lissome, either. Measuring 5.3 by 2.8 by 0.9 inches and weighing 10.2 ounces, it's suitable for toting in a bag, not a pocket (the company throws in a carrying case for it). Despite its size, the device fit well in my hand, and its navigation controls--a five-way joystick, and Escape and Menu buttons mounted below the joystick--were easy to use.
The Linux-based interface was a breeze to maneuver through: Icons made sense, and I could navigate within and between media quickly and smoothly. For example, I could seamlessly scan through a song or jump from one song to the next. The menu options were similarly easy to follow.
The ESP 5000's 3.6-inch TFT LCD has an adjustable backlight and offers 320-by-240-pixel resolution. In my tests, the resolution was adequate for viewing digital images and video clips, but (not surprisingly) the image output didn't wow me. Competing models such as Creative's Zen Vision and Epson's P-5000 offer 640 by 480 resolution.
In my informal tests, audio files sounded okay through the Wolverine's bundled earbuds. In our lab tests, the ESP 5000 earned an overall rating of Good for audio quality, but it had mixed results when compared with our field of hard-disk-based audio players. It had the best frequency response deviation, but its numbers for total harmonic distortion and maximum usable output level were among the lowest we've seen. It also exhibited a significantly higher-than-average level of cross talk (this means the left and right channels are not distinct, which narrows the stereo image).
Overall, I liked the attractively priced Wolverine ESP 5000 more for its agility as a photo storage and management device than as a media player. For the latter, the ESP 5000 is serviceable but not outstanding.
Wolverine ESP 5000
Multimedia device makes up for its inelegant design with plenty of storage and some appealing photo-friendly features.
Current prices (if available)
This story, "First Look: Wolverine ESP 5000" was originally published by PCWorld.
Wolverine ESP 5000