The ULT31102 comes in a nice gift box.

Today I will be reviewing the ULT31102 from Ultra Products. A modest MP3 player, with only 128MB of memory and no additional features and no expandability, but convenient in it's extremely small size and affordable with it's $59.95 price tag (MSRP is $69.95, but we found it for $59.95 at most places, and from now until Christmas there's a $20 rebate on onrebate.com making the price a mere $39.95.)


Inside the box, we have our MP3 player, ear-buds, USB extension cable, manual and CD.

The ULT31102 consists of two pieces. First and foremost, the ULT31102 is a 128MB USB flash memory drive. The actual flash memory drive portion of the device is a mere 2 1/2 inches (65mm) in length arguably making it one of the smallest thumb drives on the market. The drive is USB 1.1 compliant which means you're only going to get data transfer rates just under 1MB/sec. It's going to take two full minutes to load the drive up with songs. Not a lot of time at all, but it could be quicker if it was USB 2.0 compatible.


The thumb drive is very small at a mere 2 1/2 inches in length.


To give you an idea of how small that is, here I am holding the thumb drive in my hand.

The flash memory drive comes with a neck strap with a small quick disconnect clip located near the end. The drive is so light that you almost forget it's around your neck, and the quick disconnect clip makes the drive easy to pop off of the strap whenever it needs to be plugged in. The drive is small enough to where it can probably plug into your USB port without any additional cables, but just in case the area around your computer's USB port is tight, the ULT31102 does come with a USB male to female extension cable that allows you to plug the drive into virtually any USB port. Surprisingly, not many USB flash memory drives come with such a cable.

The drive has a blue LED that flashes while the drive is in use. Turn the drive to it's side and you can see where the MP3 player portion of the device plugs in. It sort of looks like a headphone jack, but there's an adjacent card edge connector as well. This brings us to the second piece of the ULT31102. The MP3 player is a little bit larger than the flash memory drive and has a clip on the back for you to clip the device to your belt. The gist of the device is that you wear the flash memory around your neck, a cable runs from the flash memory to the MP3 player which is clipped to your belt. A pair of ear-buds then runs from the MP3 player up to your ears. It sounds like a cluttered mess of wires, but it actually works out quite well. If I could change anything, I would make the wire that goes from the flash memory drive to the MP3 player a little shorter or maybe replace the wire with a coil cord. There's enough wire to get caught on a passing obstacle, so be careful. I actually have the wire on mine zip-tied up into a small service loop. It only took getting snagged on the closet door knob and having the MP3 player popped off of my belt once to get me to wind up the wire.


Here is the decoder portion of the ULT31102.


To give you an idea of it's small size, here's the decoder in my hand.

I love the controls on this MP3 player. They're well labeled and easy to manipulate. The play/skip track knob is like the wheel on a scroll mouse. Push the knob in (like the third button on a scroll mouse) to start playing MP3's. Roll the knob one direction and the tracks skip forward. Roll the knob in the other direction and you go back through your tracks. Volume consists of two buttons that click the volume up and down through 32 steps and the stop button is a single button that has no other function other than stopping the music. The on and off is on a slide switch located in the middle of the device.


Here is the thumb drive and decoder plugged into each other. Note the long cable tied up into a bundle. It's rather long.

The volume is plenty loud enough, and the dynamic range was very acceptable. The ear-buds became a little uncomfortable after an hour, but any ear-buds under $50 are going to feel weird after prolonged use. I've heard some people complain about the lack of LCD. Come on! It's a sub $60 MP3 player and besides, I put the songs on there in the first place. I think I know what I'm listening to! On that note, I have to admit that I thought the lack of LCD would mean longer life from the battery. No dice. The AAA battery lasted the same 8 hours as the AAA battery used in the other two Ultra MP3 players.

The biggest drawback is the memory capacity. 128MB is only 2 hours at 128kbps and, unlike the other two Ultra MP3 players, there's no slot to install an SD or MMC card to increase capacity. Also, there's no FM tuner to switch to when you get bored with listening to the same 2 hours of audio. Not a big deal and I can understand the concept of "more circuitry equals more size," but I know you guys have seen the little FM radios that are no bigger than a dime that they sell at the drug store for under $10 or give away as promotional items. I know it can be done, but I also know that the flash memory drive could be 256MB or even 512MB as well.

Pros:

Cons:

All and all, I like this little MP3 player. It's small, but despite it's size the controls are good. The sound quality is great and if you can get the device for as little as $39.95 after rebate, jump all over it. Otherwise, if you miss out on the rebate and you're looking in the sub $60 area, there are more affordable choices. Apacer has a similar device for $49.95. Gateway has a device with an FM tuner for only $49.95. I have no personal experience with either of them, so buyer beware. For now, I'm going to give this device an 8 out of 10. Yes, I know I gave the last one a 7 and it had an FM Tuner, e-Mail, voice recorder, an LCD and an SD/MMC slot, but remember that that device also costs 50% more and I didn't like the controls at all. Maybe next year, Ultra will double or triple the memory capacity, but still try to sell it at the same price. If they do, I guarantee this device will gain another star on the SLRating! Make the device in a USB 2.0 version for the same price and we might give it yet another star (hint, hint)....

SLRating: 8/10



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