Introduction

The world of technology is ever changing; constantly evolving to meet our every need; packing more into smaller spaces. Take for example this little thumb drive. On first glance it looks like a bloated pack of Winterfresh gum, however, on closer inspection you would find not only a 256 Mb RAM drive but an MP3/WMA player, voice recorder and an FM radio. This is the X-Micro EVA.



Technical Specifications

Memory Size 64/128M/256/512M

Battery NiMH Battery

LCD 96 x 26 Do matrix LCD

Size 101mm x 32mm x 24mm

SNR 90bB

Earphone Power 5Mw+5mW

Supporting Frequency 20HZ-20KHZ

Supporting Bit Rate 8Kbps~256Kbps(MP3)

Music Format Mp3,WMA

Record Format ADPCM

ID3 Language English

Overview

The X-Micro EVA is slightly longer than the AAA battery that powers it, measuring 101mm by 32mm by 24mm high. As you can see from the pictures below, it is just bigger than the Sandisk Cruzer next to it. Loading all of the above features into such a small package is no easy feat. Let us take a look at what X-Micro has accomplished.







The MP3/WMA player, simply put, is quite impressive. Not only is it able to play music, but it is able to do so quite clearly (90db SNR). There are five equalizer presets, Jazz, Classical, Rock, POP and Normal, to enhance the music to your taste. There are also playback features such as repeat, preview and random play which have become a standard today. Changing tracks is easily accomplished via the rocking switch in the side, move it to the right to skip forward and the left to skip back, hold it down in the appropriate direction to fast forward or rewind. Push it in to access the menu and navigate via the same right left rocking motion.











To conserve on battery life there are a host of options like auto shutoff and backlight shutoff. The backlight could be adjusted from 5 to 20 seconds on, to on continuously or off continuously. Auto off could be set from 1, 2, 5 or 10 minutes or it can be disabled entirely. One of the most useful features is the hold button, which when switched on prevents any other key from being pressed. Seeing that this device will end up in some squeezes in the dark recesses of your back pocket due to its diminutive size, thanks to the hold button you’ll still have a usable battery when you reach for it.







The voice recorder is no slouch either. Recording for up to 18 hours in .wav format when the device is empty, it becomes almost indispensable for any corporate user or student. Record a meeting or class, plug the device into any (preferably XP based) PC and upload the file. Then the file is available to edit and send for a much greater impact, or simply to keep as an archive (especially useful when working on minutes, or blackmailing someone). The recording frequency could be adjusted through the following ranges 8000Hz, 11025Hz, 16000Hz, 22050Hz, 32000Hz, 44100Hz, and 48000Hz. In testing, half an hour of recording required approximately 6.95 Megs of space at 8000Hz, while at 48000Hz almost 42 Megs were used.

Radio

To fit the radio into this package X-Micro cheated a little; it is a separate device powered by its own battery and attached to the headphone wires. There is no display showing what frequency you are tuned to, no volume control, no backwards scan, an external antenna and it uses a CR 2032 battery; the kind used by your PC on the motherboard. If you were searching for a channel in the 100 FM range, you start from what seems like 88.7 FM and scan all the way to 106.7 FM, now assume you missed it so on you go scanning again from the top. It would have been nice to have either the main display show where you are or a mini display on the pod itself show the channel number. But then again, I won’t be buying this device for the radio. After testing the radio the headphones stayed home and I used a set of Sony ear-buds with the player. Quality wise the supplied headphones were indistinguishable from the Sony; on the plus side no pod dangling around your neck.







Software

The included software is intuitive and simple to use. The software provides basic functions such as format, delete, upload and download, a gauge to tell how much space is used and what seems to be an MP3 player. On hitting the play button you would expect some sort of noise/music, however, not a whisper was heard. Alas, it seemed the MP3 player was not working. On the plus side most of the other functions worked well, until you try to create a subfolder. Unfortunately I was unable to do so with the included software. Once plugged into a USB port you have full access to all of the files including the recorded ones and the ability to create subfolders to organize your music, recordings and other files. One would expect placing music in the subfolders would pose a problem, but the Eva detected and played all nine of the MP3 files within. All of the supplied functions are available through Explorer and you get the ability to create subfolders to keep your music organized. So why take up space on your hard drive when the device is natively recognized by Windows XP and all of the functions are possible with Windows Explorer and a media player? The only benefit I found to installing the supplied software is formal detection of the device, it is no longer referred to as a Generic USB Mass Storage Device instead, it is called a SigmaTel MP300F. Transferring the files was no problem and uploading and downloading them was quick and painless over the supported USB 1.1 bus. Yes, the device only supports USB 1.1 but, transferring 251 Megs from the Eva took approximately four minutes and eighteen seconds, thirty seconds quicker than transferring the file from the PC to the Eva. In more normal situations you would be probably transferring an album for example, the nine files in the folders. This took under 1.5 minutes. To aid in transferring of files X-Micro also included a USB A/A extension cable for those with had to reach USB ports.











Conclusion

The biggest and most obvious drawbacks to this device in my eyes are the included software, the radio and a lack of volume adjustment in the microphone. However, in using the Eva these were some the functions I made the least use of. The only reason the software made its way onto my hard drive was to get a picture of what the interface looked like and to see if any additional features were unlocked. Thankfully this was not the case. The radio as I mentioned earlier was quickly replaced by a set of regular earbuds. It’s a shame X-Micro didn’t include some way to increase the microphone sensitivity, for some it may be a little too low. To cram all of these features into such a small device and maintain a reasonable price some compromises had to be made; but, at a price of around $70 for the 256 Meg model you can’t complain too much.



Pros

• Small Size

• Reasonable Price

• Great sound quality

• Host of settings

• Included USB extension cable and battery





Cons

• Poor radio

• Microphone volume not adjustable

• Few bugs in the software

SLRating: 8/10



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