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Super Talent 2GB MEGA Screen MP3/FM/Recorder Player
(hx) 11:26 AM EST - Mar,01 2007

The portable MP3 players are popping up everywhere since the emergence of the highly-touted Apple iPod Nano. Yeah, it's a multimedia world out there and everyone wants the next 'cool' or 'in' gadget :-) So, if you are looking for an MP3 player about the size of the iPod Nano and for about half the price you should check out the Super Talent Mega Screen MP3 player. It is not just an MP3 player it also features a FM tuner, voice recorder, photo viewer, and it plays movies. Today we will be looking at the 2GB model.

Introduction

Super Talent may be a new name to many of you, as it was to me. Based in San Jose California, Super Talent has some 20 years experience designing and manufacturing memory modules, flash memory, and now MP3 players and MP3 player accessories. The MegaScreen MP3 player comes in a choice of two colours, white or black. The design is very slim and sleek. It comes in various capacities, ranging from 512MB to 2GB, so you have the capability to make a choice depending on your needs, even though I feel that the 2GB version is a must for many hours of music playback.

The Super Talent MEGA Screen MP3 Player boasts some impressive features that look to put it in competition with the iPod Nano. So let's take a look and see just how the MEGA Screen stacks up:

Features (as taken from the Super Talent manual):

- Memory Capacity: 2 GB
- Interface: USB 2.0 (Upload 1000KB, download 750KB)
- Display: 1.5 inch MEGA Screen (262K Color OLED, 128x128 Pixels)
- Noise Ration: 90dB
- Output: Earphone 32R 10mW
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-20KHz
- Music Format: MP3 (8Kbps-320Kbps / 8KHz-48KHz VBR) / WMA (20Kbps-320Kbps / 8KHz-48KHz VBR)
- Recording: Line-in Real Time Mic/Voice Recording (ADPCM Type); Built-in FM/FM Tuner Recording
- FM Band: 87.50MHz~108.0MHz
- Sound Effects: Flat, Jazz, Rock, Pop, Classic (for music files)
- Lyrics Supporting
- Language: English/ Chinese/ Spanish/ Portuguese/ Korean/ German
- Battery: Built-in Rechargeable Li-Polymer battery (370mAH)
- Play Time: Approximately 8 hours (Normal)
- Operating System: Windows 98/SE/ME/2000/XP/2003; Mac OS 8.6+; Linux 2.4.1+
- Dimension: 87 x 42 x 9 mm
- Weight: 36g
- Warranty: 1 year
- Items Included: Earphones, USB2.0 Cable, Product Manual, and Drivers

Packaging / Physical Layout

The main box opens up like a book to reveal the MP3 player, which is wrapped in plastic for protection. The rest of the items included are packed inside of the box. Included with the player is a USB cord for transferring files and recharging the built-in battery, a line-in cord, pair of white colored headphones as popularized by Apple's iPod, a removable screen guard, user's manual, and an install CD with utilities. I've received the black version of the MP3 player, but you can also get it in white. I must admit this thing is really black and really shiny. Seriously, you could use the Super Talent MEGA Screen as a mirror it is so shiny. Besides being very shiny, you can't help but notice how thin the MEGA Screen is. The screen on the Mega Screen MP3 player is a 1.5-inch 262K Color OLED, 128x128 Pixels display. The screen is protected with a piece of plastic. Right below the screen is a listing of the capacity of the player, which is 2GB. Super Talent does offer 512MB and 1GB versions of the player as well. Measuring only 0.375" thick, 3.5" tall and 1.75" wide the MEGA screen is very small but not so small that it becomes hard to use or see. 

The MEGA Screen has four buttons arranged in an arc above a circular button, which has four functions around the edge of the circle itself, and then the menu button in the center. Directly above the buttons we have the display screen which measures 1.25"x1.25". Located on the side of the MEGA Screen we find the USB port, reset button hole, and microphone.

All in all the Super Talent MEGA Screen is a very attractive unit that has a very well built feel to it. Let's take a closer look to see if this player can stack against the iPod juggernaut.

Usage

There are 6 main buttons on the front of the player. There is the FM button, which will bring up the FM tuner, the HOLD/EXIT button, the RECORD button, and the PLAY/STOP button. Below these 4 buttons are the control buttons. It is actually designed as a button inside of another button. The middle button is the M BUTTON and surrounding you have the LAST, NEXT, VOL+, and VOL- buttons. Each button has a different purpose and its function is not always made clear, plus the function can change, depending on what is going on with the player at the time. This is very different from the iPod, whose navigation is flawless, something which has become one of its strongest selling points.

To get things going I plugged the USB cable into both the Super Talent player and my computer. The USB slot on the MP3 player is located on its bottom right side, where a little rubber flap covers the opening. I was greeted with a screen saying the battery was charged and the unit was ready to use. There is a charging bar at the bottom right hand side of the screen, and when its full you know its completely charged. They do say to remove the headphones from the player before charging and uploading music. That's kinda weird. Oh well. Once the unit is connected to a PC, the player is automatically recognized under Windows and an icon is created as a removable disk. Just like a regular flash disk.

To power up the player, hold down the PLAY/STOP button for a few seconds. The player will display the SuperTalent logo and then brings up the main menu. Here, you can set important features concerning playback mode, sound equalization, MP3 display (ID3 tags), time and other player settings and functions (recording properties, about, upgrade and format)/ When you are going through each section there is a cool little animation for each. The sections are pretty self-explanatory. All in all the GUI is very clean and looks great on the screen. In addition, if you leave the player sitting a screen saver will come on that displays the current time. Pressing the HOLD/EXIT button, you enter the basic navigation menu. From here, you select what you want to do - listen to music, radio, record voice or from line-in, or see the photo album.

To show you how easy the menu system is I have made a video of myself going through the menu's etc. Sorry for the bad quality, it was very hard to get a good picture :-) Also you can see that the video quality of the converted files is very good.

I would like to mention that the OLED screen looks quite great and is one thing, which clearly sets this product apart from the competition. Text is clear and the colors are vibrant, so using the screen is a pleasure under almost any circumstances. During bright daylight it can get hard to read, but this is a very common problem with displays this small. The buttons are very easy to use and very responsive, however, some key's functions and the menu interface are somewhat confusing. Most of them have dual functions and I often accidentally press the wrong one :-) For example, the record button also functions as the delete button under Music Menu when it's pushed at slightly longer time. It will take a bit of time to get used these buttons and their functions but once you are used to it, it's not that hard to use.

MP3 Player

Next it was time to load some music onto the MEGA Screen. I just happened to have a "MP3" folder on my hard drive that contained some MP3 files. With a simple "Select All" followed by "Copy" and then "Paste", within a few minutes I had the MEGA Screen almost fully loaded. You can place MP3 files where you want. Just navigate to them and press the Menu button to start playback. There are four system folders (/PICTURE, /VOICE, /LINEIN, and /FM) that shouldn't be deleted or renamed, however, you can create other sub-folders for storing and organizing personal media. The transfer speeds are comparable with what Super Talent has reported: 0.75 MB/s download and 1MB/s upload. That's actually a little slower than an USB 1.1 speed. Yeah, the transfer speed on the player is _slow_, definitely something to note.

Playing MP3 files was pretty much just like any other MP3 player. You simply chose the MP3 mode, scroll down your list of MP3s to where you want to start, and then press the play button to get the music started. The MP3 Playback screen offers several bits of information, like the filename or ID3 tag, the file bitrate, equalization mode, repeat mode, and volume/battery information. Pressing the [>>] or [<<] buttons, you can move forwards and backwards, but the response is a little sluggish, and with big files can be a headache.

Given the 90db ear buds, volume was adequate in most situations. Louder spaces may push the player outside its element, but in day-to-day situations (home, office, automobile, and outdoors) the volume was sufficient. In the setup menu for MP3 playback you can choose 5 different effects including "Flat', "Jazz", "Rock", "Pop", or "Classic". There's no option to adjust the equalizer or manually configure an equalizer. Under Play Mode Menu, you will find options to adjust the playback's repeats and shuffle, there's also an option which allows you to alter the play speed of the songs ranging from 70% to 120%. I am not really sure why would you want to do so when you listen to the music, nonetheless it's interesting thing :-)

The sound quality that comes out the player is up to par to on-board sound cards. The bass that comes out of the included earphones are above average compared to other earphones.  When quality headphones are plugged in, the music sounds the same as coming out of a stock sound card on the PC. 

There is one feature that is definitely missing from the player--a resume function. When you turn the unit off and then back on, it won't resume where it's left off rather it will start from beginning of the track. Therefore, it could be problem for e-book lovers.

FM Radio

The Radio Function is a good added feature of this player. It functions very well for a portable FM tuner and uses the headphones as the external antenna. The FM Radio offers users the ability to store up to 20 station presets and stations can be selected manually or through a Scanning function. If you like to listen to the soccer on the radio, or the ice hockey, or just talk radio, you'll certainly want this feature on your portable media player. The reception was crystal clear most of the time. Even indoors it was very good most of the time. Remember that's with no noticeable antenna or attachments! To turn the FM Radio on it is a simply matter of pressing the PLAY/STOP button to start the MEGA Screen Player, then press the M MENU key to access the Mode sub-menu. Press the "VOL+", or "VOL-", key to select the FM Radio option, or simply press the FM button to access the FM Radio directly.

Recording

Voice recording works for very close proximity sessions. The microphone quality is pretty decent, but the captured audio is very quiet.  To get a good volume on the MEGA Screen, you have to hold the player up to your mouth at about 20 centimeters (8 inches) away. The quality of the recorder is crisp and clear, and has very little static and noise, but it is very sensitive to wind and close contact with the microphone hole. To record your voice press the M Menu button to access the mode menu, and press the M Menu button once again to access the Mode sub-menu options. Press VOL+ or VOL- to select the the Voice option recording mode. There're two setting that you can adjust for the recording portion of the device - the Line_Set and Voice_Set. Each of these settings allows you to control the overall quality by choosing from one of three settings Low - Mid - High. The Line_Set also has a setting to turn the Auto-Sync on or off. The Voice_Set has a setting for the VDR where it can be turned on or off as well, but if the VDR is turned off the voice recording will stop temporary if there is no sound to record.

Line In Recording:

One of the features I really found useful was Line-In recording. This feature works just like the voice-recording feature, but allows you to connect the MEGA Screen to an external audio source, such as a DVD Player, via the supplied cable and record to the MEGA Screen's memory. As an example, if there is a file or audio stream, which the player doesn't support natively, you can plug in the line in/out cable to the speaker port on the PC, select line in from the players menu and hit record. This creates an MP3 with the streams content. I found it most useful for radio streams being listened to online, recording them to playback later was a breeze. You can also record from the built-in FM radio.

Photo Album

Another feature of this player is the photo album. You can upload some of your favorite photos to the player and show them off to friends with the 262K Color OLED screen. Pictures are clearly displayed, and at high quality. Unfortunately, pictures need to be in RAW format in order for the player to recognize them. Super Talent does include a Picture Conversion Program that can convert any picture to RAW (128x128) As you can see by the screen shot below, the software is extremely simple to use and it worked well. The tools does not batch convert images, so if you have a large amount of pictures you would like to transfer it may take some time.

   

Video Player

Although the player accepts standard MP3 music files for playback, video must be converted first to an NXV format using the bundled software. I found the NXV Converter software very easy to use and entirely self-explanatory. The Conversion program can convert from a number of video formats to NXV file in LOW, MIDDLE, or HIGH Quality. The program converts files quickly, however, the file size of videos can grow quickly with this conversion program. Looking at file sizes, for a 2:32min MPEG1 file (320x176 24.00fps / Audio 95Kbps) with size 13MB, the converter produced a file of size 10.5MB at 128x128 resolution (on low quality). That's rather poor compression. Besides, the converter couldn't produce a working file from an Xvid file. It's possible that my setup was not correct or perhaps the converter works better with MPEG files. The regular MPEG files worked fine. At least, the software is very easy to use, even for inexperienced users.

Surprisingly the size is large enough that a movie loaded into the Mega Screen Player can be viewed without to much difficulty, so I would have to give the display a near perfect rating.

Other Features

The Time Menu allows you to set the Sleep Timer, the Auto-off Feature, and the Clock Time. The player does not display the main window features at all times. After a few seconds, it defaults to a screen saver like feature where the time bounces around the screen. Don't forget that setting the screensaver to turn on after a few seconds of inactivity will greatly improve your battery life! The device can also function as a USB stick. Its reading and writing performance under Windows XP with USB 2.0 interface was rather slow however.

Battery Life

Super Talent claims a battery life of 8 hours under normal use, so I put this to the test. I set up my unit to continuously play our MP3s with the volume set to 20 and configured for extra bass, then set it down for the day (of course, I set the screensaver to turn on after a few seconds of inactivity). When all was said and done, the unit worked along for roughly 9 hours! Okey!

The charging time of the unit is a bit disappointing as according to Super Talent, it requires 4 hours to fully charge it. Also surprised me why no AC adapter? You'll need access to a USB port whenever it comes time to recharge the battery. Another downside I found is that the battery on the MEGA Screen doesn't look like it is easily replaceable. I can't seem to figure out how to pry the unit open to access the battery. You may not have to replace the battery for a long time, but batteries, no matter what type they are, will eventually need to be changed one day. I guess Super Talent is hoping that by the time you need to replace the battery, the cost to replace the battery maybe just as much as a new MP3 player :]

Conclusions

Overall, I was very impressed with how many features Super Talent packed into this compact player. You can listen to music, watch video, look at photos, record something, and even listen to the radio. The keys are laid out so they are easy to use. The OLED screen is very good, colours are rich and it's very bright. The resolution of 128x128 is not really the best for photos and video, but for this category of device and the price range, we shouldn't expect anything better. It's small, it's incredibly light and it's a breeze to use. Additionally, it's very attractively priced. ($80-$100). Seems like a great deal to me! Definitely try this device if you want a compact, portable solution for your music, storage, and voice recording needs.

Pros
- Affordable
- Beautiful, bright and big LCD display
- FM tuner and recording
- Voice recorder built-in
- Photo
- Plays Video
- Clock Screen Saver

Cons
- Transfer speed on the player is slow
- Cheap headphones
- The player does not mention support for DRM files, so I am guessing that won't support any music that's bought online.
- No resume function
- Take a long time to charge (4 hours) via USB - be very careful not to leave the screen active or it will take even longer!
- Can only be charged my USB
- Somewhat confusing and difficult updating the firmware
- Need to install proprietary software for picture viewing and uploading

*** I'd like to thank Super Talent for providing the 2GB MEGA Screen for this review ***



developer: SuperTalent

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