The GoGear has been Philips hand of cards in this game of tiny and shiny players, populated by names both big and small. And in this market Philips holds its own – they have been doing so since at least 5 years with consistency and reliability. But then again, every new model is different, and this time they have released an iteration of the Go Gear series, called the Aria SA1ARA04K/97. We received a neat 4 GB version, so let's check it out and see what's new, and what's not…
Form Factor and features
The Aria doesn't throw in anything new in terms of design, all Go Gear looks pretty much the same, except of course intricate improvements in surface geometry and button finish. The outer shell is gloss black, with dark grey plastic for the sides. USB connection, volume control and “locking” slider switch are on the sides, while the top face has the control buttons arranged in quite a neat way. The main play button is black and positioned centrally, nested in a vertical rocker switch. Surrounding this is a 4 way navigation switch which makes up the whole black surface neighboring the screen. Speaking of screen we have a 2-inch color screen with 220 x 176 resolution. Overall it's a neat finish. Also, we were pretty impressed by the bundled earphones, which are in ear, and look perfectly matched, aesthetically, with the player. The cord is about a meter in length which suffices for most body types.
The Main generic features on offer are standard, with music, radio, video, text and photo. Now microanalysing… the filetypes supported are basic vanilla kinds like MP3s and WMA for audio, and for video we have SMV at the native res of 220 x 176. This is done via included software, and i think it's a slight downer as the patience required for converting files these days is just not there. Stuff like AAC (for iTunes customers) is not supported. The battery life stated is 30 hours for music and 6 hours for video.
The player boots up very fast, no lag issues there, and menu browsing and navigation is fast in response. The buttons themselves have a nice tactile feel, though I just wish the 'play' button was a little bigger. The radio auto tuning preset goes a little crazy though, it some how found 7 presets between 94 MHz to 98.3 MHz, obviously non existent.
Audio playback is very good, much above average. The output level is loud, and the bundled in-ears sound quite nice – the frequency response is low enough in the bass, with a crunchy, tight mid range. The treble too is clear and has no trace of edginess or extra sibilance. There is basic EQ setting, which is not really crude, but can't call it intricate. It's good enough for upping the mids in an audiobook recital and stuff. Video playback is not as enjoyable as the screen size is not the biggest out there. Strictly speaking though the video rendering is fine, no hiccups or visible glitches.
Battery life was a little short of the claims, with music lasting upto 28 hrs, and video playback lasting 5 hrs 35 min.
At Rs. 4999 the player is not so reasonable, it could have been a tad cheaper. If it were a drag and drop affair for videos, then surely this player is superb. The audio playback is very good, but then feature-wise the Philips could have done better. Overall it scores some points for design and audio playback, plus Philips is a reliable brand, I can say that for the record. Buy it if you're getting a discount.
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