Friday, May 20, 2005

The Dell DJ: A Review

Dell's line of portable media players, the Dell DJ Jukebox, comes in 20 GB and 30 GB models, as well as a 5 GB version. I recently got myself a 30 GB player, which came with a dock and case, for $230. I have been quite satisfied with it.

The player is sleek and well-designed. The controls are well-positioned, with a scroll-wheel to flip through the music library, Home and Back buttons to access the features, and the Advance/Reverse/Play/Pause buttons laid out front and center. The volume controls are on top, along with the headphone jack, power switch, and inline remote jack. In a nice touch, the volume controls are convex(Up) and concave (Down) - useful when the player is hooked to one's belt and one is navigating by touch.

The player comes with the basic version of MusicMatch, branded by Dell. One can either choose to suffer through the upsell ads, upgrade, or use Windows Media Player, as this device is on the PlaysForSure list. Alternatively, one can use the Dell DJ Explorer, a plug-in for Windows Explorer to navigate the music library.

I am beginning to appreciate the MusicMatch application. It is quite easy to navigate, and administer. It has a convenient auto-sync feature that keeps specific playlists in sync. An Auto-DJ function builds playlists based on seeded artists or genres. The upsell reminders are painful, though.

Another product that has some acclaim is the oddly-named Dudebox Explorer. This provides a different UI for the Jukebox, as well as a mini-web server, the XStreamer, which lets you play your music from your DJ on your computer.

The Music Library on the Jukebox itself is easy to navigate, and lets you view the library by Playlists, Albums, Artists, Genres, or Recordings, the last a reference to the optional inline FM-tuner recordings. The standard play modes are available, and a convenient calendar app. The player is very fast - random selection across an entire library of 3000+ songs has sub-second response times.

The aesthetics of the DJ stand out, at least for me, over the iPod. The contemporary, muted metal finish is a tribute to modernism. The battery life is really long - I haven't been able to wear it out over 12 hours of listening. The transfer speed on USB 2 is really fast. The player can also be used as a portable hard drive for any file type. The media types supported are MP3, WMA. Sound reproduction quality is good, depending on the headphones used and file quality of course.

Cost-wise, and quality-wise, this is pretty good. Functionality could be ramped up quite a bit.

3.5/5
Update:: My Dell DJ screen started going blank - the replacement has been doing well.

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