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PQI mPack P800 Portable Entertainment Centre

PQI mPack P800 Portable Entertainment Centre  - PCSTATS
Abstract: From it's nice 3.5" LCD screen outwards, this miniature media powerhouse is loaded with features, some of which we have yet to see on any competing player.
 82% Rating:   
Filed under: MP3 Players Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PQI Memory Sep 06 2005   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > MP3 Players > PQI Memory mPack P800

TV-out of Photos and DiVX Movies

The PQI mPack P800's TV-out feature worked extremely well in our tests. Using a Samsung Syncmaster 192MP LCD TV, we plugged the A/V cables in, switched the TV's source and we had video on TV right away. The photo viewer looked fantastic on the big screen, and our movies looked good too, although they were nowhere near as impressive on the TV as they were on the small screen of the player. There's nothing stopping you copying higher-res DiVX files onto the PQI device though.

Video Recording

Our video recording tests were accomplished with a Samsung DVD player and a copy of 'The Matrix' and 'Pitch Black'. As with the audio recording, the mPack does not offer any indication as to what format and sampling rate it is recording video with. It's worth noting that the company included a printed sheet in the mPack bundle stating that they do not currently recommend copying directly from DVD and that firmware updates in May 2005 should rectify this issue. We tried it anyway.

The frame rate was inconsistent, visual artifacts were occasionally present and the sound skipped frequently. Looks like PQI were not kidding about the DVD copying problem. It was kind of a shock to see less-than-perfect video on this player. On the 'bright' side, we did not experience the brightness and contrast problems we have seen on other multimedia players when recording straight from DVD. Even 'The Matrix' was adequately bright on the mPack's screen..

Our ~15 minute test file came to 114MB, indicating the player is using a fairly low resolution. Visual quality was fine on the small screen though. When we used the TV-out to display our Matrix clip on a TV, it looked fairly awful, confirming a suspicion about the low sampling rates. Annoyingly, there does not seem to be a way to skip or fast forward through a recorded video file. According to PQI, the menu-based 2x+ forward and reverse controls should work, but in our experience, even though we could get the video to fast forward or reverse, as soon as we tried to return it to normal speed it would freeze the video permanently, forcing us to replay it. Also according to PQI, all video is recorded in MPEG-1 format with audio sampled at 32Kh.

The mPack P800 seems to have plenty of potential for quality DVD recording, but obviously the main issues of sound skipping and image artifacts need to be resolved first, followed hopefully by firmware that gives you a choice of resolution and encoding level too.

Switching to a TV tuner, we recorded 15 minutes of various network programming for testing purposes. Video and sound quality were acceptable and we enjoyed the viewing experience, except for the inability to fast forward, rewind or skip through the file. PQI is going to have to correct this in a future firmware version, because right now it severely compromises the usability of the mPack as a video recorder.

MP3 playback and audio

The built-in MP3 playing application worked well. The program brings up an on screen interface including time ID tag display as well as a file list, but it's likely that most users will turn off the screen to conserve battery life.

Sound quality through headphones was good. We enjoyed listening to our library of tunes on this device and noticed no audio shortcomings. Volume was more than adequate through the included set of ear buds and our own headphones. The audio player comes with an equalizer that has a massive, rather entertaining variety of settings including such faves as 'new age', 'oldies' and 'fork.'

The bass and treble can be adjusted separately, and at maximum levels we found the bass to be quite full with no perceptible distortion. The '3D sound' option widens the stereo field to give the illusion of 3D sound at the cost of some clarity and distortion. This effect worked well on some tracks, poorly on others, but as it can be switched on and off at the touch of a button, it's no big deal either way.

DigitalFM Radio and Voice Recording

The reception and sound quality on the included radio app were fine, as were the quality of the MP3 files we created from recorded broadcasts.

The context menu of the radio app has an option which allows you to directly set the address of the station you are looking for, which was nice to see.

Presets can be set easily too.

Voice recording with a microphone worked about as well as we'd expected. The sound quality was ok, but touching the body of the player produces a lot of additional noise, and distant sounds are indistinct. The voice recording app also does not count the time you have been recording properly, which seems like a bug. Hopefully this will be rectified in future versions of the firmware.

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Contents of Article: PQI Memory mPack P800
 Pg 1.  PQI mPack P800 Portable Entertainment Centre
 Pg 2.  First Impressions and Setup
 Pg 3.  Examining the mPack P800
 Pg 4.  PQI mPack P800 Accessories and Remote
 Pg 5.  Compact Flash Card Reader
 Pg 6.  Companion Software
 Pg 7.  — TV-out of Photos and DiVX Movies
 Pg 8.  Battery life and Conclusions

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