Our final test was a movie marathon,
subjecting the mPack P800 to sequential playback of three DivX movies converted
from our DVD library (reservoir Dogs, Charlie's Angels and Monty Python and the
Holy Grail) at 70% screen brightness. PQI claims movie playback times of
4.5 hours, and we wanted to see what we could expect in real life. As it
turns out, the mPack passed with flying colours, easily finishing all three
movies and providing another 15 or so minutes of playtime afterwards.
Total uptime was just over 4 hours and 45 minutes. Charging the batteries
does take a while though, up to six hours.
The PQI mPack
absolutely shines as a media player. It's more than capable of playing your DivX library, or
most other movie clips you have lying around. Not only will it play
them, it'll play them at full speed with no discernible dropped frames, at least
in our experience. The battery life is more than adequate for viewing multiple
Music and photo viewing are also strengths
of this player. It's support for many file formats including OGG music
files and RAW pictures should endear it to Linux fans and digicameraphiles
respectively. The ability to zoom and pan extensively in the photo viewer
user interface is not exactly simple or intuitive, but it does seem that
a lot of thought was put into making it functional. Once you've got
the hang of the dual joysticks, you can zip through menus and applications
LCD was bright and lively, with excellent colour reproduction and no
perceptible problems. In our movie tests, the sound was always perfectly
in sync with the image.
On the negative side, the included media software is the
only way to create playlists or get the mPack to recognize your music by genre
or artist. This is unfortunate because it is cumbersome to use and
extremely slow when transferring files. You can copy and paste your music
files onto the player's drive and then use the file browser to play them
though. The included applications look like an afterthought and are pretty
much useless. We also wished that the control joysticks
were more precise and better constructed. To be honest, replacing each of them with
a set of five buttons would have provided much better precision.
The mPack does not
currently copy DVDs well, but PQI
states in the package that this is a known problem and
that it will be fixed with a firmware update shortly. Brief instructions on backing
up your movies to DivX are included, which the unit will play flawlessly
in our experience.
the direct copying issue will be resolved though, for convenience'
sake. Of more concern is the current inability to fast forward
or skip through recorded video files. This is a serious annoyance
and needs to be fixed since it compromises the usability of the player.
We'd like to see the option to set resolution and sampling levels for
the recording too.
We also kind of wish that there was some way to
get at the batteries easily, since like any chargeable device, they are
going to die eventually. Having at least the potential of replacing
them would have made us feel better. Of course, it's quite possible
that opening the player would give you easy access, but we refrained from cracking
open the test unit.
Most of the above criticisms should be fixable by means of
firmware updates. If PQI can pull this off, the mPack may well be the best
portable multimedia player on the market in a couple of months. At the moment, it certainly offers a better LCD screen, and generally improved features over the MSI Megaview 561 PCstats reviewed previously.
PQI offers a one year warranty that covers all aspects of the
mPack P800. MSRP for the mPack P800 40GB model is US$599, but we've
seen it for $500USD (CAN$620). This puts it considerably higher than the
average hard disk audio player, but still much cheaper than a budget
As a portable movie viewer, the mPack P800 is the best
we've seen yet. As a photo viewer and music player it's excellent too. Battery
life is another strength. Despite the slightly fishy controls, recorded DVD and
TV playback problems and stodgy software, it earns itself a coveted honour: The
next time I'm on a plane or a train, I'm going to really wish I had it with me.
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