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Technology magnate Philips has come up with a small, lightweight MP3/WMA player that interfaces with computers via USB. The Philips Digital Audio Player comes in both 64MB and 128MB storage capacities, plus it's magnesium exterior is available in two colors: trendy white or stylish black. The unit is smaller than my index finger and weighs in at only ten grams (10g). It also comes with an in-cord remote control with play/pause, volume, and track skip buttons (although a fabric band with built-in remote is available seperately, thus turning the unit into a necklace pendant). Battery worry is a thing of the past thanks to the built-in rechargable battery that draws power from your PC or Mac through the USB port. It takes about four hours to recharge a dead unit. If you can't wait that long (or want more play time) you can pop a AAA battery into the included adaptor to supplement/complment the built-in battery. Also included in the package is a set of stereo headphones and a strap for tying the unit around your neck as well as the necessary software for using the thing. All of this can be yours for $100 or $150, depending on the model you buy (the 128MB unit is more expensive, of course). The system requirements are pretty lean in this day and age, calling for only a Pentium 166MHz, 96MB of RAM, and 50MB of hard drive space. Windows 98SE users only need 32MB of RAM for some reason. There are no printed materials included in the package save for the warrenty card and quick start sheet; the manual and other resources are included on the CD in PDF format. The Philips audio website at http://www.audio.philips.com also offers firmware upgrades and more customer support.

So what happens when you take the unit out of the package? Windows ME/Windows 2000/Windows XP users are pretty much ready to go after they charge the battery for the first time, but those of us running Windows 98SE will have to install the drivers on the included CD. When the unit is connected to the USB port the computer recognizes the sudden addition of a new disk drive and you can copy your music to the unit with conventional system commands or you can use the included MusicMatch Jukebox software to do the job. It is not possible to both charge the unit and transfer files to it, but luckily a light on the unit lights up with green during charge mode and orange during playback/transfer mode. If you're bopping to your favorite tunes when the battery begins to go dead, you'll hear a series of beeps before the unit goes dark. Attempting to transfer files to/from the unit with a weak battery can result in system errors and the dreaded blue screen of death, so only perform file transfers on a strong battery. It is not possible to simulaneously plug the unit into a computer and utilize the AAA battery attachment, so don't wait until the last minute to transfer your files and recharge the unit.

The Philips Wearable Digital Audio Player is an excellent value for those of us who crave our music on the go but don't want to go all-out to buy an iPod. It lacks a display, playlist functions, or the other bells and whistles found on more expensive units, but for someone who just wants their music while they're walking around on the outside, this is a perfect little gadget. The sound output is as crisp and clean as your source music files, and there's no need to worry about skips or jostles because there are no moving parts in the unit. If you want an affordable way to carry your music with you, then the Philips Wearable Digital Audio Player is for you.

unit packaging

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