First there were walkmans, then portable cd players, now we have MP3 players. There are more types of MP3 players on the market than you can count. Flash MP3 players use a small flash card to store the music. These are usually more expensive per megabyte, but they are smaller, lighter and faster. Hard drive MP3 players like the iPod and Pocket DJ can hold more songs for less money, but they pay for that with extra weight and longer load times. The iPod is currently the most popular, but Dell is hoping to make some waves with its line-up of MP3 players.
- 5GB of storage
- Up to 10 hours of battery life
- Plays MP3, WMA, WAV
- 1.62″ LCD
Unpacking the box and setting up your new toy is always one of the best aspects of getting new stuff. Unpacking the Pocket DJ is no different. Inside the box you will get several different items. The Pocket DJ, USB sync cable, power cable, earbud earphones, software cd, getting started guide and a product information guide.
According to the getting started guide, you should let the Pocket DJ charge for about 2.5 hours. This is also a really good time to install the software that comes on the CD. The Musicmatch software is for general ripping of cds and uploading them to your Pocket DJ. It does a really good job of creating quality MP3s and it can go online to get the song information like artist and title so you don’t have to manually type it in. Once the songs are ripped and saved, you can also use the Musicmatch software to upload the songs to the Pocket DJ. The other software that is included on the CD is the Dell DJ explorer. This software is like Windows explorer in that it allows you to transfer files to and from your Pocket DJ. There are no limitations on what kind of files you can store, so even if you do not listen to a lot of music you can use the Pocket DJ as a portable hard drive.
Once the software is installed and the Pocket DJ is charged you really get to have some fun. You should probably wait to turn it on until it is fully charged because it cannot charge and be on at the same time, this is a limitation of charging through a USB plug. Once it is on you can configure the settings and input your user information. There are not that many settings on the Pocket DJ. It consists of setting the time and date, your name, equalizer settings, backlight time, contrast, idle shutdown and language. There is also a calendar in the Pocket DJ, but as far as I could tell it doesn’t do anything except tell you the days of the month.
Every MP3 player is slightly different in design and every user has something they do and don’t like about the design. The Pocket DJ has a very capable design, one that I found to be very pleasing. The device itself is only 3.5″ x 2.1″ x 0.5″. This is only slightly shorter and slightly wider than the iPod minis 3.6″ x 2.0″ x 0.5″. The size differences are so minute that you will not notice them unless you use a ruler. The Pocket DJs 1.62″ diagonal screen is also slightly smaller than the iPod minis 1.67″ diagonal screen. Again, you will not notice the difference unless you measure it. The Pocket DJ does weigh a bit more than the iPod mini. The Pocket DJ weighs 4.4 oz and the iPod mini weighs 3.6 oz. The extra weight on the Pocket DJ could be explained by their use of metal for the case, instead of plastic like the iPod. Personally, I like the look of the metal case. It is much more elegant.
Probably the biggest design flaw that I found was the lack of an easily replaceable battery. This is one of those things that every battery operated device needs. Fortunately for the Pocket DJ, if you have a small phillips screw driver you can open up the Pocket DJ and replace the battery from the inside. Because the battery just snaps out and in you don’t have to worry about soldering in a new battery or breaking the hardware inside.
One of the greatest design choices is the use of raised buttons. I find it a complete pain to have to take an MP3 player out of my pocket every time I want to change songs, pause or any number of other things. With raised buttons all I have to do is quickly feel for the middle button and press and that will pause or play the current song. I can press the right button to fast forward or skip a song and the left button to rewind or go back a song. The home, back and scroll buttons are also useful but because they operate the menus you must take the Pocket DJ out in order to see what menu item you are on. One button that is sorely missed is the stop button. But having the dedicated volume and other buttons makes up for it by making it easier to use.
Another nice design feature is the lock. On the back of the Pocket DJ is a small sliding switch which locks the Pocket DJ so you don’t accidentally press a button. It is a very small switch and kind of stiff so unless you have a good fingernail you may have a hard time using it. The stiffness is nice because it won’t accidentally unlock.
On the bottom of the Pocket DJ is a small reset button. I have never had to use this, but just in case it freezes up you can press this to reset the Operating System and keep going.
On the top of the Pocket DJ are the volume buttons. These are also easy to tell apart without having to look at it because the up volume is raised and the down volume is indented. The power button is also located on top. It is indented, but it is smaller than the volume buttons so you can feel the difference. The power button also lights up when the device is on. In addition to the buttons on the top there is also a standard headphone jack and also a USB mini-B port. The USB mini-B port is used not only for syncing the device to your computer and transferring files, but also for charging the Pocket DJ. There is not a separate AC plug instead the AC adapter plugs right into the USB mini-B port. This eliminates the need for an additional plug.
Probably the most important aspect of an MP3 player is how well it plays music. A lot of that is dependent on the format of music you are playing and also the quality of the original music. Because the Pocket DJ supports MP3, WMA and WAV file formats you will certainly be able to find the right mix of file size and quality. The Pocket DJ has a very good flat frequency response and low distortion, and can deliver between 95 and 100 dB with quality headphones. It is good enough that if you play a high-bit-rate classical piece you can hear every note with clarity and definition that you would expect from a bigger stereo. If it’s in the music, the Pocket DJ will play it very well.
The Pocket DJ is limited with the types of music it can play. For now it can only play WMA, MP3 and WAV. It is also compatible with secure WMA formats which are used by many online music stores including Napster, MSN Music, and Wal-Mart. So far it does not support OGG (Ogg Vorbis) or ACC. ACC is a format that is only supported by iPods so it will probably never support it. So far the Pocket DJ does not support Microsoft’s latest WMP 10.0 DRM (previously known as Janus), Dell has previously said that they would be releasing an update to the firmware to fix this, but I have not seen one yet.
Battery life on the Pocket DJ is not far off from what Dell claims. The claimed time is 10 hours with 128kbpS MP3 audio format, mid-range volume and the backlight and equalizer off. With all those settings I was able to get 9 hours and 31 minutes.
In my tests I was able to get about 2.7MB/s out of the USB 2.0 connection. Even though it is rated for about 8MB/S, this is still really good for a device like this.
The equalizer performs well and gives you several options. There are 8 preset EQ settings and one custom. The preset EQ settings are Acoustic, Classical, Disco Jazz, New Age, Pop, Rock and Vocal. The custom EQ setting lets you change the 100, 800, 3k and 12k Hz frequency and you can adjust them by 12 dB either up or down.
The Dell Pocket DJ is a no frills MP3 player. They have kept it simple, but also inexpensive. This is one of the least expensive MP3 players on the market and if you are budget minded then this could be for you. If you really have a huge MP3 collection you could opt for one of the bigger DJs like the DJ 30 which has 30GB of storage. At the time this article was published you could pick up a Pocket DJ for only $199. This is a good deal, but an even better deal is the DJ 20 for $224 or even the DJ 30 for $269.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|