Philips GoGear Muse SA2MUS16S/02
The latest version of Philips' GoGear Muse is a touchscreen MP3 player with a 3.2in 320x480 display. It has 16GB of storage, excellent audio format support and the ability to play 720p HD video and output it via a mini-HDMI port. There's also an FM radio, an SDHC card slot for extra storage, a built-in microphone, text file reader and a handful of other features. The interface is clear and easy to use.
Comparisons with the iPod Touch are inevitable for any touchscreen media player. The Muse is about £100 cheaper than Apple's device, as well as having significantly better audio format support. However, the Touch has become more than just a music and video player, thanks to a wealth of high-quality apps ranging from games to business tools.
The Muse has a few things going for it. Audio format support includes the efficiently compressed OGG files and lossless FLAC files (although even 16GB of space won't hold many of the latter). Its sound quality is excellent – we could find nothing to fault even when listening to lossless audio files on the highest-quality headphones we could lay hands on. The player's own headphones are excellent and battery life for audio playback was a respectable 35 hours.
Unfortunately, video is problematic. Most of our video files were completely incompatible and the supplied Philips-branded copy of the Songbird media manager can't do video conversation. The Muse can handle WMV, MP4, AVI and RMVB video formats at resolutions of up to 720p and a frame rate of 25fps. This is enough information to allow you to get usable results from third-party converters, but it took a bit of trial and error for us to create files that would play.
Even when we were finally able to watch video, the Muse's display is disappointingly grainy, far too reflective and has a limited range of viewing angles that made dark tones seem too black from almost any position. A handful of well-designed features try but fail to compensate for these failings: it can handle video as well as audio playlists, which is handy if you want to string several short clips or music videos together, and the HDMI output makes it easy to share your photo collection or your movies and music with friends. You’ll have to buy your own mini-HDMI to HDMI lead, though.
The GoGear Muse SA2MUS16S/02 seems to have been created to fill a niche that doesn't exist. There's little point in having a touchscreen device that only ever displays one single screen and will never let you install apps. Audio quality is good and the HDMI output is a nice idea, but the screen is poor and there aren't enough features to justify the player's price. If you really want a touchscreen media player, the iPod Touch is still your best bet, despite its steep cost.