Players Tested - Part 2

May 05, 2007

b. User Interface (UI)

How does one define the user interface of a product? This can be divided into hardware and software aspects. Let's take a closer look at each:

- This deals with how easy it is to navigate within the phone via the default user interface. Some manufacturers do a fantasti
c job while some just don't really put the effort in. Some devices don't even have a software UI - a case in point is the iPod shuffle.

- This deals with how well laid out are the buttons. Are the USB ports ideally placed? Is anything hindering usability eg. a button blocking access to another button?

MP3 vs MD:
Taking a swift comparison between MP3 and MD players, there's no question that the iPod alone gives weight to the fact that MP3 players have a better hardware/software interface.

- clicking each menu will branch to a sub-menu and this relationship actually shown as the sub-menu is scrolls to the left within a split second, thus replacing the original menu. In most other MP3 players, similar clicking patterns will bring up a sub-menu but the relationship is not obvio
us due to the immediate change to the screen display. Songs are categorized neatly into albums/favorite playlists making searching very easy.

For the hardware, you have 5 clickable buttons and a click wheel. It's really as simple as it can get.

MD player - follows the same "immediate change" system where clicking a menu jumps to the next menu with an immediate visual change in the LED display. However, Sony's latest MD effort - the MZ-RH1 and recent MP3 players include a visual implication to the menu to sub-menu relationship. See this video that has posted to have a closer look at how the user jumps from "Menu - REC Settings - REC Mode - Hi-SP". One limitation is the number of lines of information displayed. Having more lines of display is far better for obvious reason. See the pictures below to understand the potential ease of use with multiple lines of display.

Song categorization is basic - the early generation of MD players simply had a single tracklist for each disc. Only during the MDLP phase,the Group structure (similar to Playlist) emerged where each Group supports one tracklist.

Hardware-wise, no MD player has been able to better the iPod in terms of user intuitiveness. However , considering the vast amount of customization it allows eg. dividing, recording tracks, Sony learnt and progressively got better with its joystick buttons as you can see on the MZ-N10.

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