It’s not everyday we get swept off our feet by a new Portable Media Player, but when the Meizu miniplayer was put in our hands, we knew a surprise was installed for us, and what a pleasant surprise it was.
At 55g only and slightly smaller than a namecard holder, the miniplayer is very portable but it is by no means a glass heel. The bulk of the miniplayer is made out of lightweight polished aluminum which, apart from giving it a sturdy build quality, gives the miniplayer a secondary function as a handy vanity mirror. Sadly, other than the mirror-like surface, there really is nothing notable about its design. Making up for the styling shortcoming is a brilliant QVGA (320 by 240 pixels) TFT screen boasting a color palette of more than 260,000 colors, which we found more than vibrant in brightness and color saturation for viewing photos and video clips.
Having been disappointed by frustrating software issues from similar devices in the past, the interface of the Meizu miniplayer was refreshingly painless. Other than a somewhat slow startup time, the user interface is generally snappy, reacting to inputs instantaneously. It is easily one of the most stunning and polished GUI (Graphic User Interface) to come from Chinese manufacturers. Nearly every aspect of it can be customized; menu folder listing, font color, menu bar color, brightness, window transparency, wallpaper to timeout for backlight.
Control of tracks and the interface is done by means of a very tactile 4-way thumbpad that is also a touch sensitive scroller - similar to the version on Creative’s Zen Micro minus sensitivity adjustment. Thankfully, default speed was factory tuned at just the right sensitivity.
Unlike Apple, Meizu bangs more on features than design of its miniplayer. That said, you’ll find FM radio and voice recording via an integrated microphone are both standard. Even more impressive is that the miniplayer has not one but two bundled games, a calendar, stopwatch and calculator, which is more than most models competing in the same segment right out of the box.
Also, because the miniplayer is firmware upgradeable, you will be able to sleep better at night knowing that bugs (if any) can be ironed out. Fully aware that the battery is not removable, Meizu has included two reset modes into the miniplayer to handle contingencies as a result of improper usage: soft reset (data will be retained) by pressing and holding the Enter button for 10 seconds and a hard reset (all data will be deleted) by holding and pressing the Next Track button for eight seconds.
Features aside, audio is really where the miniplayer makes itself heard, literally. At default setting and paired with a pair of Grado SR-80 Prestige Series headphone, audio quality was very clean, certainly as clean as its ‘>90dB Signal-to-Noise ratio’ suggested. However, it is when Spatializer is activated does the miniplayer starts putting its competitors to shame.
Normally, we wouldn’t recommend using any Equalizer or DSP settings because these usually ruin songs by overstretching the highs and lows but not so with the miniplayer. Within the Spatializer lies the engine behind its superlative audio quality of the Meizu miniplayer called ‘Phase Corrected Equalizer’ or PCE in short. Adjustable from a scale of 0 – 9, the PCE is the layman’s version of phase shifting that increases gain, intensity and lows but in a filtered manner such that it does not attenuate or cut out too much signals to overstretch acoustic limits. The fully customizable nature of the miniplayer means you are never too far away from excellent audio quality, which explains why you’ll find yourself enjoying the miniplayer even with the bundled earphones. There’s even a volume limiter built in and this sums up the amount of thought Meizu invested into the miniplayer.
The only thing going against it is its price. At USD$208 for the 4GB version, the miniplayer is a little off the pace in competitive pricing. It would be a no-brainer decision if it was priced lower. Nevertheless, the Meizu miniplayer is like an oasis in a desert of disappointing and often substandard Portable Media Players. It has single handedly rejuvenated our waning confidence of unproven PMPs originating from China and if the miniplayer is anything to go by, it shouldn’t be too long before Meizu throws another surprise our way.