Though finished in a shade of white that is very similar to Apple's iPod counterpart, the MEGA Player 536 was designed to be different from the likes of Apple and Creative right from the start. From its styling, one can tell that the player is not just another lazy attempt to be another iPod-wannabe, a move that is getting all too common from many unimaginative manufacturers these days.
Where the LCD on an iPod takes on a landscape orientation, the LCD on the MEGA Player 536 is planted in a portrait orientation. Quality of the screen however, is second-rate because cheaper color STN LCD was favored over the more expensive and vibrant active TFT screens found in iPods.
Like the top two players in the industry, primary controls on the MEGA Player 536 are all touch sensitive. However, instead of clustering them into a wheel like Apple, the layout resembles more closely to offerings from Creative even though it does not come with a vertical scroll. There is no sensitivity adjustment of any kind for the touchpad however, which was a huge gamble undertaken by MSI that fortunately for them, worked out in their favor as the sensitivity was decidedly refined and turned out just nice in between accuracy and outright sensitivity.
The user interface is also unlike Apple and Creative as the MSI displayed colorful icons that are methodically organized in a grid giving the impression that you are looking at the user interface of a mobile phone instead. Nevertheless, mastering the software mechanics of the MEGA Player 536 proved easy enough, though the array of LEDs lighting up the touchpad was too bright for our liking.
There are no thorny DRM issues to worry about with the MEGA Player 536.
Music can simply be loaded into or extracted out of the internal 4GB HDD through a mini-USB jack located on the player. No special conversion software of any kind is required.
When connected to the PC, it also serves as a 4GB flash drive for data storage purposes. Travelers using digital cameras running off a SD or MMC memory card will find the onboard SD/MMC card reader a handy inclusion because it is not only capable of reading and displaying JPEG files on the player's 1.8-inch color LCD in slideshow mode, but also allows the contents to be copied into its 4GB HDD, thereby acting as a photo bank to free up your memory card for extended shooting goodness.
Although video files are supported, there is a severe playback limitation imposed in that only *.MOV video files of 320 x 240 pixels are compatible. Playback quality however, was smooth but because the LCD belonged to the STN class, colors and brightness had a lot left to be desired.
Audio quality was a different story altogether. Apart from the lack of punch in bass, the MEGA Player 536 surprised us with some strong audio imaging and vocal clarity for MP3, WMA and WAV audio files. It's just a shame that MSI chose to bundle a pair of mediocre earphones that is going to mislead unknowing users into blaming the player for uninspiring music quality.
MSI has gotten several key aspects right with the MEGA Player 536. Functionality, audio, build quality, usability are all present and so too is battery stamina. Even so, its somewhat steep asking price, poor earphones and the unshakable branding of Apple and Creative are undeniable factors working against the appeal of the MEGA Player 536 – even though if it has more capabilities to write home about.