Various companies are introducing more and more portable multimedia devices to the market that promises to playback audio, video files, pictures, and text files, while having a small-form factor. These nifty features allow users to have a sense of freedom and portability, while entertaining themselves wherever, whenever.
And while some brand names are already synonymous with this market, Kingston, a company better known for producing quality memory, is testing the waters by introducing the K-PEX100, a player that promises 'Portable Entertainment eXperience' like never before. Considering that Kingston is a big player in the memory market, this move isn't altogether unexpected, but will the K-PEX100 be favorably accepted in this crowded market? Let's have a look.
At first glance, its small, rectangular form factor, hard silver/black plastic construction and button layout make the K-PEX100 look like a mini gaming device. In fact, we wouldn't fault you if you initially though that this is the second coming of the long extinct 'Game and Watch' handhelds of yesteryear more than anything else. Upon closer inspection however, we found that it has more features and capabilities than meets the naked eye.
The numerous buttons that surround the 2-inch color TFT LCD display is all you ever need for control. In the front, you get the Power, Menu, Play/Stop, Select, Escape buttons and directional keypad. Volume and Hold buttons are located at the bottom of the device and the Mode, Repeat and Record buttons line the top. Small the K-PEX100 may be, but the controls are well laid out and clearly labeled, though you may need to get accustomed to all these buttons.
Besides having built-in flash storage capacities up to 2GB, the K-PEX100 sports a miniSD card slot as well, which not only allows expansion of maximum memory, but flexibility as well. The K-PEX100 uses a USB port for charging the device or for file transfer and syncing with your PC or notebook. Finally, a line-in and headphone jack can be found on top of the unit.
It takes quite a while for the K-PEX100 to boot up and bring you to its GUI interface. However, we are pleased to say that users will have an easy time navigating through the system once its up. This little player packs quite a punch as it is able to playback audio and video files, view JPEG images, read text documents, tune in to FM radio stations and record audio (using either the line-in jack or internal microphone) when the need arises. The coolest function is probably its support for basic gaming. Yes, the K-PEX100 will ship with some preloaded games. However, they seem to be proprietary developed and there isn't any news at the moment on additional support. Of course, when times start to get dull, the simple games do relive the old 'Game and Watch' days for a while.
The music player supports MP3, MWA, Ogg(Q10), and WAV file extensions, and its audio quality is quite good for a portable player. Once the volume is turned up however, slight distortions can be heard along the very low and very high frequency ranges. Its UI is too simplistic through. Files can be segregated using folders, but that’s about it. There is no way for users to choose songs according to genre or specify the files to be played on the unit.
Users can also view their favorite videos on the K-PEX100 using its own MPX file format. The included Transcoder software will accept AVI, ASF, MPEG 1/2 and MWV files at the moment, but we have to warn you first, the conversion process takes a pretty long time. Our sample 25-min AVI file took as long as the whole video to convert. However, we did notice that the resulting MPX file is quite compact (around 3 times smaller using the high audio and video conversion settings). Once transcoded and transferred into the K-PEX100 though, we were quite satisfied with its audio and video quality – as much as a 2-inch screen will show anyway.
Kingston is sure to make its presence known with the arrival of the K-PEX100. While this is their first attempt at making a portable media player, they have done an exceptional job. The K-PEX100 may not be a suitable device for those who have already had a taste of high-end media players, but for as low as US$127, you can grab a 2GB model that even comes with a free 256MB MiniSD. This Swiss Army Knife of a mini portable player isn't to be trifled with.