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Mpio FY200 256MB Review

Highs

  • Above average sound quality
  • comes with a load of features

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 5

Lows

  • Poor wrist strap design
  • lacks heavy bass
  • misleading company website
The quality of the player and the headphones are clearly above average, but the execution of everything else falls short.

Summary

You can pack a ton of features into a product, but if they are not executed correctly, they really do not matter in the first place. This is what happens with the Digitalway FY200 MP3 player. The quality of the player and the headphones are clearly above average, but the execution of everything else falls short. You cannot randomly play songs between multiple folders which is a major bummer and those that appreciate hip hop and techno genres will be disappointed by the lack of bass present. Those looking to use an MP3 player while exercising will probably find the included arm band and second set of headphones annoying to say the least.

The FY200 is a fairly good product and we are sure once the kinks are worked out, will be one of the better MP3 players on the market. If you can, try out the FY200 before you buy it or purchase it from a store with a good return policy. The FY200 will most likely fit the needs of some people just fine, but will also leave others disappointed.

Introduction

It has been more than a year since we had our first experience with an MPIO product, the DMK 128MB MP3 player. The DMK was one of the smallest MP3 players on the market at that time and offered sound quality that rivaled much larger and more expensive MP3 players. Since the MPIO DMK received our editors choice award on the site for overall quality and technology, we had very high expectations from their newer player the FY200.

Priced at around $200 dollars for the 256MB model and $140 for the 128MB model, the FY200 adds new features over the DMK such as a built in FM tuner, voice recorder and the ability to be used as a USB mass storage device.

The FY200 with the standard and second set of headphones including the wrist strap

Design and Features

Our first impression of the MPIO DMK was that it had a very distinctive feel to it. The packaging had a lot of Korean type and symbols on it and the LCD display presents you with a start up animation when you turn the player on; it is very cute in a way. Digitalway, the maker of the MPIO FY200 decided to go a different route and make this newer digital audio player a lot more stylish and cut down on the “cute” factor.

The FY200 features a white and silver housing with a design quality that reminds us of the Apple iPod or the Philips Key Ring MP3 player. The player is designed almost like a piece of jewelry; featuring a shiny silver accent and a strap allowing it to be worn like a necklace.

On the front of the unit is a three-line LCD display that will show the ID3 tag information of the MP3 file you are playing, the battery status, duration of the track, FM station ID and more. The LCD display is inset in the player and covered by a mirror finish clear plastic screen. The right hand side of the player has all of the controls except for the play/pause functions. This includes the volume, hold, record, menu and fast forward/rewind controls.

Many of the newer digital audio players coming to market give you the option to store not only music but also data on their product much like a regular hard drive. The FY200 is seen as an external hard drive by Windows and with the included USB dongle, it is easy to hook up to your computer to store any kind of data. Unfortunately, the direct connection can only be used for data files; the player requires the included software for transferring music files.

Lastly, for those of you who like to listen to music while working out, Digitalway includes an arm band and an extra set of headphones with an especially long cord so you can strap the FY200 in and set out for a nice jog.

The FY200 with the USB adapter plugged in

The FY200 with the USB adapter plugged in

Setup and Use

Since the FY200 offers a good number of features, there is a lot of information you may need to read about in the included manual. Digitalway includes a rather detailed instruction manual, however, the Korean to English translation is rather poor. You may find that you just need to spend some time getting used to the players controls and functions on your own.

For the most part, menu navigation is rather intuitive and if you have any experience with other digital audio players you should have no difficulty navigating around the menu system.

The software that comes with the FY200 is compatible with Windows 98/ME/2000/XP as well as MacOS 8.62 – 9.2, and MacOS X. Software installation is pretty straightforward and once installed, is used to transfer files to the player and back.

Called the MPIO Manager2 and used with most of Digitalways products, this program is strictly flash based and has an overall slow and jumpy feel to it. However, Digitalway has added an innovative touch to the software and incudes a separate plug-in installer so you can use your favorite program to interface with the FY200. This includes support for Windows Media Player, RealONE player, and Apple’s iTunes 2, 3 and 4. Transferring files between the FY200 and your computer is relatively straightforward and utilizes your typical drag and drop format inside the MPIO Manager 2 program. The FY200 uses the USB 1.1 standard so transferring files can take quite a while.

The FY200 can read the MP3, WMA, and ASF audio formats. There is however, no support for Ogg Vorbis nor is there any mention of support for this format on the company’s Website, despite having multiple firmware updates available. MP3 and ASF buffs will be happy to know that the FY200 can read MP3 and WMA files encoded up to 320 Kbps as well as Variable Bit Rate recordings.

Unlike some portable audio devices which can double as a mass storage device, the full size USB interface is not built into the player itself. Rather you have to use a mini-USB to standard USB adapter which will let you plug the FY200 directly into your computer. We would prefer to have this built into the player since you are forced to carry around an extra part if you will be using the FY200 for data storage. Also worth mentioning was the fact that our test computer equipped with Windows XP Pro did not recognize the FY200 as a hard drive. We had to transfer data files by using the MPIO software. This hurts this player significantly as a thumb drive substitute.

The FY200 nylon case with plastic see-through window

The FY200 nylon case with plastic see-through window

Sound Quality and Testing

You are probably wondering at this point how this player sounds. The answer is just like every other MPIO product we have tested to date, and this is a good thing for the most part. The standard neck headphones that Digitalway packs with the FY200 are of relatively high quality. The highs and mids are very crisp and clear, however, the bass seems to be very lacking. Despite having 6 preset equalizer settings and one user customizable setting, we were unable to find anything to satisfy our bass cravings. There is a noticeable difference between the equalizer settings, but to be honest they feel more like sound enhancements to the normal setting than a different equalizer setting altogether. But overall, the sound quality is slightly better than your typical MP3 player probably due more to the higher quality headphones packaged with the FY200 than the player itself.

We tested the player with several other headphones, of known better all-around quality, and the bass was still not powerful enough. Sometimes lack of bass performance is only the fault of the headphones, but in this case, the FY200 unit itself was the main culprit.

The FY200 gives you a lot of options when it comes to playing your music. You can set it to play through all of the music folders if you have your music categorized by albums, or you can set it to only repeat a specific folder. We thought this was very cool, however you cannot set the player to randomly play all songs in every folder, it is limited to only one folder.

You can also speed up or slow down the speed of the playback of the song, although we are unsure of why you would want to do that unless it comes in handy on voice recordings. Overall the FY200 would be a good player for listening to rock or other music with little emphasis on bass. Techno music sounds average and hip hop and rap is on the poor side due to the missing bass.

One of the best features of the FY200 is the integrated FM tuner. Why more players don’t incorporate this is beyond us – we always end up using the FM tuner. Reception is very good and you can bookmark your favorite stations to listen to at a later time. If you should choose to, you can record the song being played over the FM tuner as well and save it for playback later. You can store up to 20 station channels on the player, probably more than you would ever need, but it is always better to have more than less.

Voice Recording

As we have mentioned, FY200 has a very sophisticated built in voice recorder. Recording quality is very good and you can choose to record in 3 different modes, low, high quality and super high quality. Each mode records at a different bit rate, and the FY200 supports both VOR (VHF Operated Recording) and AGC (Automatic Gain Control) capabilities. VOR allows you to record when there is a sound present rather than recording everything constantly. This is important because it will save precious storage space on the unit. The AGC capability allows you to automatically control the overall frequency depending on the input.

Speaking of input, you can use the integrated microphone or hook an external microphone into mini-plug input. The manual does not mention anywhere that you can use an external microphone with the FY200, but we tested this out and it worked fine. We would have liked to see mention of this on MPIO’s Website or in the manual but could not find any.

It is very easy to encode and record audio files from an external source. Digitalway includes a cable which allows you to plug the FY200 into the audio output of a CD player or any other audio source so you can record music from that source and encode and store it on the FY200 for later playback. We were very impressed with this feature and could find it useful when transferring audio files between two different sources. The only downside is that you have to play the audio file in its regular speed, so it takes a while if you are going to record anything of real length.

Poor Design for Exercising With

By far one of the best features we have seen on any digital audio player was how easy it was to take the older MPIO DMK MP3 player with you on a jog or workout. Simply strap on the arm band and snap the player into a plastic cradle. Well Digitalway really worsened this feature by forcing you to put the FY200 into a nylon case and weaving the arm band through this case. There is simply no easy way for you to undo the FY200 from your armband. The nylon case fits around the FY200 very snugly and makes the player controls very difficult to use through the plastic windows.

We mentioned earlier that the FY200 includes a second set of headphones. The first set is used to allow the unit to hang from your neck like a necklace but the cable is not long enough to accommodate the arm band. Digitalway includes this second set to be used with the armband or if you choose to not have the device hanging from your neck. Unfortunately, this second set of headphones is just plain terrible. The quality of the headphone construction and the quality of the sound are poor. The result is a very flat sound reproduction that audio enthusiasts are sure to cringe at.

To top it off, there are no safety precautions to keep the FY200 attached to the standard neck ring headphones. The previous MPIO DMK has a separate catch that would prevent the headphones from disconnecting from the player. We have seen this feature on just about every MP3 player on the market across all brands, but it is missing on the FY200 altogether. This makes it easy for the FY200 to fall when working out.

Lost in Translation

We felt it was worth mentioning that the MPIO website can be very misleading when looking up information and particularly pictures of this product. First of all the headphones they show with the FY200 on their website do not actually come with the player. Maybe in the Korean version it does, but they certainly did not come with the player we received. Example one shows a picture of the FY200 player on MPIO’s website, the headphones in this picture do not match the headphones packaged with our player.

The FY200 headphones as shown on MPIO's website
The FY200 headphones as shown on MPIO’s website

Example two shows a picture of the FY200 player with the saftey catch which we said was missing from our player. We think this is a very important element to the longevity of the player and do not understand why the FY200 sold here in the states is lacking it.

The FY200 pictured with its saftey catch
The FY200 pictured with its saftey catch

Conclusion

You can pack a ton of features into a product, but if they are not executed correctly, they really do not matter in the first place. This is what happens with the Digitalway FY200 MP3 player. The quality of the player and the headphones are clearly above average, but the execution of everything else falls short. You cannot randomly play songs between multiple folders which is a major bummer and those that appreciate hip hop and techno genres will be disappointed by the lack of bass present. Those looking to use an MP3 player while exercising will probably find the included arm band and second set of headphones annoying to say the least.

The FY200 is a fairly good product and we are sure once the kinks are worked out, will be one of the better MP3 players on the market. If you can, try out the FY200 before you buy it or purchase it from a store with a good return policy. The FY200 will most likely fit the needs of some people just fine, but will also leave others disappointed.

The FY200 is a fairly good product and we are sure once the kinks are worked out, will be one of the better MP3 players on the market. If you can, try out the FY200 before you buy it or purchase it from a store with a good return policy. The FY200 will most likely fit the needs of some people just fine, but will also leave others disappointed.