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MSI MEGA Player 515 Review

Highs

  • Excellent display
  • integrated lithium-ion battery
  • great sound quality

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 8

Lows

  • Cannot separate albums by folder
  • poor FM radio reception
  • poor headphones
The engineering creativity of the Mega Player 515 is top-notch with the OLED display and integrated lithium-ion battery...

Summary

The Mega Player 515 really is a diamond in the rough as it is clear that this one of the first MP3 player lines that MSI has manufactured. The engineering creativity of the Mega Player 515 is top-notch with the OLED display and integrated lithium-ion battery, so it would seem that MSI set out to create something different and unique.

The lack of music format support and advanced features will be a major disappointment for the hardcore user and we hope that MSI takes some more time to beta test future MP3 players before bringing them to market.

But as it stands, the Mega Player 515 is a better-than-average player that will sound great with the right set of headphones. As of this review, we couldn’t find any retail stores that actually carry the Mega Player 515 and we hope that MSI pushes to get better distribution and exposure of the Mega Player 515, because it really deserves a great amount of attention.

Introduction

The MSI Mega Player 515 is the first flashed-based digital audio player we have seen to feature both an OLED display and an integrated lithium-ion battery. OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) is a relatively new technology designed to take the place of current LCD based products. What is surprising to us is that a company typically associated with computer hardware such as video cards and motherboards, is using this new technology in their MP3 player line.

Another feature which sets this digital audio player apart from other flashed based players is an integrated lithium-ion battery, which MSI says is good for up to 14 hours of continuous listening.

Of course none of these features mean a thing if the player doesn’t sound good. And this is where the MSI Mega Player 515 really has the opportunity to shine because it has an output power rating of 30mW per channel; more juice than the average listener should know what do with. The MSI Mega Player 515 is available in 3 flavors – 128MB, 256MB and 512MB of storage. The product is so new that prices have not yet been announced.


The green and gray Mega Player 515 comes in 128MB, 256MB and 512MB versions.

Features

As we mentioned in the introduction, there are several features unique to this product that need to be pointed out. The first feature is the OLED display. For those of you unfamiliar with this technology, OLED was designed initially to be used primarily in displays such as a computer monitor, cell phone or in this case an MP3 player. There are a number of definitions and terms for this technology, but the most common are “Organic Light Emitting Device” or “Organic Light Emitting Diode”. OLED displays can be created using two different methods. One way is make it using small molecule weight organic materials and the other by using polymer-based materials. The difference between an OLED display and an LCD display is that the OLED display offers bright, colorful images with a wider viewing angle and lower power consumption than an LCD display. But the biggest difference between the two technologies is that an OLED display does not need a backlight like LCD based displays. This gives the image being displayed deeper and more tone rich colors, including a truer black. OLED technology is still in its infancy which is why we are surprised to see it being used in an MP3 player manufactured by a company that specializes in computer hardware.

The second feature that stands out with the MSI Mega Player 515 lineup is the integrated lithium-ion battery. Power sources of this type for flash based MP3 players are usually unheard of because of the costs associated with them. Lithium-ion batteries can be found in digital cameras, cell phones and other high-end consumer electronic devices. The main advantage of a lithium-ion battery is that they can be charged quickly and does not have a memory build up like you would find on ni-cad based batteries. So to find one of these batteries used in the MSI Mega Player 515 is pretty exiting since you do not need to constantly replace the player’s batteries.

MSI brands the Mega Player 515 as a multi-function drive because it can be used in a number of ways. First and foremost the Mega Player 515 is a digital audio player capable of reading both MP3 and WAV audio files. It also doubles as a removable hard drive allowing you to transfer files to and from the player using the included USB cable. MSI also added FM tuner and voice recording capabilities to the Mega Player 515 making it a true multi-function device.

Packaged with the Mega Player 515 is a set of wrap-around style headphones, a carrying case and manuals both located on the software installation CD and in the form of a quick guide mini-poster. Overall the Mega Player 515 package seems to have everything covered.

Setup and Use

Setting up the Mega Player 515 for initial use is fairly easy. Windows XP will recognize the player as a removable hard drive. So once you attached the 515 to your computer using the included USB cable, all you have to do is drag and drop the music files on the player’s icon under “My Computer”. The Mega Player 515 supports only USB 1.1 so transfer speeds are relatively slow. If you have the 128MB model this should not pose a serious problem, but if you have the 256MB or 512MB version, it could take quite a while to get your files moved on over. Using the USB 1.1 standard seems to be pretty normal for flash based players and we have yet to find a flash based player that uses the faster USB 2.0 or FireWire interfaces. If you want, you can opt to install MSI’s MP3 Studio software which acts as an audio manager with features that allow you to rename songs and transfer songs between your computer and player. We preferred to just drag and drop the files onto the player rather than using the MSI software. Beginners with little audio editing experience may appreciate this software more. Once we transferred over our songs, we tested them out with a few of our own headphones.

The OLED display on the Mega Player 515 is truly amazing. Once you power the player up you are greeted by a splash screen followed by information about the first song you have loaded on the player. If you want to change or edit the startup graphics, MSI provides editing tools to make your own graphic or you can choose from 1 of 5 preloaded startup screens. Because OLED technology is still new and expensive, the screen on the Mega Player 515 is pretty small. The good thing is that the display is incredibly bright and sharp. We found it to be very easy to see both in daylight and low lighting situations. We are unsure as to whether OLED based displays are subject to burn-in like LCD displays but we noticed that MSI included a moving screen saver that kicks in after a little while. The display on the Mega Player 515 will show the name of the song, the format of the audio file, the order the song is filed on the player, song length, volume, equalizer settings, remaining battery life and the time of day. MSI has included what they call the “Time Clock” on the 515 which will sync with your computer when the player is plugged in. It’s a pretty basic feature which should probably be standard on all MP3 players.


The Mega Player 515 comes with sub-standard headphones and a carrying case.

There are a few disappointments we found with the way the music is organized on the player. There is no true ID3 tag support and the song is just listed as the name you made when you created it. Songs cannot be organized by album, genre, or artist, and all the songs are bunched together in one large play list not allowing you to only play music in a specific folder even though they are placed in separate folders when the music is copied over.

Sound Quality and Battery Life

When we first started testing the Mega Player 515 using the headphones that came with the player, we thought something was wrong. Everything was flat sounding and the music would distort anytime the volume was turned up above the halfway setting; this was very disappointing. How could a player with an output rating of 30mW per channel sound so bad? So we swapped the stock headphones with the headphones from another MP3 player we were testing, and the sound got a little better, but only ever so slightly. So we decided to take our digital studio headphones the Denon AH-D210, and plug them into the Mega Player 515. We could not believe what we were hearing! The music was very loud, crisp and detailed, and there was a very strong bass presence.

It turned out that the headphones included with the Mega Player 515 simply were not strong enough to handle the power that was being put out. After plugging in a high-end set of headphones, we found that the equalizer settings did create a significant difference in the music when being used. The Mega Player 515 is great for playing any genre of music; hip hop and techno enthusiasts will appreciate the strong and powerful base the Mega Player 515 is capable of.

As a result, the first thing we recommend you do when purchasing the Mega Player 515 is to throw out the headphones that come with it and buy a nice set of high-end headphones. The included headphones sound just terrible and do not do this player justice. A nice high-end set of ear buds or even regular headphones will make the sound of this player so much better.

Keep in mind though, that battery life on the Mega Player 515 will probably lower when you are driving more powerful headphones. We left the player on overnight for a total of 14 hours and it was still going strong the next morning. There is no mention of the battery life on MSI’s website, but we do know that the integrated Lithium-ion battery has a 420 mA/hr rating, which is pretty decent for a player of this size.

Conclusion

The Mega Player 515 really is a diamond in the rough as it is clear that this one of the first MP3 player lines that MSI has manufactured. The engineering creativity of the Mega Player 515 is top-notch with the OLED display and integrated lithium-ion battery, so it would seem that MSI set out to create something different and unique.

The lack of music format support and advanced features will be a major disappointment for the hardcore user and we hope that MSI takes some more time to beta test future MP3 players before bringing them to market.

But as it stands, the Mega Player 515 is a better-than-average player that will sound great with the right set of headphones. As of this review, we couldn’t find any retail stores that actually carry the Mega Player 515 and we hope that MSI pushes to get better distribution and exposure of the Mega Player 515, because it really deserves a great amount of attention.

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