MSI Mega Player 516 Review

Priced at under $150 dollars, the Mega 516 is a great value for the non-audiophile user.
Priced at under $150 dollars, the Mega 516 is a great value for the non-audiophile user.
Priced at under $150 dollars, the Mega 516 is a great value for the non-audiophile user.

Highs

  • Powerful built in amplifier
  • integrated lithium-ion battery
  • media card expansion

Lows

  • Poor headphones
  • no USB 2.0 support
  • cannot except aftermarket headphones

DT Editors' Rating

Home > Product Reviews > Portable Music Player Reviews > MSI Mega Player 516 Review

Summary

MSI has done two things wrong with the Mega 516. First they packaged some very cheap wrap-around style headphones with a fantastic audio player. And secondly they decided to use the smaller mini-jack headphone input. What this means is that people will have a very difficult time finding aftermarket headphones that will be compatible with this player – if at all.

The Mega 516 itself is a wonderful audio player and there are so many things right with it that it is just a shame to see a couple things holding it back. The integrated lithium-ion battery and OLED display make the Mega 516 a very unique player to begin with. Add to that expansion capabilities via the MMC/SD media card slot and you have a player that should stand out in a very crowded market.

What we would recommend to the MSI product design team is to use the standard headphone jack on this player, include a better set of ear buds, add USB 2.0 support and maybe support for Ogg Vorbis and AAC audio formats. MSI is definitely on the right track and we are excited to see what they come up with next. We think it would be safe for MSI to charge a little more for this player if that meant we could get better headphones. Priced at under $150 dollars, the Mega 516 is a great value for the non-audiophile user.

Introduction

MicroStar International (MSI) is a company that is on the move. From their video cards to their new line of digital audio players, everything they make is above and beyond our expectations. When we first reviewed last year’s line of MSI digital audio players, we were impressed with the features and value that MSI put into their products. We also saw our very first digital audio player featuring an OLED display in the Mega Cube 515. Well MSI has done it again, this time not only do they include an OLED display but add media card expansion and Bluetooth in their new Mega 516 and 516BT digital audio players. Priced at under $150, the Mega 516 comes with 256MB of internal memory and is the non-Bluetooth version of these two audio players.

MSI Mega Player 516
Image courtesy Micro-Star International

Features and Design

MSI has always used unique designs when it comes to their digital audio players. When we first got our hands on their Mega Cube 515 player, we thought it was odd they decided to go with a square shaped player.  But other than the way it looked, it performed very well. The same can be said of the Mega 516.  It, like its sibling, looks different then any other players out on the market but performs above average. Its design resembles a hard drive based player, but at a scaled down size. The front and back of the player feature brushed aluminum plating melded with grey plastic that is used on the sides. In the middle of the front faceplate is where the OLED display and FM/Play/Power buttons are. The microphone and other controls are on the left side of the player while the USB, headphone and external microphone ports are on the top.  The menu joystick and media card slot are on the right side. The tiny reset button is found on the back of the player. The design of the Mega 516 is very attractive, and certainly an improvement over previous MSI audio players we have seen.

The Mega 516 performs some standard functions. It plays MP3 and WMA audio formats but not AAC or Ogg Vorbis files.   This is not surprising since many players do not playback AAC or Ogg. Using the built-in microphone you can record conversations or FM radio broadcasts via the integrated FM tuner to the WAV format for playback at another time. Powering the Mega 516 is an integrated 420mAh lithium ion battery and 60mW of total amplifier power to the headphones. The Mega 516 can also be used as a regular external hard drive so you can store your valuable data files on the internal memory or media cards.

The Mega 516 is compatible with Windows 98SE, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP Home/Pro, and MAC OS 9 or above. Apple users finally have something they can write home about. MSI packages the Mega 516 with software to get it up and running, a USB extension and adapter cable and an A/C adapter so you can charge the internal battery by plugging it into the wall.

Setup and Use

We were able to plug the Mega 516 into our computer and have it recognized immediately by our Windows XP Pro based test machine; there was no need to install the supplied software driver. If you do have Windows 98SE then you will need to install the driver provided by MSI before you can start using the player. Our system recognized the Mega 516 as two separate removable hard drives. One drive being the internal flash memory and the other being the media card we had inserted into the player. Once the player is plugged in you can either drag and drop files you want onto the drives to transfer them over to the player, or you can choose to use MSI’s included software to manage your audio and data files. Because the Mega 516 uses the older USB 1.1 standard it means that transfer time is relatively slow. We would expect USB 1.1 on 256MB or smaller audio players, but because the Mega 516 supports more memory through the media card slot, it would have been a good idea to have a USB 2.0 controller instead.

The software that comes with the Mega 516 is amateurish at best. It does little more than moving files to your player which you can do through Windows anyways. There are no MP3 encoding features built into the software whatsoever. If you need to convert audio to MP3 or WMA formats, then we would recommend using the freeware Freerip program. You can edit the start up logo of the player using MSI’s software and also create play lists. Overall MSI really seemed to drop the ball on the included software.

When it comes to audio playback, the Mega 516 has a ton of potential because of its built in 30mW of power going to each channel. The problem is that the wrap-around headphones included with the Mega 516 are very poorly designed. They sound very weak and flat sounding and do not do any justice to the system regardless of the genre of music being played. MSI also decided to use a mini-jack input on the player itself which means you cannot add aftermarket headphones or ear buds to the system. This was a very poor decision on MSI’s part.

Files that are on the internal system memory and the external media card are bunched into one large play list. You cannot choose which folders you want to playback; you are forced to play all of the songs. There is no mention of ID tag support on MSI’s website or the packaging, although the player was able to read our ID tags created by Winamp 2.8.

Setup and Use Cont’d

The FM tuner works great and we were able to pick our local stations in stereo sound without a lot of interference. You can also decide to record what you are listening to over FM radio and save it for playback later. The internal microphone works very well, but because the external microphone also uses a mini jack, you will be hard pressed to find a compatible microphone. We were told by MSI product marketing that the system uses the mini jack instead of the regular headphone/microphone jack because the 516BT version of this player uses a Bluetooth headphone with built in microphone and needs those types of inputs. So they basically left these inputs on the non-Bluetooth Mega 516 version as well.

Menu navigation is consistent with other MSI digital audio players, but poses a somewhat steep learning curve for those switching from another brand of audio player. You have to exit out of each sub menu rather than being able to exit out of the whole menu using one button. There are 5 different equalizer settings to choose from: Classical, Jazz, Pop, Rock and Normal. Each setting changes the way the music sounds by increasing the treble and bass to levels representative of the settings genre. The pop setting deepens the bass while the rock setting flattens all sound levels for example. But no matter what the settings are, the headphones that come with the Mega 516 simply sound terrible. Battery life on the player was above average during our testing requiring a recharge after about 12 hours of continuous usage.

Conclusion

MSI has done two things wrong with the Mega 516. First they packaged some very cheap wrap-around style headphones with a fantastic audio player. And secondly they decided to use the smaller mini-jack headphone input. What this means is that people will have a very difficult time finding aftermarket headphones that will be compatible with this player – if at all.

The Mega 516 itself is a wonderful audio player and there are so many things right with it that it is just a shame to see a couple things holding it back. The integrated lithium-ion battery and OLED display make the Mega 516 a very unique player to begin with. Add to that expansion capabilities via the MMC/SD media card slot and you have a player that should stand out in a very crowded market.

What we would recommend to the MSI product design team is to use the standard headphone jack on this player, include a better set of ear buds, add USB 2.0 support and maybe support for Ogg Vorbis and AAC audio formats. MSI is definitely on the right track and we are excited to see what they come up with next. We think it would be safe for MSI to charge a little more for this player if that meant we could get better headphones. Priced at under $150 dollars, the Mega 516 is a great value for the non-audiophile user.