MSI Megastick 1 Review

Highs

  • FM tuner
  • recognized as external drive
  • voice recording
  • good features at reasonable price

Lows

  • Only comes with necklace style headphones
  • could use a little refinement

DT Editors' Rating

Home > Product Reviews > Portable Music Player Reviews > MSI Megastick 1 Review

Key Specifications

Features
FM Tuner, Voice Recorder
See All

Summary

While they lack the extra polish we like to see to make a common product like a digital audio player stand out amongst the rest, both of the MSI Megastick MP3 players are good solid products for their price.

We do not know what MSI was thinking when they decided to ditch the ear buds in favor of the external headphones on the 256MB version of the player and that hurt its score significantly. The backlight display and menu is easy to see and use, and because the player is seen as a hard drive on your computer, it’s very easy to transfer files over to the player.

Those looking for iRiver or Apple quality might be a bit disappointed and audiophiles will want to look elsewhere.  All-in-all the performance and sound quality of both players is average and what we expected considering the price range they fall in. We recommend that you purchase an extra set of ear buds to use with the 256MB version since the headphones packaged with this player are of poor quality. The Megastick series MP3 player from MSI would make a good gift for any teenager or those that do not want to pay an arm and a leg for a multi-purpose digital audio player.

Introduction

Microstar International, also known as MSI, is a company traditionally known for their motherboards and computer peripherals. They have ventured out of the computer hardware realm to introduce a couple of multi-purpose digital audio players for their Megastick product line.

One audio player named the Megastick 1, features ear buds, and 128Mb of storage space while the 256MB version features individual wrap-around style head phone. The 128MB version can be found for under $100 dollars while the 256MB version can be found priced around $135 dollars.


The MSI Megastick 1 128MB digital audio player.

Features and Design

Both players come packed with a number of features including FM radio tuners, voice recording via an internal or external microphone and quick repeat. Both are also recognized by your operating system as a mass storage device using the integrated USB adapter. Because the USB adapter is integrated into the player and hidden by a cap, there is no need for a separate cable. Simply remove the cap and plug the player into your computer. But if you would prefer to use a cable to connect your MP3 player to your computer, MSI does package a cable with both players.

The 256MB version of this player comes with a clear case which can clip on to your belt or waist band. Those that exercise will find this feature very appealing. However the 128MB version of this player only comes with the necklace style headphones.

Both players can playback MP3 and WMA audio formats and support the ADPCM format when using the voice recording function. Data and music are transferred to and from the player using the USB 1.1 interface. Powering both players is a single AAA battery which MSI claims can power the unit for 12 hours.

The 128MB version of this player comes in a pearlescent white finish with silver accents, while the 256MB version comes in a metallic blue finish with silver accents. Design-wise, both players appear to be identical with exception to their paint jobs and the headphones that come with them.  The ear bud headphones definitely look better than the external headphones and the quality of the wrap-around necklace for the ear buds looks and feels better than the necklace on the external headphones.

Setup and Use

Setting up these players for use is very simple. Because they are seen by your computer as a hard drive, you can simply drag and drop the music or data files to the removable hard drive icon under “My Computer” in Windows. The only time you ever really need to install the included software is when you need to upgrade the firmware. MSI has a nifty little utility that will check your player and upgrade its software if it is ever needed. We recommend you do this before putting any data on the player to ensure that everything is up-to-date.

MSI packs a fold out quick-start guide which will give you basic setup information. However if you want more detailed instructions, there is a 51-page manual on the CD-ROM in Adobe Acrobat format. The instructions are good for the most part but they left out some very important details. We could not figure out which MP3 bit-rates this player is capable of reading from. The good part is that it worked when reading songs recorded between 48kbps and 192kbps which are the most commonly used bit-rates.

We had no trouble getting our test computer to recognize the MegaStick digital audio players and transferring music over to the player was a breeze. Upgrading the firmware was a little tricky because you have to hold the play/pause button while at the same time connecting it to your computer. You will most likely have to use the supplied USB cable when doing this so you do not have to reach around the back of your computer.

The Integrated FM tuner works great and this is because MSI chose to use the Philips tuner chip in their Megastick player. We had no problems seeking the local stations and storing them as presets. MSI gives you the option to store up to 10 memory presets for quick access. You can then decide to turn on or off the manual scanning when looking for the station you want.

Menu navigation is very easy to use, but different than players we have seen from the likes of iRiver and Digital Way (MPIO). You push down on the joystick to enter the menu system and then you have to choose “exit” to leave each sub-menu option. Other players we have seen assign a dedicated button such as the “record” button to use when backing out of the system. The Megastick is different in this regard but is basically just as easy to use. We were able to squeeze out little more than 7 hours of battery life using the single AAA battery the player comes with.

Audio Quality and Voice Recording

For our listening tests we used music from several genres. Paul Oakenfold’s Great wall is a techno based album, while Acoustic Alchemy’s Against the Grain features acoustic guitar. The Megastick player has five different equalizer settings. They are: normal, jazz, pop, rock and classical.

One good thing about this player is that the highs are relatively crisp and clean. However, like the MPIO FY200 MP3 player, the bass really needs some help. Because the Megastick player can output 30mW per channel you should be able to add better ear buds for use with this player and that should help with the audio quality. The headphones that MSI include with the player only have a spec of 20mW per channel so there is definitely room for better headphones.

Paul Oakenfolds Great Wall is a very solid techno album. It features high quality recordings and has a wide spectrum of musical styles. Some songs are purely instrumental electronics while other songs feature vocals from artists like Led Zeppelin, Madonna and Bjork. The overall sound quality when playing music of this genre is, in our opinion, below average. The highs sound crisp, but very dry and flat while the bass bottomed out relatively quickly.

Acoustic Alchemy’s Against the Grain is a great album to test players like this with because of the rich tones of their acoustic guitars. Good speakers will add certain deepness to the pluck of the guitar strings. Overall the Megastick ear buds did an adequate job of reproducing this album. A lot of the depth and bass was missing but we did not have abnormally high expectations for a digital audio player priced under $100.

All of the above testing was done using the ear buds on the 128MB version. We want to warn you that the wrap-around headphones on the 256MB version of this MP3 player are just horrible. The sound quality is very muddy and you have to crank the volume up to well above normal just to get a good listening level. If you buy the 256MB version of this player, do yourself a favor and get a nice set of ear buds to use with it.

Voice recording on this player is very easy to use. There is an external microphone jack for you to use and you can still keep your ear buds plugged into their regular jack. We found this more appealing than swapping out your ear buds to use an external microphone like the MPIO FY200 does. This way you do not have to keep swapping between the two to listen to your recording. The overall quality of the recordings seemed to be very good and microphone sensitivity on the internal mic worked from reasonable distances. You should be able to record a lecture in class from a few rows back. Anything further away would require a better external microphone.

Conclusion

While they lack the extra polish we like to see to make a common product like a digital audio player stand out amongst the rest, both of the MSI Megastick MP3 players are good solid products for their price.

We do not know what MSI was thinking when they decided to ditch the ear buds in favor of the external headphones on the 256MB version of the player and that hurt its score significantly. The backlight display and menu is easy to see and use, and because the player is seen as a hard drive on your computer, it’s very easy to transfer files over to the player.

Those looking for iRiver or Apple quality might be a bit disappointed and audiophiles will want to look elsewhere.  All-in-all the performance and sound quality of both players is average and what we expected considering the price range they fall in. We recommend that you purchase an extra set of ear buds to use with the 256MB version since the headphones packaged with this player are of poor quality. The Megastick series MP3 player from MSI would make a good gift for any teenager or those that do not want to pay an arm and a leg for a multi-purpose digital audio player.