Philips KEY003 Review

This 64MB music player ultimately achieves its goals, but sacrifices some pretty basic functions in the process.
This 64MB music player ultimately achieves its goals, but sacrifices some pretty basic functions in the process.
This 64MB music player ultimately achieves its goals, but sacrifices some pretty basic functions in the process.

Highs

  • Looks good
  • works well as a USB thumbdrive

Lows

  • No LCD display
  • minimal controls
  • mediocre sound quality
  • expensive

DT Editors' Rating

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Summary

While we think the premise behind Philips’ wearable digital audio line is great, it is poorly executed. We do not think an LCD, or a bunch of controls are necessary, but as it stands we are lost in the dark while using this player. There is no power indicator and the controls are just too basic. The Key003 looks great and will be sure to turn heads while in use, but it is certainly a digital audio player that sacrifices functionality for looks. Our recommendation for an MP3 player of this size would be the MPIO-DMK or iRiver iFP-180T. And if you absolutely want the thumb drive Plug and Play capability then you might want to check out the Creative Labs Muvo NX.

Introduction

Philips wants to create a simple music and storage solution that is both versatile and looks good. Called the Key Ring Wearable Digital Audio Player (Key003), this little device can easily be connected to your computer and can store any kind of data. With an MSRP of $99, this 64MB music player ultimately achieves its goals, but sacrifices some pretty basic functions in the process.

Features

The basic premise behind this music player is that it can be used to store data and music, all the while looking good enough for you to wear. The Key Ring MP3 player comes with a set of headphones that can be used two ways. One way has the headphone plugged directly into the neck strap with only the ability to play and pause music. The second way has the headphones plug into an inline remote control which gives the user the ability to not only play, pause and stop music but adjust the volume, and skip ahead to other tracks as well. This player has an integrated battery which can be charged via the USB bus, and Philips is kind enough to include an external battery pack that stores a single AAA battery for even longer battery life.

The Key Ring Digital Audio Player comes with a CD which contains the players manual, Music Match audio program and Acrobat reader. The Key Ring Key003 supports both MP3 and WMA music formats.

Design

The design of this player is extraordinary. The casing is made from a magnesium alloy which gives the player very light and durable properties. This player is meant to be worn around your neck like a necklace. The neck strap is made from a durable cloth material with nylon properties that looks similar to what you would see someone wearing a name badge with. Located at the apex of the neck strap, right behind your neck is an audio input jack where you can plug in the headphones. This means the headphone cable is actually integrated into the neck strap so that you do not have a lot of cables hanging down.

Philips Key003

The Philips Key Ring Key003 without the in-line remote control plugged in

This is a very cool idea, but Philips could have made this better. In its most basic configuration, the only controls you have available to you are the play/pause buttons. If you want more controls, then you need to attach the inline remote which means you will have an external cable in addition to the neck strap hanging down.

Use and Testing

Is simple always better? Quite simply put, the Key Ring Digital Audio Player is too simple.  We can understand what they were trying to accomplish by not including a player with gaudy displays and a bunch of buttons, but at least give us basic functionality; which includes more than a play and pause button. Here is what they could have done: add an integrated chip that detects the type of music that is being played and automatically adjust the internal equalizer to make the music sound better. As it stands everything you play will sound flat, regardless of genre.

The whole wearable audio idea is great but once you add the inline remote control, it can get a little messy with the extra cable. What would have been a good idea would be to integrate the controls onto the player itself, and then use the neck strap in its most basic configuration. That way you would have few cables and a sleeker look. And to top it off, the ear buds are just plain scary. They have an extra “bump” that protrudes out of the ear bud that goes deeper into your ear. While this might have been justified to give you more bass or a better experience, we fail to see how it improves the sound of the music.

Philips Key 003

The Philips Key Ring Key003 MP3 player with the in-line remote control plugged in

On the upside, the Key Ring Key003 is very easy to setup and use. Simply plug this player into your computer’s USB port and Windows or Mac OS will immediately recognize it as an external storage device. Now drag and drop whatever you want to the player, data or music, just like you would a hard drive. The player will be able to distinguish the different formats allowing you to play the music files without configuring it further. Now since this player only comes with 64MB of memory, it can fill up rather quickly, even while using the USB 1.1 interface. Luckily this player comes in 128MB and 256MB versions as well.

The included Music Match software works well with this player, but in all honesty is not needed since the Key003 can not display ID3 tags or other song information. Simply dragging and dropping the music files on the drive is all you really need to do.

Those who are looking for a player they can use while working out will want to look elsewhere. The package does not come with an armband of any kind forcing you to let the player dangle around your neck. We would recommend a player like the MPIO DMK or Philips psa[128max if you want a player designed to be used while working out.

Ideas for a Second Generation

Things we would like to see on this player include a power meter, play/stop/seek controls on the player itself, or controls integrated into the neck strap. Another good idea would be to support a format like Ogg Vorbis since this player has limited memory and this music format is more compressed than MP3. We could imagine the eccentric Ogg Vorbis crowd being attracted to a player this simplistic and good looking.

Conclusion

While we think the premise behind Philips’ wearable digital audio line is great, it is poorly executed. We do not think an LCD, or a bunch of controls are necessary, but as it stands we are lost in the dark while using this player. There is no power indicator and the controls are just too basic. The Key003 looks great and will be sure to turn heads while in use, but it is certainly a digital audio player that sacrifices functionality for looks. Our recommendation for an MP3 player of this size would be the MPIO-DMK or iRiver iFP-180T. And if you absolutely want the thumb drive Plug and Play capability then you might want to check out the Creative Labs Muvo NX.