Many users consider that the necessity to use a cable to connect flash-based
players to computers is a disadvantage. It doesn't make problems
if you use such player only for listening to music, but if
you use it also as a portable storage device, you have to
take with you the cable as well. Even such models which are
deprived of problems of connection to PC (for example, Daisy
which doesn't need drivers) still need a cable. Creative used
an original approach to solve this problem: its MuVo actually
consists of two parts: the internal one looks like a compact
flash drive and the external part is a case, controls etc.
TGE decided to design the MP304 as a flash drive with buttons
and a display :) The USB connector is attached directly to
the player (it has a cover like that of usual flash drives).
Unfortunately, the player is a bit too wide, and cables located
near it might prevent its connection, but some flash drives
are not smaller (for example, the ASUS Ai-Flash).
Its compact dimensions made the developers to forgo expansion memory, so this model has only internal one. All other features are similar to the MP200 - MP3 and WMA support, AAA battery, dictaphone, firmware update supported. The display is now blue and green instead of enchanting light blue and it displays tags. The graphics display made possible to use the menu for management.
The box differs from that of the MP200, though it's also closed with magnets. The contents is barely the same: an 80mm CD with software, a brief printed manual, headphones combined with the neck strap and an AAA battery. The only difference is that a USB cable A-B is replaced with a USB extender (it can be useful if you don't want to or can't insert the player directly into the port).
Connection and software
Unfortunately, you must install the driver before using the player which diminishes the advantage of direct connection to the port. However, a 80mm disc doesn't occupy much space in you pocket. Like in the MP200, the MP304 is shown as a SCSI drive in the device manager.
The managing program is exactly the same as in the MP200. And you can also do perfectly without it :)
Judging by the diagram, the controller is the same as in the previous model; a bit higher data rate (by 17 Kb/s) is on account of the simpler internal design (deprived of a memory card slot). The speed is however quite low - almost all dedicated flash drives and players work faster. On the other hand, it can be considered the cost of handiness :)
There are four versions available at the moment: with 16, 32, 64 and 128 MB memory. The two junior models are fully useless, and 64 MB is not enough today taking into account the combined design (player+storage device). Moreover, 128 MB is not much as well, especially considering that memory can't be extended. That is why the company would better forgo the junior models and turn the line into something like 128, 192 and 256 MB (more is not needed as the low speed will become a severe limiting factor, and the price will be too high).
File types supported
If the MP200 worked perfectly with MP3 but had problems with WMA, in the
MP304 it's vice versa. In particular, the player simply hangs in case of
MP3 files of 320 Kbit/s at 48 kHz: it plays a song till the very end without
giving a response to any buttons and then simply stops (like in case of
WMA with VBR in the MP200). Besides, in case of VBR in MP3 the counter
behaves strangely: the speed doesn't simply change, but sometimes it can
even go back. However, it has no troubles with WMA: it supports V2, V7,
V8 and V9 at any bitrates (up to 320 Kbit/s) and sampling frequencies (including
48 kHz). Besides, a played position in case of VBR in WMA files is defined
correctly, contrary to MP3.
Well, it seems that the decoder is the same, and the difference in compatibility is on account of different firmware versions. I hope they will soon combine advantages of all firmware versions into one. In other words, both MP200 and MP304 will be able to play both MP3 and WMA flawlessly. Note that WMA is fully supported only by one player on the market (at least among those we have tested) - Digital Square Zillion. Now it's supplemented with the TGE MP304; the rest have it limited.
It's the same as in the MP200.
Like in the MP200, the player doesn't retain a played position in the memory;
when turned on, it starts playing from the first track in the memory.
At the expense of the menu there are less buttons now. The front panel houses only Play/Pause and A-B buttons. Above you can find a volume control and below is a slider to lock the buttons and a Jog-Dial. The menu is two-level, simple, and convenient. You can also go a level above using the Return item. The other options are:
Contrary to the MP200, this model uses a multiline graphics display. The upper line shows the A-B mode, playback mode, buttons lock and battery status. The second line is a played position (when stopped, it shows a track's number and the overall number of tracks), current status (playback, stop, pause) and a type of a current file. The lower line shows an author and a name of a song from the tag. If a tag is lacking, a file's name is displayed in the DOS format. The player doesn't support ID3 v. 2.X tags but has no problems with tags from WMA files. The backlight color is worse now: although it's called blue, it looks like green and blue.
Just the same as in the MP200.
On the one hand, the developers used interesting technical ideas here:
the player connects directly to the port, supports WMA (which is not widely
used in players) and emulates a disc drive. On the other hand, it has problems
with MP3 files, works slowly, doesn't support ID3 entirely. That is why
the success of this model will depend on correction of the errors by the
developers and whether the competitors can offer something similar in features
but better realized.
Andrei Kojemyako aka Korzh (email@example.com)
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