Amazon.com Review Digital music has always placed the PC at the center of the action--the place where you go to download or rip your music and then transfer it to a portable player. The Gremlin, which looks like any other digital music player on the outside, seeks to change all that by adding one crucial component on the inside: Wi-Fi connectivity. Using clever networking technology, The Gremlin's user interface does a good job of presenting all the information you need, where you need it. View device details. the Gremlin can download music directly to its embedded hard drive, help you catalog and organize it, and, of course, play it. Folks who don't want to fuss with managing their music on a PC, or those who like instant gratification when they want to hear new music, will find much to like in the Gremlin. We put the device through its paces, downloading and listening to songs, navigating the menu system, and using the MusicGremlin Web-enabled music management application.* There are a few gotchas and rough spots but, all in all, MusicGremlin manages to bring some sophisticated technology together in an easy-to-use package. The Gremlin wins big points for being the first device of its kind, and for getting there with great functionality. Design, Interface, and Sound At first glance, the Gremlin looks like just another digital music player that's trying to peel away some of that darn iPod market share. At a little over 1.5 inches wide, the color screen isn't huge, but it's clear and bright. A headphone jack is placed on the top of the unit, while line-out, power, and USB connectivity is provided on the bottom. The line-out port is a big plus, as it offers connectivity with stereos and powered speaker systems. On the right side you'll find volume control, play/pause, and track selection buttons. You'll spend most of your time with the five-way center control pad that's just below the screen. While the player is a tad on the beefy side, at 2.5 x 4 x .5 inches (WxHxD), it's very pocketable. Plus, the inclusion of Wi-Fi makes the added girth forgivable, as it's what makes the Gremlin truly special. Overall, the Gremlin's menus and user interface are fairly easy to operate. We'd like to say the user interface is "seamless" and "intuitive," and in many ways it is, but there are some nagging problems. Every now and then, we got the feeling the user interface designer forgot to talk to the button designer. For instance, it's not entirely clear how to exit some menus, and this proved most frustrating when searching for albums, as it wasn't clear how to back out of the text entry mode once we'd begun. Another annoyance: pressing a button to wake the display not only turns the display on, it executes the function of the button, leading to unintended operations. Lastly, in a few cases, there was just a bit too much lag between a button push and response from the device. The device uses a clever text entry and filtering system to find downloadable tracks quickly. Sound quality is everything you'd expect from a top-shelf digital music player--crystal clear and distortion free. The Gremlin's WMA-encoded files sound great, and we noticed no discernible difference between them and CD-quality audio. That said, you won't find any enhancements such as equalization, bass enhancement, volume limiting, or song transitions. The device does sport an integrated FM tuner though, in case you need to catch the game or listen to your favorite music stations. How it Works MusicGremlin* service starts with signing up for an account on the MusicGremlin Web site. It's here that you can opt for a subscription based model, wherein you pay $14.99 a month for "all you can eat" downloads of Digital Rights Management-protected Windows Media music files. If you cancel your subscription, you no longer have access to the music. You can also choose the pay-per-song, or "a la carte," model, which charges the industry standard 99 cents per song. Under this model, most complete albums go for about ten bucks. Once you're all signed up, you're ready to start using the device. Connecting the Gremlin to a local Wi-Fi hotspot was relatively painless--with one exception. The device does not support the more robust WPA encryption method. It does support the more ubiquitous, but less secure, WEP encryption scheme. Connecting to a WEP hotspot with the Gremlin is a challenge, however, as it's a pain to enter those long WEP keys without a keyboard! Fortunately, though, the Gremlin stores your WEP passwords, so you only have to enter them once for each secure network. It's easy to browse an absolutely gigantic music library, select songs or albums, and begin downloading them. After an initial connection, you don't even have to be connected to the Internet to browse the library. Finding music wasn't as hard as we expected; a clever filtering system allows you to enter just a few letters of a band name, album, or song title before relevant results start to appear. As discussed above, it's not as elegant or easy as a Web search engine, but it's relatively fast and it gets the job done. You can easily share tracks with other users who are on the Internet. Or share tracks with another device across the room via "ad hoc" Wi-Fi connectivity. We cued up five or six albums to see how the network handled our requests, and we were delighted with the results. In just a few minutes, all the music we had a hankering for was on the device's 8 GB hard drive and ready for listening. The Gremlin handles payment and subscription information transparently, so all you have to do is order your songs, receive them, and start listening. A word of warning: For those who opt for the pay-per-download model, it's almost too easy to get the music you want. The impulse buy is only a button press away. Music Management and Sharing Downloading and listening to music on the Gremlin is just the beginning of the device's capabilities. You can interact with a community of other Gremlin users that you've identified as buddies, no matter where they are in the world. You can also see what your buddies are playing and scan their music libraries (if they've opted to share them). If you have a subscription plan you can "beam" a song from your personal music library to a buddy's library or "pull" a song from his or her device onto yours. This feature is really impressive; we were able to download songs from folks scattered across the world without a hitch. Another cool feature: Gremlins can connect to each other in short range, allowing you to connect with friends and other users nearby--even if there is no Wi-Fi access point available. Lastly, for subscription members, the Gremlin does a great job of exposing you to new music via so-called "Gremlists," which are regularly updated, pre-programmed playlists that are sent wirelessly and automatically to the device. In similar fashion, upgrades are also automatically transmitted to the Gremlin, making feature and software updates a painless process. Browse the continually updated MusicGremlin music store on your PC, which has over two million tracks available. View larger. Thankfully, the MusicGremlin system backs up all your purchased music to a password-protected area on the MusicGremlin Web site. The Web interface also lets you transfer your songs to Windows Media Player on your PC hard drive. Just as with the device, subscription-based songs will "expire" from your PC if you cancel your subscription. Meanwhile, purchased songs are yours to keep and they can be burned to audio CDs. Enabling Web access to all your Gremlin's songs, as well as the music store discussed below, is a great idea, and it makes the Gremlin a truly complete system. There are some drawbacks, though, to making it dependent on a Web-based application. The system relies on a complicated and somewhat clunky series of pop-up menus and status screens, making us wonder why the makers of the Gremlin didn't opt for a more elegant solution: a dedicated application that can do everything in one window. Who knows, maybe such an application is on the horizon. Music Store The MusicGremlin Web site is more than a place where you can back up and manage the music on the Gremlin device. Clicking the "Get New Music" link at musicgremlin.com brings up a fully-featured music store, with the same deep selection as library found on the device. The continually updated music library has over two million tracks available, including new hits and tons of obscure songs for even the most eclectic tastes. The site lets you browse top tracks, albums, and genres, and listen to 30-second samples of any tracks. You can also browse the aforementioned Gremlists. When your cart is full, you can easily order new music from the site to be uploaded to the Gremlin, or you can download music to your personal MusicGremlin library and listen to it via an included Web-based audio player. As on the Gremlin device, a la carte and subscription-based music downloads are supported. Pros Groundbreaking device-based music downloading system Excellent music quality Great music sharing features Cons Some minor user interface problems Clunky Web interface No music enhancement features * NOTE: The MusicGremlin service is no longer available; however, this device works with other music subscription services, including Rhapsody.What's in the Box Gremlin device, earbud headphones, power charger, USB cable, and user guide.
|Audio Codecs Supported||MP3|
|Display Type||Color LCD|
|Warranty Information||1 Year Limited Warranty|
|Battery Life (Audio)||10 hour(s)|
|Audio Output Connectors||Audio - Headphone Out (1/8" Mini)|Audio - Line Out (1/8" Mini)|
|Description||MG-1000 8 GB Portable WiFi Audio Player|
|Power Source||Built-in Rechargeable Lithium Polymer|DC Input|
|Playback Features||A-B Segment Repeat|Music Scan|Track Search|
|Included Components||Battery Charger|Headphones|USB Cable|User Manual|
|Audio Input Connectors||Audio - Microphone In (1/8" Mini)|
|General Features||Built-In Microphone|Internet Support|Upgradable Firmware|FM Tuner|Voice Recorder|
|Storage Media Supported||Internal Flash Drive|
|Total Included Memory||8 GB|
|Network Architecture Supported||Wireless Ethernet - 11 Mbps IEEE802.11b|
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