Last week, I received an e-mail regarding the impending announcement of a new MP3 player with an impressive feature list, including Rhapsody DNA integration and support for both 802.11b/g WiFi and stereo Bluetooth. I was immediately intrigued by the product, called the ibiza Rhapsody, though I didn't recognize the manufacturer, Haier America. Always curious about newcomers to the portable media player market, I looked it up. You really had to be here to appreciate my groan of skepticism when I found out that the company specializes in home appliances. I mean, really: what could a team that makes microwaves and refrigerators possibly know about making MP3 players? I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm eating those words right now. Once I got the device into my hands, I was pleasantly surprised--shocked, even--by how well-implemented it is.
Let's start with the stats. First, considering the lack of choice in this category at the moment, I'm digging that the ibiza Rhapsody is a hard-drive player (flash models are impending) with a 30GB capacity. And at 4.1 inches by 2.4 inches by 0.5 inch, the device isn't overly bulky--an especially impressive trait given the built-in wireless antennae (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth). Plus, it has a nice, substantial feel to it, with plenty of tactile controls to complement the square touchpad on the front. The screen isn't the largest we've seen, but at 2.5 inches, it competes squarely with the iPod Classic. In fact, the interface is reminiscent of the iPod's, due to its blue-white tinge and simple, hierarchical organization. And I'm keen on the way the ibiza handles album art: there's a full screen, faded-out image behind the thumbnail on the main playback screen (see photo below).
Now, the overall design of the ibiza Rhapsody is nice, though nothing shockingly new. However, the array and implementation of features is truly arresting. There's support for MP3, WMA (DRM 10 included), WAV, AAC audio and MPEG4, WMV, M4V, AVI, H.264, MPG video. You get an FM radio with RDS and integrated podcast support--with a separate menu selection and the ability to update podcasts on the go from any WiFi hotspot. Much like the Sansa Connect does with Yahoo, the ibiza can access the Rhapsody catalog and Channels from anywhere with wireless access (if you have a subscription: a 30-day trial is provided). Plus, you can even access video on the go through AOL Video, and the ibiza has the ability to set and save wireless keys as well as get past terms and conditions pages for public hotspots. You can even pull in content through Wi-Fi while simultaneously streaming it out to a Bluetooth speaker, though I noticed hic-ups in the connection during beta testing. In short, there appears to be little this player can't do, though more extensive testing might prove otherwise. The battery, for example, is only rated for 10 or so hours.
The ibiza Rhapsody goes on sale at Amazon.com today, though at the time of this writing, I was still waiting on pricing info. The 30GB will come in five colors--White Sand, Volcanic Black, Ocean Blue, Flamingo Pink, and Silver Moon--and the flash versions, coming in 4GB and 8GB capacities, will offer a choice of five: Volcanic Black, Ocean Blue, Flamingo Pink, Aqua Breeze, and Purple Sunset. More specs below.
- 2.5-inch QVGA display with 320x240 resolution
- Internal, nonremovable 3.7 Li Polymer battery
- 1.8-inch HDD
- Supports A2DP/AVRCP stereo Bluetooth
- Dual ports: USB 2.0 High Speed mini-B and proprietary connector
- Package includes noise-isolation earphones, AC charger/adapter, USB cable