Ever heard of Coby Electronics Corporation? Based in New York but with a factory in China, Coby is a consumer electronics producer with products mostly in the budget price bracket. Itís not at all surprising if you havenít heard of them, but in fact theyíve been producing portable music players for some years now, and the 8GB MP836 is the latest iteration.
So where does the MP836 fit in the line-up of todayís portable music players? Well, at 8GB itís no monster in the storage department, but on the other hand it can be had for only around $105, which is a significant saving on other 8GB capacity flash-based MP3 players.
Even better is the fact that the MP836 is a touchscreen device with a screen that takes up nearly the entire front of the device. That allows for a 3 inch widescreen TFT, which is just a little smaller than the screens on the iPod Touch and Zune HD. With dimensions of 3.8 x 2 x 0.4 inches itís a compact device, and itís not unattractive either.
More good news comes in the fact that the MP836 has a micro SD expansion slot for adding extra memory. It also supports a range of formats: MP3, WMA and OGG for music; AVI, WMA, MP4 and ASF for video, and JPG, BMP and GIF for photos. Itís got an integrated FM radio, a dedicated volume control, and you can simply drag-and-drop music onto it (no messing about with iTunes or similar).
Unfortunately, the good news about the MP836 ends there.
The bad news starts with the touch navigation system being poorly implemented. For example, the way to scroll through a list of songs is to flick your finger down the screen. Sometimes when you do this however, the highlighted song switches from the top song to one in the middle of the screen. Flick again to keep searching, and instead of scrolling, the MP836 starts playing the highlighted song. This might sound like a trivial complaint, but itís exactly the sort of thing that gets annoying over time, and that higher profile manufacturers take the time and spend the money to avoid.
Another similar complaint is that if you touch to select a song but accidentally touch between two songs instead, the MP839 has a fit and jumps to the next page of songs. Again, trivial but annoying.
Compounding the MP836ís woes are problems with video encoding and playback. Sometimes there is a long delay before videos will start playing, and sometime the video conversion software doesnít produce working files.
Users also have reported static problems when using their own headphones rather than the ones provided, poor battery life (well below the claimed 25hrs), a poorly written instructional manual, and random faults such as the screen suddenly dying.
Clearly the MP836 has problems thenÖbut on the other hand itís a touchscreen device with a large screen for around $100. At that price, you really canít expect too much, and the MP836 delivers on screen size, file support and memory expandability.