On paper the Toshiba Gigabeat F20 looks good. It's got a decent size 2.2” screen, landscape display option, as much storage as anything else in its class, and the promise of ripping your CDs directly into the device whilst bypassing your PC's hard drive (owners of a certain unnamed popular mp3 player must maintain their library on the PC as well), so how did it stack up in the flesh?
This thing looks classy – so much so that I gave it mood lighting. (Actually I just got a new digital camera that I am coming to terms with). It is slim, it is light, it's got a physical ‘off’ switch, even the base model comes with a cradle. It can use a standard mini-USB cable, a standard barrel-type power plug, and its priced just below Apples 20GB Colour iPod at an online retailer I visited.
Lets see whats in the box:
Toshiba Gigabeat F20
USB A to Mini USB Cable (for player or cradle)
Power Cable (for player or cradle)
Docking Cradle (with 1 port USB hub)
Gigabeat Room Software / Driver CD
Printed manual about supplied software (52 pages)
Printed manual about hardware (73 pages)
It is so nice to be supplied with a decent manual. Using the supplied CD, the software installed quickly and included the Gigabeat Room software, a Gigabeat Watcher for the system tray, and a Gracenote CDDB client (for accessing track names for your CDs).
The Gigabeat Room software has sections to display and play/transfer music files stored on your PC, CD-ROM or the player itself. Gigabeat Room was functional, but not particularly intuitive to use, although the player is compatible with Windows Media Player to manage your music.
The F20 will hold approximately 5000 songs, and is also available as a 40GB or 60GB unit holding 10000 and 15000 songs respectively.
CD RipRec was what really attracted me to this unit – and it works, but alas limits you to ripping to WMA even though the unit is capable of playing WMA, MP3 & WAV. Sorry Toshiba – but some of us prefer MP3, and your player can play them, so why cant your software rip them? The process for this is to dock the Gigabeat and press the Rip button on the cradle, then sit back and relax. Pretty easy.
Down to the real business of listening to music: Sound quality was great, but the supplied headphones look and feel terrible (but sounded good), I performed most of the review using aftermarket headphones. The display is busy, but informative, and can also display a ‘map’ of what the “Plus Touch” touch pad functions are. The Plus Touch took a little getting used to, but happily accepts ‘taps’ ‘holds’ and ‘slides’ as input methods for different functions.
Battery life is claimed at 18 hours, and I certainly approached a similar playing time while putting it through its paces (and using the backlight a lot). The unit has a physical battery on/off switch – great stuff Toshiba, I enjoyed knowing that the unit was absolutely turned off. This feature is different to a ‘Hold’ button, which is just a keyguard whilst the unit is on and is also present on the top of the F20. The manual quotes approximately 500 charge cycles for the battery.
I found the Toshiba overall to be of good quality, but I just didn’t come to terms with the user interface. I liked the standard connections and the good quality screen. The Plus Touch has been implemented well, but gives the user no tactile feedback at all, and was a slow method of navigation.
My rating? 7 out of 10. Well worth looking at if the on paper specs impress you, and you want to carry 20GB of music in your pocket and not have to keep them on your PC too.
Toshibas Australian website does not list any pricing, but refers the client to a dealer - so shop around and make sure you get the best deal. New Zealand-based www.ascent.co.nz has them listed at NZ$520.82 (about US$367).
1 Touch CD Rip that bypasses your PCs hard-drive
Large clear screen
Software on device and on PC is not particularly intuitive
Plus touch is nice for input but a little slow
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