A while ago I got a link to apply for one of 25 new media players on the market. It’s from the resurrected Commodore and called a Gravel in Pocket. While I never win anything, this time I did, yeah! Here is an initial review.

The device comes nicely packaged, in charcoal-black. Included are a carrying case, neck band, earbuds, USB cable, driver CD and a charger. The charger has a USB connector only, so it charges through it’s USB connector. It;s basically a 2.8 inch screen with a index-finger “mouse” (like the joysticks Toshiba and IBM laptops had) in the back. Registration was a royal pain and it won’t run, even offline, without registration which I consider a no-buy. It’s a nice media player, playing audio and video, with a focus on Microsoft formats. A short pro-con-annoyance list, I will try to update once I have used it more.

Pros:

  • high coolness-factor (really);
  • crisp video, great audio;
  • nice user interface hardware;
  • great concept to stream over wireless; this is the future;
  • SD card slot for extra memory (works better for me than USB, SD shoves straight into my laptop).

Cons (software, software, software!):

  • crashed on me three times in one day. Screen blanks, end. A reset brings it back to life, including settings;
  • either heavily underpowered, or the firmware is poorly written. The user-interface is sluggish, taking a second to pause and multiple seconds to generate a table of contents;
  • flaky video player: the well known flight 405 video (mpg) played heavily flashing, Divx-in-avi “Shakespeare in Love” did only play audio. A heavily compressed Diana krall clip in .asf format played nicely;
  • bumpy or non working audio stream; I think this is more a problem of the chosen content providers. I don’t know if the streams are played through commodore;
  • no way to add streams *I* like;
  • can only upload photo’s and video’s (no audio) to a online “locker”. This really feels like shitty RIAA fear;
  • no uploading from the device (only from a PC) or sharing between devices;
  • audio out output is sunk in the device. Any normal 3.5mm plug won’t sink in deep enough. This is minor but so annoying. If the earbuds break (they do, really), one has to look very carefully at the width of the plug or they won’t work.

All in all I like it, but I would suggest Commodore to minimally make the following changes:

  • improve firmware quality, speed and add codecs;
  • stop forceful registration. It’s is a serious no-no. I would have returned it unused if I had payed for it;
  • add functionality to upload audio and to add streams. Stop even trying to preselect streams.