Transferring our 1.5GB test library of MP3s took a staggering 51 minutes -- over twice as long as the 22 minutes it took to transfer the same library to Sony's NW-A808. This won't matter if you don't often update your library but we had to leave ours over lunch until we could move on with our testing. That's something we're not used to. It was, however, kind enough to charge its battery over USB, which is nice considering there's no mains adaptor.
The player is small and the touch-sensitive control pad is smaller still, and very, very sensitive. It's incredibly easy to press the wrong button and with the menu button sitting in the centre, we found our average-sized fingers accidentally hitting it by mistake. A little practice does help eventually, though.
Navigating the music library is also tricky. Clicking on the 'music' menu option simply plays your entire collection from top to bottom, with albums sorted in alphabetical order. The most direct way to navigate through the music is to use the 'navigation' option. This presents a cluttered list of artists, albums and track names sorted in a folder tree. You also need to switch from using the central 'M' navigational button for selecting, to pressing the left and right arrow buttons to open or close folder options.
Once music had been transferred and we got the hang of the navigation system, we found that the M20's playback performance was on par with more expensive models. Bass reproduction on the bass-heavy track Slam by Pendulum was full and well driven. Mid-range sound on American Girls by Counting Crows was clear and bright, and the high-range classical melodies of the operatic classic Naturaleza Muerta, performed by Sarah Brightman, were sharp and full-bodied.
It almost goes without saying that stock headphones are never up to much, and the bundled pair supplied with the M20 is no exception. You'll probably want to find yourself a better pair, such as the Shure E4cs, if audio quality is your top priority.
We managed to pull 12 hours of continuous playback from a single charge. This is lower than many contenders in the flash MP3 player market, but will suffice for casual listeners and commuters.
Fans of live albums may need to bypass the M20 as there's no gapless playback support. You'll find the half-second gap between tracks will compromise your listening experience.
The Mcody M20 is an affordable and stylish MP3 player but its convenient size and weight is countered by an unintuitive menu system, small controls, poor screen and sub-par battery life.
This is definitely not a player to give to a child or to buy for yourself if you're looking for something easy to use. If you're after a good-looking, reasonably cheap way to carry a couple of hundred songs to and from work and you don't fancy the iPod Shuffle, maybe throw the M20 a glance, but don't forget you get what you pay for. It's available now from advancedmp3players.co.uk.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield