MobiBlu is one of a multitude of lesser-known portable audio companies trying to make a name for itself among giants such as Apple, Creative and iRiver. While most of the MP3 players that we've seen from MobiBlu have been decent, they're not standouts, so the company has thus far skirted the spotlight. However, it appears that the MobiBlu DAH-1500i is poised to change this status. The ultratiny, cube-shaped device is a tech marvel and has certainly turned some heads among industry journalists, including those here at CNET. And despite its unimpressive battery life, the DAH-1500i largely lives up to the hype.
If nothing else, the MobiBlu DAH-1500i is versatile. The cute MP3 player is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems (plug and play -- no driver install is needed for operating systems released after 1998), and you have a choice of six colours: black, blue, pink, orange (pictured), red and silver. It's available online at £79 for the 256MB version, £99 for 512MB and £129 for the 1GB edition we tested. This means your cubic style is coming at a premium -- the plain old 1GB iPod Shuffle is only £89.
Had MobiBlu made the DAH-1500i any smaller, it would have been an ergonomic disaster. As it stands, the player weighs just 18g and measures 1 cubic inch (24 by 24 by 24mm) -- about the size of eight sugar cubes stacked together. Nevertheless it manages to accommodate a usable control pad, with a four-way rocker (volume up/down and track forward/reverse) surrounding a play/pause/power button. That said, while the MobiBlu DAH-1500i's buttons are functional, they are pretty stiff and will pose a problem for those with large fingers. This stiffness can also be an issue when trying to navigate the many options.
Just around the corner from the control pad is the 19mm (3/4-inch) OLED with fairly large, bright blue text on a black background. Due to the smallness of the screen, songs with track names longer than four letters scroll continually, making them difficult to read. Of course, you have to expect such a concession from a device that you can easily conceal in a closed fist. Continue around the side from the screen, and you'll find the menu key and the hold button, while the top of the device sports the headphone jack and the lanyard loop. Be aware that there is no standard mini-USB port. Instead, MobiBlu provides a proprietary USB cable that plugs into the headphone jack. This cable is used for both transferring and charging, so if you lose it, you're up a creek.
While the MobiBlu DAH-1500i is cute enough to make you want to take advantage of its wearable nature, the white headphone/neck strap combo that's included isn't stylish enough to tempt most people to sport it -- a silver or clear cord would have been better. Unfortunately, the lanyard loop isn't large enough to string a standard necklace chain through it.
In addition to the headphones, a minimalist case is included. This highly appreciated extra is made of clear rubber and wraps just along the edges and around the corners of the player, thus protecting it from dings while not overly concealing its stylishness. You also get an install disc with a program that allows you to update the firmware of the player. No music-management software is included, but you don't need any. Drag-and-drop takes care of most transfers, while Windows Media Player -- a standard on all Windows machines -- is necessary for moving DRM-protected files to the device.
Surprisingly, the MobiBlu DAH-1500i isn't as feature-sparse as one would expect from a device of its size. The player supports MP3 and WMA (including DRM) files, packs in an FM tuner and records voice and FM radio. There's also an ample selection of sound settings, including five preset equalisers, a custom setting and the SRS Wow sound-enhancement setting, for which you can select SRS Surround, TruBass, or Wow (for both). All in all, you end up with your choice of nine sound-adjustment settings. You can even fiddle with several levels of the SRS effects -- focus the SRS on the low, mid or high levels, choose the speaker size and adjust the individual volume levels for TruBass and surround sound -- not bad for an MP3 player the size of an ice cube.
In the numbers segment of our testing, the MobiBlu DAH-1500i wasn't quite up to the task. Its 7-hour battery life was the main disappointment, though transfer times didn't fare much better at 1.6MB per second over USB 2.0.
Luckily, the little player gave a fairly impressive performance in the sound department. Even through the included earbuds, which were fairly uncomfortable, tunes were loud and clear with no noticeable background hiss, and highs and lows were balanced and defined. Surprisingly, when we switched in our Shure E4c test earbuds, the sound seemed to deteriorate -- things got too bright for our tastes. We also noticed a very faint clicking, staticky sound between some tracks. Overall, however, the MobiBlu DAH-1500i is a decent little performer and easy to recommend to those who drool over tiny tech.
Edited by James Kim
Additional editing by Nick Hide