mobiBLU is best known for manufacturing the world's smallest MP3 player, the DAH-1500i (aka the Cube). This was a novel and surprisingly usable MP3 player, despite its gimmicky premise. Now it seems that mobiBLU's quest for marketing superlatives has brought it to a place where their new DAH-1900 boasts 153 hours of battery life (hence its alternative name, B153).
In fairness, battery life has always been an important consideration when buying an MP3 player. Though 153 hours might seem ludicrous -- and has clearly done little to benefit the styling of this player -- there's nothing else that comes close to the continuous play time of the DAH-1900.
If you value endurance over usability, this player is a plausible option. Compared to the video iPod's battery life of around 15 hours, the DAH-1900 is a powerhouse. But is exceptional battery life enough to offset a number of serious flaws elsewhere in this player?
Stick a huge battery to the side of the world's smallest MP3 player, and what do you get? A medium-sized MP3 player. mobiBLU has effectively jimmied a bigger battery into what would otherwise have been Cube-sized.
The DAH-1900 is a 2GB flash-based player, so the size of the MP3 player circuitry itself is tiny in comparison to the power source. The super-sized battery makes the player unusually heavy, although it's not much bigger than a matchbox. It's perfectly pocketable, but won't quite fit into the famous 'iPod nano pocket' in your Levis.
The small OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen on the mobiBLU is more seamless than Sony's recent efforts at the same thing, but the overall quality of the display is reminiscent of a calculator from the 80s. This is not an unappealing look, and almost gives the player a so-bad-it's-cool look and feel. Regardless of the retro aesthetic, the display is clear and bright, with an excellent viewing angle.
A basic directional pad on the front of the player lets you navigate through menu options, and there's a set of transport controls on the top including play/pause, record, SRS (surround) and LDB (a lyrics database feature that we later discovered didn't work). These buttons have an occasional tendency to get stuck under the fascia if you depress them slightly off-centre. Next time you come to press the button, you'll find it doesn't respond.
Despite the temperamental buttons on the DAH-1900, there is a general ruggedness to the design. We dropped the player a few times onto concrete and it emerged unscathed. The chassis material is certainly less liable to become scratched than the iPod's, but the chassis is emblazoned with unnecessary logos and specifications. This gives the player a slightly kitch look -- like a Ford Escort XR3i with Max Power stickers on the back window.
The mobiBLU DAH-1900's on-screen interface is confusing to navigate, and the play/pause button will frequently turn the player off rather than pause a track. Navigation is a constant struggle against the OLED's refusal to display more than three songs simultaneously.
One area where the DAH-1900 gets it right is the method of song transfer. Like the Samsung YP-Z5, the DAH-1900 mounts as a generic USB drive on any file system. This instantly raised it in our estimation -- there's no fiddly transfer software, no DRM lock-in and no platform dependency. This is the way things should always be.
Codec support is restricted to MP3 and WMA, but it's rare that you'll want to stray beyond these market leaders. Because the player uses a simple drag-and-drop system, you can always convert more obscure formats like OGG to MP3 on your computer before you transfer it to the DAH-1900.