FM transmitters for use inside cars are getting all the more popular, so Netac has built one inside its MuStik A200 MP3 player. This, combined with the fact that it includes an in-car charger, makes this a player clearly designed for use on the road.
For £69 it's much cheaper than an iPod and a separate FM transmitter, but is it really worth it?
First and foremost, sound quality is above average (providing you dispose of the bundled headphones), with an emphasis on bass. Dream Theater's Endless Sacrifice from the terrific album Train Of Thought is a heavy track, and the added bass does take away from the cleanliness of the guitars. Glósóli by Sigur Rós -- a bass-heavy track with substantial use of ambient noise and high-frequency sounds -- also seemed to lack the crispness of the ambiance that makes the song what it is. Most people, however, will be satisfied with the overall quality.
The FM transmission is effective and worked well when tested in our office and at home. Plugging in the headphones gives much better transmission strength, though experimenting with different frequencies is the best way to get a strong signal.
We must mention that text files are supported and, fortunately, formatting is preserved. Score!
A major downside of the A200 is that transfer times are terrible, with our humble 1GB test library taking the best part of an hour to meander on to the device. Compared to the 12 minutes it took to transfer 1.5GB of music to the Samsung YP-K3, an hour is just ridiculous.
The way the A200 organises music is incredibly irritating. Order seems utterly discarded: instead of an alphabetical list of artists and albums, this player adopts something of a chaotic structure. There's no apparent structure whatsoever. 'R' follows 'S'; 'P follows 'R' and -- most infuriating of all -- 'I' follows 'P'. It's simply mind-boggling.
Videos are supported, but there's no conversion software in the box. You're required to visit the manufacturer's Web site, locate the model number of your device in among the plethora of similar-looking model numbers and finally locate the 'tools' download. The abysmal and terribly written software comes inside a '.RAR' archive, which means you'll need to download extra software to even extract the files inside. By default the program outputs to a non-existent directory -- changing it requires you to insert a CD. What CD?! Suffice to say, we didn't get to see any video whatsoever.
The A200 has a voice recording feature, which should deserve a positive mention, except for the poor quality recordings. They are shocking -- below even telephone quality, and a bad telephone at that. You can just about make out words, so as an absolute last resort for a dictation machine the recording feature may painfully suffice.
You can drag and drop your favourite photos on to the A200, but due to the player's low-resolution screen, they're badly rendered and very pixellated.
The Netac A200 is a very poor player aside from its acceptable sound reproduction. It's annoying to operate and its various features are hindered by such a low level of usability.
The FM transmission does work though, so if you can be bothered getting used to the awful navigation system, it will at least send music to your car's stereo. For £70 we expect a lot more, Netac.
Thanks to Advanced MP3 Players for providing our review sample.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield