It's pretty clear that Philips has the Apple iPod nano in its sights with the GoGear Opus. Both players offer video and music playback, come in 8GB and 16GB versions, and are small enough to comfortably fit in a shirt pocket. Philips, however, has packed a couple of useful extras into the Opus, including the ability to record music from the built-in FM tuner. The Opus is also slightly cheaper than the nano, with the 8GB model priced around £100, and the 16GB version costing about £135.
The Opus is basically a slightly re-engineered version of last year's SA5285. Design-wise, it's pretty difficult to tell them apart. Both have the same glossy black and silver colour scheme, the same 71mm (2.8-inch) screen, and a similar d-pad control mechanism. Unfortunately, the side-mounted headphone jack also remains. It has a tendency to snag when you're moving the player in and out of your pocket -- a top-mounted jack would have been a much better idea. The design is fairly functional, but isn't as slick or desirable as that of the nano.
Surprisingly, the player is rather slow to start up, but, once it kicks into gear, its menu system is relatively easy to navigate. Fast navigation is difficult, however, because of the constant clicking of the d-pad that's required. Compared to the speedy touch controls on other players, like the nano, it's a frustratingly slow system.
Also, the menu system itself isn't as zippy as we'd have liked. For example, the sluggishness with which it loads the tiny thumbnails in the album-art mode is so annoying that you're unlikely to make much use of this feature.
The player comes with in-ear, sound-isolating headphones, supplied with three differently sized earpieces, so, no matter what size lugholes you have, you should be able to get them to fit snugly. The headphones are pretty good, handling the deep bass and clinical high frequencies of dance tracks with ease. With acoustic material, however, the mid range has a tendency to sound rather brittle, and less smooth and natural than we'd have liked.
Good for iPlayer
Like most of today's players, the Opus supports video. Videos are limited to the MP4 and WMV 9 formats with a maximum resolution of 320x240 pixels, but the big benefit of this model over some of its rivals is that it can be used to watch shows downloaded from the BBC's iPlayer service. Downloaded videos play smoothly, but the Opus' screen isn't brilliant -- it tends to look slightly smeary and isn't as bright as the displays on rival devices.
To go with the video playback, you also get a photo viewer. This has pretty basic functionality, however. You can rotate pictures and create slideshows from them, but you can't zoom in or out, and snaps suffer from the same problems as video on the Opus' less than impressive display.
On the plus side, the player does have an FM tuner, which got pretty good reception around London during our test period. We also like the fact that you can also use the player to record from radio.
Like Apple, Philips no longer supplies a charger with the player, so you're left relying on your computer's USB port for filling it with juice. Annoyingly, the USB lead that Philips supplies is ridiculously short, at around a foot long. It's fine for laptops, but, if you keep your PC unit under a desk, you'll find it's nowhere near long enough to reach from a desk to the PC underneath. That said, once the player is charged, battery life isn't too bad. It's good for around 30 hours of audio playback and 6 hours of video playback.
The Philips GoGear Opus isn't a bad little player, but it's not a great one either. We like the iPlayer support and FM radio recording, but it's let down by its relatively poor screen and sluggish menu system. Overall, it's not really a match for more stylish players like the iPod nano and Sony NWZ-S639F.
Edited by Charles Kloet