Viewsonic isn't one of the first names that spring to mind when we think of portable media players, but that may change after its MovieBook VPD550T drops this April. Complete with a 5-inch LCD touch screen (800x480-pixel resolution), 8GB of internal memory, microSD expansion, and an HDMI output capable of 1080p resolution, Viewsonic is coming out with guns blazing on this one.
But the best feature by far is the $199 price tag. Well, the price is the best feature for me at least, since I'm a bit of a cheapskate. If you're a connoisseur of video formats (both legally acquired and otherwise), you may be more excited by the 550T's support for DAT, MPG, MPEG, VOB, MP4, MOV, AVI, DVD Video, ASF, WMV, MKV, TS, and RM/RMVB.
In spite of its cine-centric name, the MovieBook excels equally as a portable audio player, supporting MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC ,OGG, FLAC, APE, AC3, and DTS audio formats. Ebooks, photos, and voice recordings are also given a fair shake.
For battery life, Viewsonic rates the MovieBook at 20 hours of audio and 4 hours of video. Those numbers aren't great compared with the 34 hours of audio and 8 hours of video playback we pulled from the iPod Touch, but pretty decent when you account for the larger screen and all the video codecs under the hood.
While many iPod competitors are trying desperately to transform their portable media players into Wi-Fi-wielding iPod Touch rivals (I'm looking at you, Archos and Cowon), it's nice to see a company stick to the basics of high-quality media playback.
If you're short on cash and you can live without 1080p output and a few less video formats, Viewsonic also has a VPD513 with 720p output ($189) and a 4-inch VPD403 ($139) due out in late March or early April.