The big 160-by-105-pixel, seven-line LCD offers a ton of information, and fortunately is still readable through the scrapes in the vinyl window on the faux-leather belt holster. You can wear the player in the holster or in a sweatshirt pocket, but either way, you can definitely feel the weight; we'd probably put it in a backpack or leave it on a desk for extended use.
The HD-500's interface has a wealth of features, but it feels kludgey, especially with the player's awkward set of controls. A jog key sits high on the side of the unit next to the screen, while the rest of the buttons are located on the bottom half of the face of the device. Basic playback is controlled by a four-way button in the middle of the face that handles fast forward, rewind, play, and pause. Four more buttons bring up the menu, adjust the volume, and control recording and A-B loops. Only a pianist could love the layout of the buttons: the HD-500 requires two hands to operate it, as well as some practice before using both the jog key and the menu button to root through your audio collection and find the file you want.
The display is stuffed with information. Fortunately, the song title scrolls, otherwise you'd lose it amid the clutter on the screen. Said clutter includes the name of the next track to be played, the folder that the music is contained in, the length of the track, encoding information, and much more, including left- and right-channel level meters, complete with a vibrating speaker icon.
The player packs a couple of features we haven't seen on many (if any) other portable audio players. First off, it can read text files. However, since there's no way to bookmark the place you stopped reading in a file, this is of limited use for longer reads; say, that copy of Heart of Darkness you downloaded from The Gutenberg Project.
It also offers a search function that you can use to find the first three letters of a filename. It can be useful, but if your songs are titled with a track number first (so they will play in the order that they appeared on the album), you won't be able to search for, say, a particular Social Distortion tune since the first three characters in the title of "Mommy's Little Monster" become 06_, the same as every other track 6 on every album you've encoded and titled that way.