At 3.9 x 1.8 x 0.6 inches, the Insignia is on the hefty side, but it should still fit in most pockets. The unit is all black, with a shiny plastic face and a nicely textured backside. An ample 2.2-inch color screen takes up about two-thirds of the front, while playback controls take up the other third. Two tactile buttons--power and menu--rest above a five-way control wheel: a play/pause key is surrounded by a mechanical scroll wheel that can also be pressed down in four directions to shuttle through tracks or display options. The top of the device houses the hold switch and a MicroSD card slot (for adding more memory), while the right side offers standard headphone and mini USB ports. Along the bottom, you'll find a reset hole and a line-in jack, which can also be used for a second set of headphones--hurrah for shared listening! The Insignia's overall design is pretty blah, but it gets the job done. We are pleased to note a user-replaceable and rechargeable battery rests under a cover in the back.
For a budget player, the Insignia's interface and screen are surprisingly pleasant and bright--unlike a certain Sansa's we can think of. The top menu is driven by a series of icons indicating the various selections. The one odd thing is that they're arranged in an oblong orientation that runs in two directions off the screen, so navigating through them can take a bit of practice. Entering the music submenu takes you to a tabbed screen (which reminds us of the Media Center interface) with various selections across the top such as Now Playing, Artist, Album, Playlist, and so on. You can scroll through these, then select one and scroll down the contextual lists. The Insignia had no problem recognizing playlists that we transferred from Windows Media Player, and it mounted as an MTP device on our Windows XP machine with no software required.
Best Buy does include a disc with the player that holds several programs that you may choose to install. The first is Best Buy's own digital music store and music management app, which is actually Rhapsody with a specialized skin. You needn't use Best Buy or Rhapsody as your online music service, however--the Insignia will work with any Windows Media-based service, and it's subscription-compatible (we used MTV Urge). The CD also includes an Audible setup file for fans of spoken-word content (subscription required), as well as the most necessary piece of software, a media converter tool for photo and video files.
In addition to the many useful features already mentioned, the Insignia of course supports MP3 playback. And it has an FM tuner built in. You can record from the radio, and there's an autoscan function, not to mention 20 programmable preset slots. The player also offers basic repeat and shuffle modes, five EQ presets, and a five-band custom EQ.
As we mentioned, the Insignia is thick around the middle, but one reason for this might be the hefty battery. The player is rated for 20 hours of juice, which is quite good. CNET Labs beat this rating by about 75 minutes, which is even better. The battery life for video is even more impressive at a startling 8 hours. Other performance results weren't as promising. Sound quality through the included earbuds was too bright, not to mention lacking in bass, and picture quality for both photos and videos suffered from pixilation and slight distortion in some cases. On the plus side, color saturation is excellent. Swapping in a set of Shure E4cs improved the sound quality slightly, but it still seemed to be lacking the warmth and depth we desire. Overall, we'd rate the sound quality as slightly above average.