A study in minimalism and focus, the Shuffle lets you listen to audio files, and that's about it. The MobiBlu DAH-1200 follows a different path. It starts with a screen cluttered with information, and the far right side is wasted on a list of all the stock EQ profiles that are better left to inner menus. The player also has an FM tuner (20 automatic presets), a voice recorder, and, like many WMA flash players with those features, the ability to record from FM. It can also encode directly to MP3 through a line-in jack. Along with DRM-protected WMA files, the DAH-1200 can play OGG and MP3 files; unfortunately, thanks to a USB 1.1 connection, it takes a good long while to sync these files onto the player.
Measuring 2.9 by 1.5 by 0.8 inches and weighing 1.5 ounces with a AAA battery, the DAH-1200 is shorter but wider and thicker than the iPod Shuffle. It's larger in every respect than the Creative MuVo Micro, though. It comes in two colors: Pearlescent White for the two smaller versions and Polished Black for the two larger capacities.
The DAH-1200's controls remind us of those digital calculator watches that require a pen to use. One-handed control is next to impossible; there are two jog wheels that control most every function on the player except for turning on SRS Wow mode or recording, both of which have their own buttons. The hold button lurks on the back of the player, painted the same color as the case and sunk into the surface; we found ourselves truly annoyed by its placement.
The DAH-1200 includes a nifty USB dock that glows blue when it's plugged into a USB port. While we can't find any sign of Microsoft's PlaysForSure logo on MobiBlu's packaging, when we plugged it in, our copy of Windows Media Player 10.0 immediately asked us if we wanted to manually or automatically configure files on the player. For non-DRM-protected files, you can simply drag them onto the DAH-1200.
Listening to audio was the high point of our experience with the MobiBlu. The voice recording was of modest quality and sounded slightly hollow; as with many players with this feature, any movement of our fingers on the case was picked up by the built-in mic. However, FM stations came through fine, and those recordings were of decent quality, while MP3 and WMA files that we transferred sounded good and plenty loud. Battery life is rated for 12 hours on a single AAA battery, but CNET Labs was able to get only 10 hours--a poor figure for an alkaline-based flash player. Overall, the DAH-1200's sleek case design and USB dock might still give it a lead over other full-featured MP3 players--if only the buttons weren't so horribly awkward.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.