German storage and audio company TrekStor first caught our attention with the Vibez, a unique-looking MP3 player installed with the now swiftly fading, micro hard-drive memory. Soon after, a crop of flash players appeared for sale on CNET under the musical i.Beat family name. Among these generally basic and nondescript devices, a single, sleek, Nano-like model stands out: the i.Beat Pink, a portable audio device created in partnership with pop star Pink. The player comes in 1GB ($110) and 2GB ($140) and features a Pink signature etching on the back and several preloaded pictures of the pop star. Other than for these items, however, there's no real compelling reason to chose the i.Beat Pink over the many other competing options on the market.
At 3.2-inches tall by 1.4-inches wide by 0.3-inch thick, the i.Beat Pink is certainly compact, and its shiny metallic backside and clear-coated face give it an overall sleek look, not unlike that of the first-generation Nano. Like the original Nano, the i.Beat Pink comes in two color options, only here you choose between black or pink (naturally). We're happy to see that TrekStor decided to dedicate half of the front of the device to the screen, which measures an ample 1.7-inches diagonally. Below the screen is the almost completely smooth control pad, consisting of a play/pause key, four directional arrows, a record key, and a center selector, which offers the only texture on the face of the player--in the form of four tiny raised sensors. The overall effect takes some getting used to, given the lack of tactile feedback, but the controls are responsive and fairly intuitive.
The i.Beat Pink's two mechanical controls live on the right edge of the player. There's a power key and the ever-useful hold switch (this reviewer forgot to activate it once and found the volume increasing swiftly to ear-splitting levels when pocketing the player). There's also a reset hole on this side. Somewhat inconveniently, the labels for all of these are etched on the back of the device, but as there are so few controls here, it's not as much of a nuisance as with, say, the iRiver Clix. Also, there's a little something else to look at on the backside of the player: a note and signature, which has been laser-etched, from Pink.
Turning on the i.Beat Pink takes you to wherever you were last within the interface, but note that music does not autoplay or resume--whatever song you were listening to will start at its beginning. Some users might find this irksome--especially those who listen to spoken word. The player menus are standard and thus pretty intuitive. You have icons for all the main selections (music, photos, videos, settings, and so on), and once you dig down into the music section, tracks are handily arranged into the Creative menu tree (artist, album, playlist, and so on). Music-wise, the i.Beat Pink is compatible with WAV, MP3, and WMA, including DRM9 for music purchased online (but not subscriptions). On the system side, the player can work with most systems--Linux, Mac, or Windows--and you can choose the drag-and-drop route or use the file management program on the disc that's included with the player. Windows Media jukeboxes such as Rhapsody also work just fine.
The i.Beat Pink has a fair smattering of features, but we weren't terribly impressed by their execution. You can view photos, but they look terrible; they load slowly, and activating the viewer stops music playback--and you're also taken back to the very first song in your playlist or album, when you return to the music. The player supports video, but only in a proprietary format (SMV), to which files must be converted using the included software. There's an FM tuner, but the antenna is weak and doesn't pick up a full range of stations. You can record voice, but there's no indication as to where the mic is on the player, making it difficult to get a good recording. Finally, the shuffle playback mode plays songs in the same order every time (presuming you haven't put new songs on).
On the sound end, TrekStor provides a multitude of EQ options--nine, to be exact--but most of them make music sound terrible. Even on flat, sound quality was just passable--and this was with our test ear buds (the Shure SE310) already plugged in. Music lacked the depth and warmth we desire, though the high-end clarity was pretty good. Customizing the EQ setting in User Mode did help things a bit, but audio was still just too bright for our tastes. Overall, we couldn't seem to shake the digital quality of the music. The rated battery life of 12 hours also isn't terribly impressive, but the actual battery life is downright appalling at a measly 5.8 hours for audio. Surprisingly, video battery life is decent at 3.6 hours.