Apple’s iPod Shuffle is heavily criticized for its lack of a screen. While gadget junkies did not fall in love with its very basic feature set, it did have sales for one simple reason- cost. In this era of ever faster product cycles, and the planned obsolescence of our disposable society, who can argue with a $100 player with half a gig of storage. After all, there are many folks out there with less than 100 MP3’s, and this capacity player will more than serve their needs.
Lexar has taken the old adage, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” to heart. They have built a very basic MP3 player, but at least it has a screen to display the name of the song playing unlike iPod’s Shuffle. Sure, some folks will want a more full featured player. And Lexar will be happy to sell them their more featured players including the LDP-400, LDP-600, or the upcoming LDP-800 player. For their LDP-200 player they cut the feature set to the bone, and left off the FM radio, and a microphone. There is no included software. The unit is powered by a standard AAA battery to save the cost of a rechargeable cell. You can even buy the unit with no memory card included. The LDP-200 stores it songs on an SD card. This is another example how SD cards are dominating in this market segment. The unit can be purchased with no card included, or with included card capacities of 256 MB, 512 MB, or 1 GB. If you already have SD cards in your collection, the no card version becomes an affordable alternative at $49!
Let’s take a look at the LDP-200 and decide if it’s “no frills” feature set gets the job done. I am curious to see if the device performs more on the side of frugal, or if it slips towards just plain cheap.
• Lexar Digital Music Player LDP-200
Red for no included SD card and 256 MB sizes
Blue for 512 MB and 1 GB sizes
• User Guide
• Quick Start Manual
• Earbud headphones
• USB extension cable
• Energizer AAA battery
Unlike in other players where the memory card expands the memory, here it is the only memory. The card fits into a slot on the side securely. There is no included case. The LDP-200 is entirely constructed out of plastic. One side features the headphone jack, the USB connection, and a small slot for the included lanyard. A cable plugs into the USB connection to interface with the computer’s USB port.
There is no included software. This is not really a glaring omission, as Microsoft’s Window Media Player 10 is more than adequate. This is a free download for Windows users, and has a sync feature to put your tracks on the LDP-200. Windows Media Player can also rip songs into tracks of both the MP3, and WMA varieties. The LDP-200 can play both types of tracks, but in keeping with the no frills theme, doesn’t support any other file formats. If you don’t like Windows Media Player, tracks can be simply dragged and dropped onto the Lexar device, and it will play them. There is no software needed as the player is just a “mass storage device” to Windows like your USB flash drive. It just happens to play its contents. In fact, like other players, it can function as an SD card USB 2.0 reader (sell that one to your boss when requesting this item on the expense account). The USB connection on the player is covered with a tethered port cover so it doesn’t get lost.
The other side features the SD card slot, and a hold button. The hold button locks all the player’s controls for vigorous activity. The SD card slot has a dust cover that closes when the memory card is removed. This is a nice feature that other players that use removable cards should adopt. However, as there is no internal memory, I doubt that the unit will sit without a memory card inserted for long.
-music format and bitrate information
Notably absent are the album and artist information. In my opinion, they could have left out the bitrate info, and put the artist and album info instead. Even though the text is only 1 pixel wide, it is still readable, and large enough. The LDP-200, like other players, resets the volume to an acceptable level when the unit is rebooted. This is audiologist approved, but rather annoying, as in the car you need to have the volume all the way up when playing through the cassette adaptor.
The Lexar LDP-200 is controlled by way of a 4 way toggle in the center, and two buttons, one of either side of it. The left button is for powering the unit on or off. The right button accesses the music folders with a short push, or the menu options with a long push. I had to read the manual to figure this one out, but once mastered was easy to do. If you have your music organized into folders you can limit play to one artist’s tracks. The center toggle is pushed up/down for volume control, and left/right for skipping tracks. When skipping tracks it is not too quick so if you are looking for a particular track it may take a while to find it.
On the menu options screen, we can see that the next choices are repeat, equalizer, play, and language. I’ll detail each of these submenus below.
The play options are three in number. Normal plays all the tracks in order. Intro (10s) plays the first 10 seconds of each track. Some CD players can do this, and it is useful when listening to a new CD. Shuffle plays the tracks in a random order.
The equalizer is minimalistic as well. The five choices are normal, classical, rock, jazz and pop. There is no custom equalizer choice as on other players. I did not notice any difference with the equalizer set to normal, or to rock. There are also no bass boost or spatialization (3D surround) features.
The languages include English, “Asia” and “Europe” to suit whatever continent you’re on.
The play modes include normal, repeat1, and repeat all. While other electronics also have repeat once mode, I have always found it about as useful as sand in the Sahara desert. Unless you have a short term memory problem, I’m really bewildered why you would want to hear every song twice in a row. Just my two cents. Now back to the review….
The included headphones are an earbud design, but don’t go in the ear very much as with some in the ear designs. They don’t have a brand logo, but are labeled to indicate left and right. While these earbuds have no brand, they do reproduce the sound in an above average fashion. They don’t quite have the bass of the Lexar LDP-600’s included earbuds, they come quite close. Also, they don’t have any foam, rubber, or other attachments to fall off or wear out. Thankfully, they sound a lot better than their inexpensive appearance would suggest. While there are many separate headphone solutions out there, many users will use the included headphones with their music players. With a higher quality included solution such as these, you won’t need to upgrade nearly as much, especially for the nonaudiophiles.
The Lexar LDP-200 was tested while listening through a variety of devices. I used it with an Altec-Lansing 4.1 speaker system, Sony headphones, the included headphones, and via a cassette adaptor through my 6 speaker, 180 watt car audio system. I listened to a variety of music including rock, classical, and soundtracks. While this is the most subjective part, I try to be as objective as possible by trying various combinations of speakers, tracks and players.
The audio, through each of the devices was above average compared to other players I reviewed recently. Through the car audio system there seemed to be a little more noise than usual, but only a little. Through the Altec-Lansing setup (probably the most demanding test), the audio sounded bright and full across a variety of tracks. I ported the same tracks over to some other players to confirm this. Finally, throughout all the listening devices, the audio was mildly bass deficient, even with the equalizer set to rock. Overall, the deficiencies were least notable when using the included earbuds. By Lexar doing their homework, their matched earbuds are well suited to this player.
Each of the tracks played without any issue. It handled all the MP3’s and WMA’s thrown into it including constant and variable bit rate tracks. It is nice to see that the manufacturers seem to have gotten past these bothersome issues consistently now which were far too common a few short years ago.
One issue I need to note. Towards the end of the review, the player would shut off in response to any minor change in position. My review unit was not new, and had previously “made the rounds,” with other reviewers using it, as well as being shipped multiple times. Perhaps some previous abuse in shipping was responsible for this behavior. I would pick up the playing unit from the cupholder of the car, advance the track, and upon placing it back into the cupholder gently, the unit would be powered off. This happened with a new battery, and was consistent and repeatable with the battery cover in place. I was rather disappointed with this shortcoming, and caused me significant concern for overall longevity of the Lexar LDP-200 device. I attempted to document this unusual, and almost unbelievable, behavior in this short video.
-uses standard AAA battery
-uses SD cards
-doubles as SD card reader
-included headphones are above average
-tethered USB port cover
-faster USB 2.0 interface
-no FM tuner
-no record function
-no internal memory
-no included software
-no included case
-limited format support
-inexpensive plastic construction
-no custom equalizer
-equalizer on rock setting made no audible difference
-no bass boost
-no spatialization feature
-spontaneous turn off issue
Who Should Buy This?
Lexar’s LDP-200 is well suited for the newbie who wishes to get into portable MP3 audio, without committing serious funds. College students with smaller music collections, and wishing to avoid being heart broken when they lose their Apple iPod Color which retails for $450 should look at this player.
This unit is also ideal to give as a gift to a technologically challenged individual. If your intended recipient still has 12:00 flashing on their VCR, the Lexar’s simple interface is for this crowd. If simple gets the job done, than just go with it!
The budget business traveler, who wants to listen to an occasional tune, and wants an affordable SD card reader, will be satisfied with their purchase.
Overall, the Lexar LDP-200 player has one major thing going for it- price. For $49, plus the cost of a memory card, there really is nothing else out there. I’ve recently seen 1 GB memory cards on sale in the $60 range, so for just over one hundred bucks total, you can have a 1 GB MP3 player, with a screen. I don’t know of anything else with that kind of capacity in that low price range. The nice blue screen, included quality earbuds, and standard AAA battery power sweeten the deal.
For a low price, I would be very willing to live without a carrying case, no included software, and limited equalizer options. I didn’t even miss a built in microphone, or FM radio. I can even live with only two supported music formats (MP3 and WMA) as these are the only two I really use anyway.
Unfortunately, there are significant shortcomings. The spontaneous shut off has me concerned about the overall quality of Lexar’s unit. Also, the audio, on playback over quality speakers in the car or the Altec-Lansing setup, reveals a lack of bass and depth despite the equalizer.
In short, unless I was very cash strapped, I would rather spend a few more dollars, and get a higher quality product. Lexar’s LDP-600, while more money, has a lot more features and offers significantly more “bang for the buck.” While the LDP-200 has great potential, it appears to end up on the cheap side of inexpensive.
Buy the LDP-200 on Amazon today.
Special thanks to Lexar for providing a unit for review.