I'm writing this guide because I'm sure a lot of people wonder if these Chinese ipod copies and other models are any good or if they are just false economy.
It's not a simple yes or no answer.
The first most important thing is to stress that as of the date I'm writing this guide (07/01/07) there are no brandless Chinese models on the market that have greater than 2GB capacity. NONE. Most will have 512MB or 1GB, and a few may have 2GB, but never 4.
Unscrupulous sellers and/or distributors hack their memory to show more than the actual total. I found this out the hard way! I bought a "4GB" model and it actually has 1GB capacity after properly formatting it.
However, this does not mean the player is no good. Given the prices they typically fetch on ebay I still think they make sense. But go into it with your eyes open.
All the different models, from the nano clones through to the more unusual looking ones all tend to share common firmware and functions, so what I'm writing here applies for all. Some have mechanical differences though, eg. some use mobile phone batteries which can be replaced, whilst others (the nano clone) have built in ones that can't be swapped out easily.
The "manual" will make no sense so you will need a certain technical savvy to get the most out of the unit. Even the supplied software has fairly broken English and typos but it is at least usable.
These units all employ OLED screens. They are bright even in sunny conditions which is a big plus and they do not use as much power as LCD displays. The ones in these units are not quite as sharp, however - they tend not to display dark scenes quite so well. If you're going to watch video on the move I recommend at the 1.8 inch screen (diagonal) - you can have bigger screens but don't forget if you convert video files at a higher quality, they will take up more space.
The ability to watch video is why many people will buy one of these. I'm pleased to say it's better than certainly I expected it to be. The thing to understand is the unit isn't really an mp4 player as such. You will need to convert your mpeg's and avi's etc. into a file format called AVM. The good news is AVM typically takes up less space as its being encoded to be played on small screens.
I will illustrate my point in a hopefully relevant way - my current 1GB player has about 300MB of mp3's stored on it - thats about 4 hours of music all told, or 65 tracks. I then have four Top Gear episodes on it - these are an hour each, so that's also 4 hours - these take up just over 600MB. So I have been able to fit 4 hours of music and 4 hours of converted video on to the player, and for me that's fine. That's converting at a quality of 128x128 by the way - sounds small but it's a small screen remember!
MP3 playback is pretty good. It is not as great as an ipod for obvious reasons, but for listening on the move I think it's fine. The volume goes up nice and loud and some of my favourite tracks sound very good on it indeed, although others are less well-represented. Your supplied earphones may not be able to hit all the frequency responses, if you get a unit with a 2.5mm jack you may struggle to obtain better quality. I would suggest get a 2.5mm-3.5mm jack and use some quality normal earphones.
You can forget about the itunes layout. You will have to use a traditional folder format to store your tracks, you can have folders A-Z for example, but it's basically like any other cheap mp3 player in this regard. This is a personal thing for a lot of people, just be aware of it. you can have sub-folders for different albums.
The image viewer is nice, and the ebook thing is a little bonus. The FM radio works quite well, too.
Batteries last anywhere between 3-6 hours in my experience, depending on how you are using it. When you charge it, there are two lights on the charger usually, once the green one goes out it is about fully charged.
The nano clones certainly look very convincing, and the ones with "Menu" rather than "M" on them, tend to be better-made. The build quality is fine given the price. Avoid ones branded Apple ipod.
THE BOTTOM LINE;
If you are expecting an ipod nano for £20, think again. These are something very different. Not necessarily worse, I might add, especially given the Nano's own problems. But they are made on the cheap a bit, and you will need to look after it to get the most out of it.
But they have a few good tricks up their sleeve and portable video is the best of these. They look nice, feel quite nice and they show how far portable music has come. Don't pay too much, BE AWARE that the real memory is often less than advertised, and don't pay too much or set your expectations too high. Then you should enjoy what you receive.
There is also a nice little community for users of these on the internet with whom I credit much of the info in this guide.
I hope this guide helps you make an informed buying decision.
IF YOU HAVE BOUGHT A "4GB" PLAYER YOU OUGHT TO REFORMAT IT TO SHOW THE TRUE SIZE OF THE MEMORY, OR IF YOU ARE GETTING REBOOTS AND ARE UNABLE TO USE ALL YOUR MEMORY.
Do a google for mympxplayer.org - I can't put links in this guide sadly, but search that site and you will find the process required! If you're desperate, contact me.