What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Tue, 16 Dec 2008, 5:00pm

Philips SA2820

Tested at £30
60100
3

An object lesson in packaging and ergonomics, but sound lets the Philips down

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For

  • Small and cute
  • nicely finished
  • clever interface
  • a lot of memory for the size and price

Against

  • Sounds grim with the supplied headphones and not much better with an upgrade

One of our favourite hobby-horses here at What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision concerns the relative merits of a three-star review, and this is where we clamber aboard once again.

We're well aware that some more circumspect readers are inclined to clock a three-star rating and move on to the next review. That's nearly always a mistake, and that goes double in this case.

In many respects, this jewel-like little Philips is the perfect MP3 player. It's easily small enough to slip into the watch-pocket of your jeans, yet is packing a fully respectable 2GB of memory.

Despite its dinky dimensions, it's got a bright and legible screen, featuring menus that are simple to follow and easy to use. Heck, Philips has even managed to squeeze voice-recording on board.

Just drag'n'drop your music files
Loading music on to the SA2820 is a simple case of drag'n'drop – if there's music on your PC, it can be on the Philips in seconds (providing it's MP3, WMA or WAV format). All for £30.

There are buttons along the edges of the player, and the entire fascia functions as a four-direction click-pad.

This offers great usability but also means that not only is the player prone to autonomous in-pocket changes of volume (get that hold button on), but the fascia also picks up greasy fingerprints all too easily. 

Big bass might appeal to dance fans
But the big compromises concern sound quality. It'll come as no great surprise to learn that the supplied headphones are a straightforward catastrophe – they're deeply uncomfortable and sound murky and indistinct (and at this price, we don't think it's likely that users will punt out more than the cost of the player to upgrade them).

Switching to some worthwhile products can't make the SA2820 an authentically musical machine, though.

The Chi-Lites' Stoned Out of My Mind is reproduced with way too much emphasis on the lower frequencies, the subsequent thumping swamping the midrange and leaving vocals fighting for space.

High frequencies sound similarly dull, and the overall presentation lacks crispness and verve.
Of course, if you exist on a strict diet of dance music, the bottom-end prominence could easily work to your advantage – and the SA2820's combination of looks, storage, finish and price is undeniably strong.

Ultimately, though, we're guided by sound quality – and we think the little Philips comes up short.