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Palm OS Audio Player Review: RealOne, AeroPlayer, Pocket Tunes Deluxe
posted Dec. 2003 by Tanker Bob

My first MP3 player was my Sony T665C. I liked that capability enough to want MP3 capability in its replacement. Although the Palm Tungsten series has had their audio system problems, Palm seems to have overcome them nicely with the T3. The delay in Real’s release of the RealOne Player for the earlier Tungstens opened up a market opportunity to third-party apps. Two apps in particular answered that call, and I’ll look at both of them in this review.

Back Stage

I conducted this review using a Palm Tungsten T3 with Sony ear buds. I ripped the music from CDs using dBPowerAmp Music Converter using their Lame MP3 and Ogg Vorbis Codecs. I picked three music pieces for specific reasons. I used Los Pecces en el Rio as performed by Chip Davis’ Mannheim Steamroller on their Christmas in the Aire CD. Davis has produced work legendary for its extremely high audio quality. His music possesses great realism and outstanding dynamic range, which challenges the best players and equalizers. Next, Santana’s Europa off the Best of Santana, Volume 2 CD provided some excellent tonality at both ends of the audio frequency spectrum. I also used Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird off of their Lynyrd Skynyrd CD, mainly because I like it so much, but also because it has vocals and a frequency content/distribution typical of good Rock & Roll. I ripped them all at 128kbps in both formats, although I used variable encoding for Ogg Vorbis to keep the file sizes down. However, I also compared the 128kbps encoding to 96 kbps for the MP3s, partly to evaluate the quality of the equalizers. Each player was evaluated with the exact same music files back-to-back for the greatest fidelity of comparison.

The user can transfer music files to the card any number of ways. I transferred the music files, like almost everything else I transfer to my T3, using Card Export 1.11 by Softick. It simply makes your card another drive on your PC, enabling you to copy/move stuff using your favorite desktop file manager. If you have a card reader, that would be even faster. Be forewarned: You could reach retirement age by the time Hotsync transfers large music files to your PDA’s card.

The most popular third-party players in the Palm OS world seem to be AeroPlayer and Pocket Tunes. Since RealOne Player comes with the T3, I used it as a baseline comparison. With apologies to my Sony friends, I no longer have my T665C and Sony’s AudioPlayer only works on Sony devices. I’ll cover RealPlayer first since it provided the baseline.

RealOne Player 1.10 by RealNetworks

RealNetworks has been a mainstay in the desktop music player arena. Their basic version being free hasn’t hurt their popularity any, and the desktop player provides a high quality audio experience. They carry a bit of controversy as baggage, though. Their desktop player automatically sets itself up to access the Internet seeking marketing opportunities disguised as “news” updates. Even the Palm OS version accesses the desktop if in the PDA is connected to the desktop through a cradle or cable.

The Palm OS version plays Real’s proprietary .RM files as well as MP3s. Its features are pretty basic. The usual controls occupy the main screen, including play, stop, last/next song, volume, shuffle, and repeat. The main window only displays the current song with time elapsed and total time. Tapping on the volume button brings up a volume slider. The play button becomes the pause button when playing a song.

Two buttons at the bottom of the screen bring up play lists or the song list. Like all the players here, RealOne stores play lists on the card so your available lists always match the music available. RealOne does not support Palm’s Dynamic Input Area (DIA), so even the song lists won’t expand to 320x480.

The only real options (no pun intended) available set the time until screen turn-off and enable/disable background play. RealOne doesn’t have a bass boost or equalizer, or any of the many other features possessed by the other two programs reviewed here.

RealOne plays MP3s with excellent sound quality. When you compare all the players without any boosting activated, RealOne sounds the best. However, when the other players’ boost or equalizers are active, RealOne starts to sound a bit flat by comparison.

If you don’t want to spend the bucks for a third-party solution, RealOne will serve you well as a basic MP3 player solution.

Pros:
Simple operation
Excellent MP3 playback quality
Free

Cons:
No bass boost or equalizer
Virtually no user options
Doesn’t support Palm’s DIA

screen shot

 

NEXT -> AeroPlayer

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