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My "MP4" player collection.
#1

Over the years, I have amassed a small collection of iPod clones that would eventually be known as "MP4" players. The MP4 moniker usually has nothing to do with the MPEG-4 video codec, but rather, it was meant to signify an evolution from the standard MP3 player. "MP4" ends up just being a fancy name for these players since they can display photos and video and have additional features like built-in games and sometimes an FM radio tuner.

By the mid-2000s, you could find these MP4 players at major retailers sold at deep discounts compared to name brands like Apple, Sandisk or Creative. The price reflected the overall quality of the devices. While some devices could actually be decent, others can have cheap build quality, buggy firmware, and poor battery life.

Despite this, I had an appreciation for these kinds of media players... at least the ones that worked well. Below is my collection that I have built up over the years, along with details about them.

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1 - RCA M6204-B MP3/video player. This little player was a Menard's holiday special in 2014. It looks like it has capacitive buttons, but it's just a thin flexible plastic sheet that sits over mechanical buttons. The buttons do work well, and navigation is easy to figure out. It has your basic functions like MP3/WMA playback, FM radio, and photo viewer. FM tuner isn't the best. It's not that sensitive, so distant station reception is very hit and miss. The player is limited to onboard storage, which in this case, is 4GB. No expandable memory slots at all. Sad It works rather well, even if the menu navigation is a bit slow.

2 - Mach Speed "Eclipse" 180 Pro. This is/was a very common brand seen in big box discount stores like Walmart, Kmart, and Shopko. The 180 Pro has that familiar Chinese iPod-clone design, only with branding printed on the reverse. Features are similar to the RCA, but the layout mimics the iPod interface somewhat. It also has a low quality digital camera and expandable microSD memory. The player itself comes with 4GB onboard storage. As a useful player, it's debatable. The music playback functions well enough, but the FM tuner leaves a lot to be desired and the player takes a really long time to start up. Build quality is decent thanks to an aluminum casing.

3 - HOTT MU763. This is my only Rockchip MP4 player I own. The case is aluminum like the Eclipse. The player has a resistive touch screen, which works okay but sometimes doesn't respond like it should. I really like the equalizer in the music player. It has something called "MS EQ" which with the right headphones, can produce a rather deep bass and crisp treble. FM tuner is once again not that great. This player would be alright to use if it weren't for one "feature" that ends up being a nuisance. In the music player, you can shake the player right or left to go forward or back in the playlist. If you carry the player in your pocket, this "feature" may trigger by accident and your music playlist gets disrupted as the player goes forward or back unintentionally.

4 - Altus M204-B - Probably my personal favorite of all the MP4 players I have used. My original from 2010 is long gone, but I found new-old-stock on eBay a couple years ago. As you can see, I have two of them. The batteries charged up fine and continue to hold a charge. The menu navigation is easy to learn and responsive, and the media features work really well. The best feature is the ability to customize the startup, shutdown, and main menu background images. It also includes a camera which isn't that great. The FM tuner works really well and handles weaker stations fine when the display goes to sleep. Has 4GB onboard storage and additional microSD card slot.

5 - Hipstreet Crossfade 4GB I found this on sale for $15. There's a reason it was so cheap. The build quality is among the worst I have seen. The player is very lightweight plastic, and the button switches are very glitchy. The FM tuner is quite excellent for such a cheap player as well as music playback. There's no expandable storage and you're limited to the onboard 4GB storage. My player is now disassembled because the battery has swollen, and I need to find a safe way to disconnect the cell before trying to recover the data that's still on the device.

6 and 7 - Generic MP4 players from China I found these at a small town RadioShack franchise. These were the most generic MP4 players you can find. The one on the right requires a microSD card to function, and came with a 16GB card. The one on the right has no expandable memory and 8GB onboard storage. FM tuners are okay. The player on the left suffers from glitchy buttons and the one on the right is having battery issues. Battery doesn't seem swollen, but it will not charge at all.

8 - Eclipse Supra Fit From the same company behind the 180 Pro. Has the features of that model but with one of the worst capacitive screens I have used. It's way too sensitive. You can barely touch the sides of the plastic bezel and it will register a random touch on a part of the screen. It has 8GB storage and microSD slot.

9 - Visual Land ME-907 I originally purchased this in 2012 to replace my first Altus M204-B that died. The UI is entirely built on Adobe Flash, and has the ability to play back Flash movies. It could load Flash games, but IIRC, the touch screen doesn't work with Flash content, so you can't click on buttons presented in such files. In addition to a 8gb storage, it has a microSD slot and a mini HDMI output. The UI is very responsive and full of fancy animations, though it doesn't have dedicated buttons for changing music tracks. In order to change the track, you have to turn on the screen, get past the screensaver, and then go back/forward in the playlist.

I'm currently trying out my players to see which one I can use as my main music device. I was thinking of just getting one of those cheap USB-stick MP3 players that use a AAA battery, but seeing how I have so many of these, there's no real need to add yet another.

I love foxes, especially the one in my avatar.
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#2

Hmm, I used to muck around with these back in the day, though I've never owned one myself. Might as well revisit them someday and see if I could hack the firmware for the lulz with some available tools.

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