September 06, 2003
Half-Gig Solar Plexus

WARNING: this is a “gadget” posting.

I like my music on the move. On the bus, and on the tube, and occasionally in the office when I’m concentrating on getting things done.

I bought my first ever “walkman” when I was around 18 - and that was when they were in their first generation. Over the years I think I’ve been through a few more - and I slowly declined my usage of them as I began to accept the difficulty of being mobile with music. It was just about bearable with a cassette-based walkman to walk, climb, escalators, stairs, jump on and off buses whilst being “wired” for sound. But I just never got around to porting my CD-based music to cassette - and I always found the idea of a CD-walkman a step in the wrong direction - they are bulkier and effectively have to be held in the hand. And so - for a few years I just didn’t bother with music on the move. Until the advent of MP3 players …

These starting arriving not too far long after minidisc for me to have recklessly plunged into buying a portable minidisc player - so I made my first MP3-player purchase a few years ago - and then another a year later - and then another a year after that - which is where I’m at now. However, it is only with this latest one that I can say that I am truly liberated. Music on the move is now totally convenient and hassle free. (I toyed with the idea of a spinning-disk based MP3 player - like the Apple one - the ones that can hold your entire collection - but the form-factor just simply isn’t as convenient - so I stuck to the solid-state memory-based players.)

And here it is. (Click on the frames to get a bigger picture.)

It’s called “PenDrive Plus MP3”. Do not confuse it with the better-known Pen Drive (or other Pen Drives) which are USB-based solid-state storage devices that appear as “drives” to Windows. (The idea being that you can keep these on your keyring or whatever - a very handly alternative to carrying a now-pretty-much-obselete floppy disk around with you.) No - my PenDrive is first and foremost an MP3 player - but also acts as a Windows removeable disk. OK - so this concept isn’t entirely original either - Creative do a USB-based drive/MP3 player as well. No - my player is probably not as “sexy” as the branded types; mine is some far eastern import - and so feels a little tackier than the Creative players. But the thing that sets mine apart from the branded crowd is this:

512 Megabytes for £139

I ordered it from Advanced MP3 Players - and it turned up the next day. The earphones it comes with a crap - I threw those away and I use my ex-walkman headphones - which have a better tonal range - and I am seriously impressed by the sound-out from this cheap import: the music sounds perfect - not tinny - and no breaking up of bass - and a decent max-volume too. The Creative-Muvo-owning guys in my office who were skeptical about the sound quality of my PenDrive changed their minds completely when they heard the sound quality for themselves.

So now - wiring myself up for sound in the morning means slinging my earphones around my neck - and clipping my earphone wire right next to a button on the front of my T-shirt so that the player itself hangs there - just inside my T-shirt (just below the button-line) - right in front of my solar plexus. So - it’s completey concealed and totally non-noticeable - and the control-buttons on this player are really easy to feel and click from outside my T-shirt. In fact - it’s so convenient to wear like that - there really isn’t any need to take it off at all throughout the day. (The earphones can be left hanging in a concealed fashion around my neck when in the office - and I just lift them up at the end of the day for the journey home!

I am in the process of porting a chunk of my CD collection onto this remarkable gadget - and I have calculated that I can get around 120 album songs at 128kbps MP3. Which is around 10 to 12 albums. And the crappy AAA battery that came with the player is still going strong after a week of usage (Around 1.5 hours per day) - although I have my 4 rechargeable ones standing by in a 35mm Film-holder in my bag in case I need to swap-out power source mid-journey.

I am pleased.

UPDATE on 24th September 2003

This is for Jim (who left a comment on this entry - asking some questions re weight and dimensions)

I couldn’t figure out a straightforward way to weigh the MP3 Player - so I got creative with what I had in the house: I got a steel ruler from my toolbox - balanced it on a flashlight torch. I then carefully placed the MP3 player (with battery removed) on one end of the ruler - and then used standard British coinage on the other end of the ruler in order to balance the MP3 player. After lots of fiddling around with different types of coin - I finally managed to balance it level. See the pictures below:

Creating a makeshift weighing machine

Balancing the MP3 player against standard British coins

So - you can see that I managed to get it balanced using:

  • 1 x £1 coin
  • 2 x 20p coins
  • 4 x 5p coins

Now - from the Royal Mint coin specifications webpage - I was able to find out that £1 coin weighs 9.5g, 20p coin weighs 5.0g and 5p coin weighs 3.25g. From this - you can work out that the total mass of the MP3 player is approximately 32.5g - which to all intents and purposes is roughly 30 to 35 grams. (allowing for experimental errors.)

I also used the ruler to accurately measure the dimensions:

Longways length = 78mm, Width = 38mm, Depth = 15mm

Hope that helps Jim!

Posted by jag at September 06, 2003 11:49 PM

Thanks for the review on the PenDrive Plus MP3 512MB player. The player seems pretty good in the bang for bucks department.

More of a question(s) than a comment. I was just wondering if you could answer a couple of questions that I have been unable to find on AMP or on the WEB.

What are the measurements / dimensions of the player?

Is it lightweight (I was considering the Oracom 256 which is about 30g without battery)? I hope to use it (around my neck) at the gym or when out on the bike.

Thanks for your time.


Posted by: Jim on September 24, 2003 05:35 PM

Hi Jim - thanks for your comment. I have provided an addendum to the review with the answers to your questions.

I use the player (512Mbyte version with battery in!) hanging around my neck, concealed underneath my T-shirt - the earphone cable taking the weight - and I have had absolutely no problems. In fact - most of the time I don’t even know that it’s there. I suspect that it would be ideal for use in the gym. I don’t know about the Oracom 256 though.

Hope that helps!

Posted by: Jag on September 24, 2003 10:58 PM

In a word…CLASS. I’m off to the gym tomorrow with £1.60 in change, an AAA battery, and some string to simulate my future order.

Next time the world’s leaders are unable to find a solution to a global problem I suggest they get on a route 79 bus to help stimulate their tiny brains.

Your time and effort has been much appreciated. All the best.

Posted by: Jim on September 25, 2003 09:37 PM

Cheers Jim! Pleasure. And thanks for the compliment!

Posted by: Jag on September 25, 2003 10:10 PM

Very useful review. Just one question - does it skip at all constantly on the move e.g. while running?

Posted by: Mmm on September 30, 2003 05:39 PM

Hello Mmm, the simple answer to your question is “no”. This device has no moving parts in it whatsoever - the music is stored in silicon “non-volatile-memory”. The higher-capacity players that you see in the shops these days often use hard-disk technology - i.e. spinning disk - which may be subjected to jolting - but probably not likely unless you really bash it about. But this one has no possibility of skipping at all. Hope that helps!

Posted by: Jag on September 30, 2003 08:40 PM

I think your scales are brilliant, what a cool way to find the weight!

Posted by: Neal Soutter on October 7, 2003 05:07 PM

Cheers Neal - looking back at it now - you’re right - it is kind of cool to weigh it like that!

Posted by: Jag on October 7, 2003 06:56 PM

How does the player cope with loads of files? Is there some way to organise the tracks by album etc, or do they all just added into a long playlist?

Cheers, from Ric.

Posted by: Ric on October 26, 2003 03:44 PM

Hi Ric - thanks for commenting. In answer to your question: the MP3 player has a very simple way of organising files: it simply organises files in one long playlist - where each file is played in the order that you load onto it. So - there is no way of grouping files - and there is no way of skipping to specific tracks - other than to do “next track” or “previous track”. In practise I have not found this to be a major problem - as I just click the buttons forward or back quickly if I want to skip or go back. There is alo no way of fast-forwarding or rewinding during a track - so - you either go “next track” or “previous track”. Hope that helps!

Posted by: Jag on October 27, 2003 09:25 PM

Does the player only play MP3 files or does it play wma files as well?

Posted by: Mihael on October 29, 2003 02:51 PM

Hi Mihael, the answer is that it only plays MP3 files - NOT WMA files. So - you need to convert your WMA files to MP3 before you transfer to the player.

Posted by: Jag on October 29, 2003 05:21 PM

Thanks for the response - and really just as an aside, is there one MP3 player that you would recommend, other than of course the Pen Drive? I have a Creative Muvo and was looking for something with a bit more storage space (maybe expansion)? Thanks Mihael

Posted by: Mihael on October 29, 2003 09:43 PM

Just like to thank you for the in-depth review, it helped me make up my mind, im buyind the pen-drive. Your work is much appreciated

Posted by: Mark on December 20, 2003 08:08 PM

Hi Mark - pleasure! Glad you liked it and thanks for the feedback.

Posted by: Jag on December 20, 2003 08:11 PM

Great review, just bought one this morning
after some hard thought and long hours looking
for the right one.
After reading your review i’m more confident
i’ve bought the right one.

Posted by: scotsman on December 28, 2003 11:30 AM

One last thing, the firm who make them
have they got a website?

Posted by: scotsman on December 28, 2003 03:45 PM

Hi Scotsman, hope you enjoy it - it is very basic in functionality, but the “sound out” is great - and the value for money is excellent in my opinion. I am still very much enjoying mine.

No - I haven’t been able to find out the wesbite of the manufacturer - I think it’s some fairly unknown brand/vendor. Let me know if you ever find out.

Happy New Year to you!

Posted by: Jag on December 28, 2003 06:48 PM

Was thinking seriously about buying the pendrive myself. Thanks for your informative review, Jag; I think I may well buy it!

Scotsman asks about a manufacturer’s website; one of the postings on the forums gives the website as:
I had a look around, and you can find the pendrive product itself here (although don’t be expecting too much detail, ‘cos there ain’t much):

Hope this helps…

Posted by: James on January 12, 2004 11:46 PM

im about to order one i hope there good value for money and i hope the sound is good aswell

Posted by: julian bahrami on March 6, 2004 04:21 PM

Thanks very much for the review - it gave me confidence that I was making the right choice of mp3 player. I’ve had my PenDrive for about 6 months now and it’s been fantastic.

Posted by: Mmm on June 18, 2004 10:43 AM

Just found your site while surfing for an answer to my problem. I live in N Wales but bought my Pen drive plus while in Kuwait last year. I can’t get it to work and can’t take it back. Everyone talks about plug and play but i can’t seem to load any music onto it. All i end up with is the track titles. Please help as it was a Christmas present for my wife and she has been giving me grief for 6 months now.

Posted by: Mark Higgins on July 5, 2004 08:47 PM

Hi Mark, I haven’t experienced the kind of problem that you describe. Not sure whether I can be of any help really - but let me try by starting with a few questions:

1. How are you generating the MP3 files? i.e. what program you using - and what bit-rate and sampling rate are you using - i.e. bitrate in kbps - and sampling rate in Hz.

2. What version of Windows are you using?

Let me know the answers - and I’ll see if I can offer any clues.

Posted by: Jag on July 7, 2004 11:11 AM

My university told me we needed to get a USB Pen Drive at the beggining of term. They had bought a batch with logos six months ago from this company in Kent and hadn’t had any problems so I bought one from their shop. They were cheap and delivered it next day. I saw a cheaper one on Dabs but it looked a bit shoddy and I heard bad things about their delivery times. Anyway you probably know this company already but their site was

Posted by: Martin Teller on July 13, 2004 10:30 PM

Argh - I typed it in wrong that domain’s dead. It’s - Enjoy! Damn typo.

Posted by: Martin Teller on July 13, 2004 10:33 PM

USB Pen Drives are perfect for uni - much more robust than a floppy disk.

If your looking for a good price on a good quality drive check out we brought five of them in our house and they arrived the next day - very impressive.

Also they are great on price the cheapest that ive seen around :)

Posted by: Ricky p on August 12, 2004 08:15 PM
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