The Gadget: The eMotion Solar PMP, a 2GB machine that claims to play music, videos, Nintendo/Game Boy/Sega ROMs, e-books and more—all while charging itself and other devices via its built-in solar panels. If you're nice, it may even pump your gas and tuck you in at night.
The Price: US$169
The Verdict: For a piece of crap, this thing is pretty awesome.
Sure, the UI is slow and ugly, the buttons are confusing even after repeated use, and the playable formats are somewhat limiting (yes MP3, WMA, AVI; no AAC or DivX). But hey, it works. It does almost everything advertised.
Putting photos, music, videos, and ROMs on it is a breeze. It came with Super Mario Bros. and Contra Force for Nintendo and Raiden Triad and Street Fighter 2 for Sega, and you can get other ROMs through, let's say, back channels. Video game play is solid, though I recommend only playing very basic games on a screen that small—that is, 3 inches, with 320x240 resolution.
Video playback was great for the preloaded clips, but chopped and stunted with my own (this may have been an encoding problem on my part, but seriously, it only supports 320x240 AVIs, that's pretty weak). The e-book reader is just a glorified text viewer, but it can also do text-to-speech reading in a relatively normal voice. Photo browsing is awkward, but it works. The machine came preloaded with some shots of LL Cool J and Lou Gosset Jr., so who am I to complain?
Hardware wise, there are ups and downs. Two headphone jacks and an obnoxiously loud speaker work fine, but adjusting the volume is a pain since there is no dedicated button. There's an SD slot, but it'll only get you an added 2GB, as it doesn't support SDHC. The nice thing is, the boasted solar charging actually worked, especially for the device itself, but even with other random electronics. My iPod took some finagling, but I figured out how to do it, and it works well. The only thing I couldn't get it to charge was an iPhone. What's up with that?
Of course, as I was finishing up my testing, the device just had to crash; it took an hour of draining the battery just to be able to restart it. Calling tech support in the middle of the afternoon didn't yield any results either, as the company was closed. You're absolutely getting what you pay for with this relatively cheap PMP, but since it's got features you won't find on mainstream players (for legal reasons and otherwise), it is a decent buy. Besides, if you have sunlight, you won't have to worry about a charger. [MediaStreet]