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Rio PMP-300 MP3 Player Review

Review By: Andrew B. Davidson - andrewdavidson/at\andrewdavidson/dot\com
Copyright © 2004 Andrew B. Davidson. All Rights Reserved.
Review Written: January 2004
Review Updated: March 2004
This article is now quite old, but I hope you still find it useful.
Size comparison of Rio PMP-300, Rio Nitrus, and Sharpie pen.
I have been a user and fan of the original Rio PMP-300 since they were released many years ago. I have used them extensively for years. They were my main "walking around the house" and "going to the grocery store" MP3 player until I got a Rio Nitrus. [UPDATE July 2004: My Nitrus is no longer able to load new content. So I have gone back to my PMP-300's!] I have used them pretty much daily, and I have used several different units so any problems are likely inherent in the model. I have owned 3 of them and they all still work, even after having been dropped, banged, and abused. I literally load new content on them daily.
Would I recommend them? If you can find them for cheap, they are a great workhorse MP3 player. Of course, many players have come out with more features, smaller size, more memory, etc, but these are still respectable units. Check eBay for auctions, they are often available for $20-$30.

Cons

  • All Rio PMP-300's that I have used have suffered from inherent, but not insurmountable problems with the battery door. First, the battery door will eventually become loose, requiring duct tape to stay shut. And second, sometimes you will insert a battery, close the battery door, and nothing will happen. You have to "jiggle" the battery door or re-insert the battery until it works. When this happens, it is scary, because it seems like the unit is dead. But it will probably resurrect itself eventually, just keep trying. Friends of mine have given me "dead" Rios, and I simply pop a new battery in, jiggle the battery door, and it starts working again.
  • The default software won't work on Windows 2000. You must use the free third-party Dreaming of Brazil utility. Since this utility is better than the standard software, this is not a big con.
  • Intro play is pointless for a device with such small memory, and is occasionally activated by accident.
  • Random, repeat and A-B play are kind of pointless too. I hit the buttons by accident way more often than I actually use them.
  • Play/Pause/Stop/Next/Prev Control hard to work by feel due to the circular control surface.
  • No way to change speed of FF/REW (bad for audio books). I have to split long MP3 files before I upload them to the unit due to this major flaw. If the unit turns off while listening to an hour-long file, it is a major pain to FF to the spot you were listening to.
  • No audio cue when FF/REW.
  • No resume play (bad for audio books).
  • Unit will often reset itself if it takes a sharp rap (probably as a result of static electricity.)
  • Unit will occasionally refuse to start up when replacing batteries. This can be scary because it seems like the unit has just stopped working. Sometimes it starts immediately, sometimes you have to re-insert the batteries and jiggle the battery door a dozen times to make it work.
  • Due to use of parallel adapter, can't print from your computer at the same time you are uploading/downloading or your files will be corrupted.
  • Kind of slow uploading, but limited memory size makes this not a huge problem.
  • Bitrate display is occasionally wrong (and in those cases track time is wrong too, goes slower than normal).
  • Display is only track number, track time, bitrate, hold on/off, volume level, and battery level. No filenames or ID3/ID3v2 of any kind. However, full filenames are stored in the unit so you can see them with your upload utility.
  • Only 32MB SmartMedia expansion (>32MB won't work). (RioOne has the same form factor and allows 128BM SmartMedia expansion. The Rio One also is available with 64MB on-board memory, for a total of 192MB).

Pros

  • Uses only one standard AA battery.
  • Lasts a long time on 1 AA battery (even alkaline, rechargeables not necessary).
  • Very loud... can easily power a car's stereo system via cassette adapter. In a quiet office I can listen at a 2 or 3 out of 20.
  • Light enough to carry in your shirt pocket (2.5 oz)
  • Totally solid state, no skipping ever. (Except, if the battery door jiggles you will hear what sounds like skipping.)
  • Will play MPEG2 and MPEG2.5 (i.e. low bitrate) MP3's, and VBR files. In many years of use, I have only once found an MP3 that would not play.
  • Can upload and download any file on and off the unit with third-party utility (e.g. Dreaming of Brazil).
  • No USB connection required (uses parallel adapter). No complaining by the OS when you unplug the cable from the unit. Upload utility Dreaming of Brazil recognizes the unit almost immediately.
  • Re-initializing the 32MB internal or external memory takes about 3-4 seconds.
  • Retains your music even if the batteries totally die.
  • Very tough. I dropped one on concrete and all I had to do was re-insert the SmartMedia card. If the battery door breaks off, you are probably out of luck though. That is the major weakness of these units.

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