Looks-wise the Philips GoGear Spark 4GB media player could be a winner. With cute rounded corners and petite dimensions, it'll slip easily into your pocket. Alternatively, you can use the provided carry case and clip to attach it to your belt.

The entire clear front plate of the Philips GoGear Spark acts as a navigational keypad: you click the top or bottom of it to move up or down within a menu, and click right to start playing a track, or to pause.

We don't normally like this approach (when did buttons go out of fashion?), and from time to time it makes the Philips GoGear Spark rather counterintuitive to use.

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Hitting the same button for play, pause, select and 'yes' (when setting up playlists) can be confusing, particularly when that button is in effect a right arrow key. And we were unable to find a way to add a song to a playlist without starting it playing first.

However, Philips' execution of the concept is impeccable, and the firm generally keeps things user-friendly. The Philips GoGear Spark's volume key is handily accessible, and it's easy to skip through an album or playlist without taking the device out of your pocket.

With a capacity of 4GB (it's also available in a 2GB flavour), the Philips GoGear Spark isn't designed for the management of gargantuan libraries - it's aimed at iPod shuffle buyers with a relatively small number of tunes and a simplified approach to audio.

The small screen gives the Philips GoGear Spark the edge over that device, removing some of the guesswork from navigation as well as bringing album artwork to the party.

Audio quality from the bundled headphones is respectable. Bass is rich but there's a slight lack of clarity overall to the sound.

Loading up songs is simple - you simply drag-and-drop MP3s into the appropriate folder in Windows Explorer. And despite the Philips GoGear Spark stipulating Windows in its system requirements, this method also worked, with a few glitches, in Mac OS X.

Alternatively, fire up Windows Media Player and the Philips GoGear Spark will appear in the Sync menu.

Philips GoGear Spark: Specs

  • 4GB capacity
  • 1.5in (128x128 pixel) colour screen
  • MP3/WAV/WMA audio
  • JPEG images
  • claimed battery life 27 hours
  • channel separation 35dB
  • frequency response 80Hz-18kHz
  • output 2 x 3mW
  • signal-to-noise ratio >80dB
  • USB 2.0
  • microphone
  • voice recording
  • headphones, USB cable and carry case included
  • 46x46x14mm
  • 31g
  • 4GB capacity
  • 1.5in (128x128 pixel) colour screen
  • MP3/WAV/WMA audio
  • JPEG images
  • claimed battery life 27 hours
  • channel separation 35dB
  • frequency response 80Hz-18kHz
  • output 2 x 3mW
  • signal-to-noise ratio >80dB
  • USB 2.0
  • microphone
  • voice recording
  • headphones, USB cable and carry case included
  • 46x46x14mm
  • 31g

OUR VERDICT

The Philips GoGear Spark is principally let down by an occasionally confusing navigation system. But it is very portable and attractive, and temptingly priced for an MP3 player that includes a colour screen.

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