Dictaphones have come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years. The extra bang you get for your buck - thanks to higher-quality audio recording technology and cheaper flash memory - really makes a difference. The WS-200S from Olympus makes good use of today's technology, providing a lot of storage space at a reasonable price.
The WS-200S comes with 128MB of storage, providing up to 54 hours of recording in long-play mode, and the audio files are stored as WMA files. You can put the audio setting all the way up to Stereo High Quality, and while this only offers some four hours of recording, the audio quality is excellent.
One rather nifty addition is that it snaps in half to reveal a USB key. This means the WS-200S is plug-and-go. You don't need any extra hardware or software to operate this Dictaphone and it can be used as a normal USB storage key so you can store data such as spreadsheets and presentations.
The bundle includes stereo headphones, a USB extension, a strap and one AAA alkaline battery. While it doesn't use much power, it would be better if you didn't need to buy replacement consumables. It would also be nice to be able to recharge from a PC or notebook when it's plugged in.
Build quality is pretty good. Although the WS-200S is all plastic, it feels tough enough to cope with the rigours of travel. The buttons depress nicely, making it comfortable to use.
The only problem we found with the WS-200S was that it was easy to hit the spring-loaded battery flap when you're opening the hardware, making the battery pop out like a (not very) speeding bullet. However, if you're being driven mad by PowerPoint, a quick game of Russian Roulette might at least make the time pass more quickly.