The Philips GoGear Muse is an exceptionally smart-looking portable music and video player. It has a big, sharp touchscreen display and a beautiful brushed-metal chassis that fits neatly into a pocket.
At 133g, this is a nicely portable player, yet it still feels reassuringly weighty in the hand; the chunky metallic looks may contribute to this impression.
There's a large, clearly marked Home button to the right of the screen – it's the only button on the front of the device, so it's impossible to miss. Philips has followed a similar principle to Apple and its iPhone and iPad – the most important button is always there, so no matter how deep into the folder structure you drill, you can always get back to your Home screen with a single button press. This makes navigation appreciably easier.
But in other respects the navigation system can be slightly frustrating, and occasionally sluggish. If you're playing some music, for instance, and hit the Home button and then the music icon, it takes you back to the 'Now playing' screen - but most people in that situation would be looking for a new track.
You have to hit the small and unclearly labelled folder icon, then wrestle with the three columns - artist, album and track - which annoyingly tend to resize themselves and roll up and down without being prompted. There's probably a good reason for this system, but it seems counterintuitive at first go. A 'Back' button would certainly have been nice.
You can switch to an iTunes-style 'cover flow' arrangement, but flicking through the album covers is surprisingly slow, completely destroying the convenience of this sort of interface.
There are few other buttons – power on the left and volume up and down on the top – which is made possible by the Philips' touchscreen. This seemed generally effective, even if the player sometimes paused briefly before obeying our commands. (One small niggle with the hardware layout is that volume up is on the left and volume down on the right, which is unconventional and caused some accidental ear pain until we got used to it.)
Audio quality was respectable using the bundled headphones (rather nice-looking in-ear models), if a shade thin and trebly. Switching up to some beefier Teufel headphones unlocked a wealth of unexpected bass potential, however, so consider an upgrade if you can afford it: the player has the power to do its bit if paired with high-end headphones.
Video is the Philips' trump card, since it allows it to show off that excellent screen, which is clear and deals well with rapid movement. And if you've got some HD video, you can use the HDMI connector to show it on an HDTV.
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