Toshiba Gigabeat T-Series Review

tseries.jpgPreviously we’ve talked about how Samsung wants to be a iPod shuffle and iPod Touch killer, well now Toshiba has entered the ring to take on the 3rd generation Nano. We have to say that they certainly know how to put up a good fight. At first glance we weren’t sure how the Toshiba Gigabeat T-Series T400 was going to stack up next to the Nano but we were pleasantly surprised. So read on for our in depth review.

The Toshiba Gigabeat T-Series installed pretty easily on computers running both Windows XP and Windows Vista. There was no drama or headaches involved. I just plugged in the USB cable into the USB port on the computer and on the Gigabeat and it was picked up automatically. A Windows dialog box popped up and asked me if I wanted to explore files on the Gigabeat. If you have WMA 11 you’ll have a much easier time dropping and dragging songs/videos to sync. I had WMA 10 when I started this process and updated right away to WMA 11 and it was sooo much easier to get around and the Gigabeat sync’d to it much easier. The CD included with the player has the WMA 11 software included as well as User guides, Adobe Reader, and a link to the Gigabeat website. The device is truly plug and play and you will not break a sweat over installing it. Thankfully the USB cable not only serves to sync the player but charges it as well when connected to your computer.

You will find no scroll wheel or touch sensitive keys on the Gigabeat, which in some ways is a welcome change. Just good old fashioned stationary keys that do what they are supposed too. “The PlusPad” consists of a “start” button that has a windows flag on it. A “play/pause” button, “ok” button which is your select button, and “back” button arrow that takes you to what the previous screen was. On the bottom of the Gigabeat is a Power/Lock switch, slide it one way you locked your device, slide it the other way and its powered on. The PlusPad cross hairs or “T” shape in the middle of the player also serve as a forward/reverse for the music/video or control the volume. Going back to the “start” key there are 5 options to choose from: my tv, my music, my pictures, my videos, and my settings. My tv is the most unique of all of the other options as it also differs the most to the Nano. If you have Windows Media Center you can transfer recorded television shows right to the Gigabeat. Again this feature is only possible if you have Windows Media Center otherwise the “my tv” option is kind of a useless one. My music is obvious, this is were you go to listen to your music and album art is visible just like it is on the Nano. If you press “ok” when your song is playing you will get a close up of the cover art or a list of songs that are available on this particular album. And of course My pictures is where you go to see pictures you transfered over. Pictures can be played as a slideshow or at random. My videos is where you go to watch your videos that have transferred over. The only videos that can be played on the T-Series are WMVs and they can’t be bigger than 2 GB in file size or they won’t play properly. I tested some WMV files and they played just fine. The quality was pretty good, no static or noise and it played pretty smoothly. I’m more used to Mpeg 4 quality but in comparison there really wasn’t much difference. Unfortunately WMV content files don’t seem to be all that common so you’ll probably have to convert your videos to WMV on your own. Then finally there is “my settings” which is exactly what it says, a plethora of settings for you to mess around with to make your enjoyment of the Gigabeat even better.

Of course a device of this size can only be compared to the Nano because obviously that is what it is competing with. The Toshiba GigaBeat T400 felt strangely lighter than the 3rd generation Nano. It had this weird hallow feeling where the Nano felt more solid and heavier. The casing is made of a very shiny high gloss acrylic that easily shows grease and fingerprints, one downer that is for sure but really a miner gripe. It’s almost reminiscent of the old 1g Nano’s shell minus all the scratches. The overall design is sleek and and comes in several colors, pink, blue and orange. The colors are only found on the trim around the PlusPad and backside of the case and on the color coordinated lanyard for the ear buds. But overall Gigabeat is still black in color. One of the biggest differences of both devices is that the Gigabeat has a 2.4 Color LCD as the Nano only has a 2.0 LCD. It’s naturally easier on the eyes when watching video on the T400 due to the extra screen real estate.

So what is the junk under the Gigabeat’s trunk? We already know that there is a 2.4 LCD. It also has a 4GB NAND flash Memory which equates to 16 hours of music or 5 hours of video. The Gigabeat supports MP3, WMA, and WAV media files. Photos can only be viewed in JPEG’s and the maximum song storage is 1000. In relation to storage capacity, you are actually getting a better deal if you were to buy the Gigabeat since you can get 4GB for $119 on Amazon, while the Apple Nano 4GB is $150. So not only do you get a bigger screen but you save some dough as well.

Sound Quality:
The sound quality was on par with the Nano. Unfortunately it was nothing outstanding even with or without the included ear buds. The ear buds made the music sound a little bit tinny but when I switched it out with my more professional headset you could feel the beat better. There are various options to choose from in the equalizer option under “my settings”: acoustic, classical, electronic, hip hop, jazz, pop, and rock. I chose all of them and couldn’t tell the difference when a song was playing, which was kind of disappointing. On other MP3 players I have reviewed I could tell right away when I changed a bass boost or to a rock equalizer setting. The song would change the treble or bass drastically. Here I couldn’t tell as easily. Overall the sound was good – but nothing to to go crazy about. Also I would have liked to see a bass option.

Overall the Toshiba Gigabeat T400 is a very nice device. It certainly is a fair Nano competitor with its nice design, easy menu navigation, good feature set, and cheap price. For those just entering the MP3 market than this is a nice choice for those who want to stray from the iPod family and perhaps want to take advantage of Windows DRM services like Napster. A 30 Day free subscription to Napster is included in the box as well. The Gigabeat T-Series is overall easy to use and doesn’t require much thinking at all which iPod owners pride themselves on. Two downsides I would say is that Windows Media Player is the only way for you get music, videos, and pictures on to your device. Which for many could be very frustrating as WMA has a tendency to be unstable at times. However, I like WMA and haven’t had much problems since version 11 but of course it’s not Apple compatible. So if you want a decent player that looks good and is easy to use and you want to save some money the Toshiba Gigabeat T Series is the way to go.

The Good:
Small & Lightweight Design, Good Navigation and Easy to use, Significantly Cheaper than 4GB Nano.

The Bad:
Windows Media Player is your main program for transferring files on and off your device, Windows Users Need Only Apply, equalizer setting had many options but didn’t change the sound of the music all that much.

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