The GoGear Muse by Philips is a no-frills touchscreen media player. It plays music and movies, and it plays them pretty darned well. Philips incorporates their FullSound technology into the GoGear Muse which greatly enhances your audio listening experience. It also touts the ability to aatch 720p videos straight from the device or to output them to your TV via HDMI. GoGear Muse also features an FM radio, a photo album, and the ability to record audio notes. However, there is no built-in internet connectivity and there are no additional applications available to download for extending the device’s usability.
What’s in the box:
-GoGear Muse Media Player
-3 sets of ear bud covers (small, medium, large)
-Mini-USB charging and syncing cable
The design of the GoGear Muse is very sleek. The length and width are about the same as an iPod or iPhone. It’s thinner than the iPhone 3G and bit thicker than an iPod touch. The entire device is brushed metal and there is a black bezel around the 3.2-inch HVGA touch-screen. There are four physical buttons total. Like an iPod Touch, the buttons are volume up and down, lock, and home. There’s also a mini-USB jack and headphone jack on the side of the device. Although it seems like the device would be held with the home button on the bottom and the screen oriented portrait, it’s actually designed to be used in a landscape orientation only. The user interface is very basic, and somewhat easy to use. On the home screen there are four main app buttons: Music, Videos, Pictures, and FM. Below these main apps are the secondary apps that would get used less often: recordings, audiobooks, text reader, folder view, and settings. The apps themselves are not super intuitive, but you get used to the controls after a bit of playing. The on-screen buttons could also be a bit larger.
The GoGear Muse is ready to use straight out of the box. To get media on to it you have two choices. You can install Philips Songbird software (think iTunes for Windows) and use that to organize your media, discover new media, and sync everything to your device. Alternatively, you can just plug in your device and use it in USB mode as if it were a regular flash drive. This works on Windows and Mac and requires no additional software. With GoGear in USB mode you can just drag all of your movies, music, and photos to the appropriate folders on the drive. Philips makes it very easy to load up GoGear Muse with media.
The GoGear Muse uses Philips’ FullSound technology that makes for a high fidelity listening experience. It uses digital signal processing (DSP) to restore details and improve clarity in compressed music files. The included high definition headphones offer exceptional sound isolation. The compatible music formats are MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, Real Audio, FLAC, APE, and OGG. The compatible video formats are MPEG, WMV, H.264, and RMVB. The GoGear supports high definition video playback and output. It can even output movies in full 720p with surround sound audio. There is also a built in microphone for recording voice notes. However, there is no on-screen keyboard, so voice notes are the only type of notes you can take. There is also an FM radio receiver inside of the device that allows you to listen to the radio with your headphones. The receiver is RDS-enabled, so it can pull station information like artist and track title and there are 20 presets. The battery life of a fully charged device is 24 hours of audio and 5 hours of video. GoGear Muse is available with 8gb or 16gb of built-in storage and it has a microSD memory card expansion slot to add up to 32gb of even more media. GoGear Muse works in disk mode when connected to a Mac or PC, allowing you to easily add media to your device. You can even use it as a portable hard drive for storing any files.
The GoGear Muse really does offer a superior listening experience, more so than an iPod. Philips FullSound technology does seem to make a difference. They also packaged Muse with a really nice set of headphones. The combination of FullSound and the HD headphones makes music sound noticeably better. With the correct earbud caps, these Philips headphones will create an amazing fit in your ear and will block out almost all background sound. The bass is strong without being overwhelming. The highs and mids are clear and crisp. The screen on the device is large and bright. The resolution is pretty decent, although clearly not 720p. There is also no multitouch, so all functions can be accomplished with one finger. You can flick up and down to quickly scroll through notes, music, or lists. The touch feedback however can be finicky, you may not always get the response you were expecting from a tap or flick. Also, there is no internal speaker on the device, so listening to music or watching movies without headphones is out of the question. That said, the battery is great on the device, also we love the standard mini-USB charging. We, unfortunately, had no luck with the HDMI output although we did try updating the device’s firmware and trying several different mini-HDMI cables. This was unfortunate, because it was the feature we were most excited about.
If you’re looking for a perfect alternative to the iPod Touch, then this is not it. If you’re looking for a basic, no-frills version of the iPod Touch, then that’s what GoGear Muse offers. Also, you’re not going to find an FM Tuner, expandable memory, HDMI output for 720p video, and superior sound quality on an iPod. Muse is easy to load up with media, and being able to use it in USB disk mode is a bonus. Overall, it’s a great device for someone who is not already used to using an iPod Touch and/or is on a budget. There is no need to worry about syncing your device, creating accounts, or installing apps; GoGear Muse is ready to use out of the box (although a firmware upgrade is recommended). Unfortunately, we couldn’t get HDMI-out working, but it’s probably something Philips could fix with a firmware upgrade. The 16gb model can be purchased from Amazon for $139.99 while the 8gb model can be purchased for $122.37.
The Good: Easy to transfer media, headphones and audio quality are great, solid build quality, good battery life
The Bad: Mini HDMI cable not included, HDMI-output didn’t work for us, small buttons and finicky touch feedback, Songbird software is PC only
Update 11/21/2011: Check out our Philips GoGear Connect 3 review