The Neuros MP3 Digital Audio Computer

A company called Neuros has caused some serious sticker shock in a good way by introducing their new 20 Gig MP3 player at a retail price of only $199. This makes it the most affordable digital audio jukebox on the market, but how does it perform? This week, Computer Critics takes a look…The Neuros consists of a dark gray player, which is about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and its backpack which contains the 20 Gig hard drive and battery. The combination of player and backpack is somewhat bulky and akward, but the ability to change backpacks for added memory is a real plus.

One of the Neuros’ serious drawbacks is battery life. The battery drains after about 6-8 hours and must be recharged. Fortunately the Neuros comes with a car adapter so you can charge your Neuros while you’re on the go. However, the actual battery in integrated into the backpack and not accessible, so if the battery dies so does your backpack.

What sets the Neuros apart from other jukebox-style players is its MiFi feature. A built-in FM transmitter that is designed to allow users to transmit whatever the Neuros is playing to an open FM frequency accessible from any stereo within 10 feet. Unfortunately, a lot of Neuros users are disappointed by this feature judging by the discussion boards on neurosaudio.com. In our tests, we found that MiFi did not work well enough to make it a particularly useful feature. The conditions must be optimal in order to achieve clear static-free reception, and if you live in a big metropolitan area like Atlanta, forget it.

We attempted to contact Neuros’ engineers to find out whether they were aware of the problem, but they simply referred us to a list of frequently asked questions on their site and a discussion thread with instructions on how to raise the transmission volume. Not surprisingly, there were more Neuros owners on this thread talking about how the feature didn’t work. We did, however find out about a device from irock! that lets you transmit audio through an FM channel from any MP3 player, but that’s another review altogether.

Unfortunately, importing music into your Neuros can be an aggrevating process. First you must open the Neuros Manager and search your computer for MP3 files. Once they are added to the list, you must select them and click the “Add to Neuros” button. Then you must perform a sync with your device. Many times I have added the files to Neuros manager and synched only to realize later that my Neuros is missing the songs I wanted to add because I forgot a crucial step. In addition, Windows Media files are not compatible so if your music collection is in the format you must convert it over to MP3.

The Neuros’ additional features include the ability to record ambient audio, the ability to record FM broadcasts, and a feature called HiSi which records a few seconds of a song being played on the radio and later identifies it for you after completing a sync with your computer. Despite all this the Neuros do not offer any sort of EQ. We couldn’t understand why they left out such a basic and useful tool such as an EQ, yet added all these additional features. In addition, the audio begins to distort at higher volumes, when a particularly compressed song is playing.

Product Specs

Page 2: Product Specs >

Product SpecificationsCapacity: Holds about 4,800 songs encoded at 128 kbps
Display: 2-inch (diagonal) liquid crystal display with orange LED backlight, 128 by 128 pixel resolution, .21/.28 dot pitch 4 level gray scale
Size: Height 5.3″ (13.4 cm), Width 3.1″ (7.8 cm), Depth 1.3″ (3.3 cm), Weight 9.4oz. (266 g)
Operating temperature: -4 to 125 degrees F
Relative humidity: 5% to 95% noncondensing
Maximum operating altitude: 10,000 feet (unless in a pressure controlled environment such as an airplane)
Maximum output power: 60mW rms (30 mW per channel)
Frequency response: 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz
MP3 format (up to 320 kbps), MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR)
Upgradeable firmware enables support for future audio formats
Recorded Audio: 64-160 kbps, MP3 format
Input/Output: Full speed USB 1.1
MiFi Mode: 69 channel selection (91.1MHz-104.9MHz), Mono and stereo modes
MiFi Maximum range: 20 feet (range can be limited by several factors including receiver, geography and FCC limitations)
MiFi Frequency range: 20Hz-15kHz
MiFi Transmission Strength: 250 microV/M-2 at 3m
AC input: 100V to 125V at 0.4
Frequency: 50 to 60Hz
DC output: 9V at .8 amp
Built-in rechargeable lithium ion battery
Playtime: 10 hours when fully charged
Full charge time: 8 hours

Software

Neuros Synchronization Manager

Requirements

OS: Microsoft® Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP
CPU: Pentium 233MHz or higher
Memory: 64MB minimum
Hard Drive: 160MB
USB Port

Warranty / Other Information

90 Days – Labor / 1 Year – Parts

Conclusion

The $199 price tag makes this player compelling despite all its imperfections and shortcomings. If you want a player that can store your entire music collection, don’t mind a few inconvinences, and won’t be using the MiFi feature then the Neuros is for you. However, knowing what I know now about the Neuros I would wait until they fix some bugs and release their next version of the player before considering it as a purchase

Pros:

Most Inexpensive Portable Digital Audio Jukebox

Cons:

MiFi feature does not work well enough to be useful
Adding MP3s to your Neuros is somewhat complicated
No Windows Media support
Somewhat bulky
Audio distorts at higher levels
No EQ

Quality: 5 out of 10
Features: 6.5 out of 10
Price: 10 out of 10

Overall: 7.2 out of 10

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