It’s getting to that time when the good intentions of the new year resolutions are becoming more of a distant memory than a daily driver. Many people start the year with the resolve to get in shape, lose weight and exercise more, but by the time April rolls around 80% of those gym memberships will be unused. To try and help keep that motivation going, we’re starting a small series of reviews looking at fitness and health gadgets, diving in (*groan*) with the Finis SwiMP3 X18 2GB, an mp3 player which is waterproof and requires no earphones, allowing you to enjoy your podcasts, audiobooks or favourite tunes while at the pool.
- Bone Conduction Audio
- 2gb storage (approx 500 songs, or 30 hours of audio)
- MP3 and WMA compatible
- 8 hour lithium rechargable battery
The SwiMP3 comes in a pretty simple box, not too many bells or whistles or over-reaching design, just straight to the point and tells you what you need to know.
Once inside, the simplicity continues with a book-style opening to the interior box, and then just the player in foam recesses, with an instruction manual under the foam.
Designed to be worn entirely on your head, the player consists of two speakers that clip to the side of your goggle straps which contain the player internally and are linked by a single cable with a USB connector halfway along it’s length.
Whilst the design means that you have to wear goggles to be able to use the device, it means that there are no cables trailing from earphones which can cause the earphones to be sharply removed by drag from the water, as anyone who has used swimming mp3 players can likely attest.
On one side of the device is all of the the buttons for control of the functions of the player.
These controls break down as:
- Next / Vol +
- Previous / Volume –
- Power / Pause / Play
Because of the limited number of buttons, as you can see there are some buttons that have multiple use, which seems a bit of a shame considering there are no buttons whatsoever on the other half of the device, I would have liked to see this wasted space put to use to give each button a single use. It would have removed the need for the sometimes esoteric operation.
I’d also liked to have seen some of this wasted space put to use to provide a screen for track navigation and feed back other than the single indication light. Though you wouldnt be able to see the screen while in use, it would be handy when starting the player up.
The USB connector is housed in a rubber sheath which closes reassuringly tightly, so should provide a water proof seal for the life of the device without much issue.
Like most non-fruity mp3 players, the player simply appears as a removable drive when plugged into a computer, and tracks can be dragged on to it using windows explorer or similar file manager software.
The only logical way to test a device like this is to head to the local pool and listen to some audio, so that’s exactly what I did. (After testing it quickly at home in the bath, obviously!)
One of the first things you’re going to notice about the player is that you’re possibly going to be a bit self conscious of it. Having two bright yellow items on the side of your head that people are unused to seeing is going to get a few looks, thankfully as a heavily pierced guy who is used to the public staring, this didn’t bother me in the slightest.
The player attaches either side of your head, under the goggle straps and presses to your temple / cheek, ans show in this promotional photo shows. (I didn’t want to risk taking pictures in a pool!)
The control of the device is a bit of a pain at times, not lease because you are doing everything by touch at the side of your head and the buttons are not massively different. I would have liked to see some separation of buttons, say track selection on one side and volume on the other for simplicity?
A sample of some of the controls are:
Power on: Hold power for 3 seconds
Power off: Hold power for 3 seconds
Shuffle: Press Play & Next at the same time
Select Playlist: Press both Next and Previous
Volume: Hold Next to increase, hold Previous to decrease.
I cant help but think that having to not only remember these button combinations but also where those buttons are when you cant see them would get a little frustrating if you wanted to change music regularly or skip a track etc.
I had loaded the player with a couple of tracks of music, and also a podcast to be able to compare how it performs with spoken word also.
Once I had the player running (something I did with it and my goggles in hand before putting to my head, though I guess this would become easier with experience) I put on the goggles and noted that there was a bit of a tinny quality to the audio, though I remembered that the box had specifically mentioned it was designed for underwater playing. Sure enough the moment i put my head down to the water line and started my first length of the pool the audio became instantly clearer, more vibrant and much better.
I swam many lengths in various strokes to see how the player would perform, and was mentally comparing it to a previous swimming mp3 player I had which used waterproof earphones on a wire from the player.
The sound quality of the player can be a little unreliable, depending on the stroke you are doing if you are constantly lifting your head out of the water. Things like breast stroke across the surface of the water shows this the most, whilst back stroke gave perfect audio the entire way. I guess your style of swimming would depend on how you’re going to experience this.
I will say thought that it is far better quality and more reliable than my previous swimming mp3 player, which suffered from the ear phones being violently ripped from my ears by drag if i swam too fast.
The buttons on the device could perhaps be a bit more tactile and provide more feedback, but I would imagine that the current design is a requirement of the waterproofing.
The lack of using of all the space is a minor annoyance and can cause confusion with the buttons, but all in all this is a great device for giving you some entertainment while swimming, which i find encourages me to swim longer.
- No earphones to fall out
- Simple track loading
- Great battery life
- Confusing buttons / use sometimes
- No screen
All considered, I give this player 7 out of 10.