09/07/2012 09:58 | By Nick Peers, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

SwiMP3 2G review

Clever bone-conduction technology means you can use this MP3 player in the pool.


SwiMP3 2G is rated three-and-a-half stars out of five by MSN Tech & Gadgets (© Finis)

What is it?
A waterproof MP3 player for swimmers, which uses bone-conduction technology.

What's great
Delivers clear sound underwater; reasonably comfortable to wear; simple file transfer and organisation.

What's not
Sound quality adequate rather than spectacular; onboard controls fiddly to operate; requires ear plugs and goggles; expensive for what it offers.

The bottom line
Worth considering if you can't bear the thought of another series of long, monotonous lengths of your local swimming pool without some kind of audio distraction.

Review
Anyone who swims multiple lengths of their pool on a regular basis will know how boring each session can become. There's a niche market for waterproof MP3 players, aimed at relieving that monotony by allowing swimmers to listen to their favourite tunes as they swim up and down the pool. However, most of these rely on watertight earphones and a slightly bulky unit to attach somewhere to your person.

Finis' SwiMP3 player takes a different approach. Instead of delivering sound directly to your ears, it uses bone-conduction technology that sends it via your temple or cheek bones instead. This allows the unit to be completely watertight, and delivers perfectly acceptable sound quality when swimming underwater. It's not quite as effective when you come up for breath (or if you're a breast stroke kind of guy or gal), but wearing a set of earplugs resolves the issue by drowning out ambient noise.

The advantage of bone conduction technology is that everything - bar a short cable and USB connector which can be left to dangle out of the way behind your head - is held in the earpieces, which are designed like chunky, slightly elongated guitar picks. This makes the SwiMP3 far more practical than its rivals for use when swimming lengths. One downside is that the unit has no means of attaching directly to your head - instead, you'll need to hold it in place with your goggles, which is fine if you use them, but a bit of a bind if you don't.

You'll find fixing the SwiMP3 to your goggles awkward too - the clips are secure, but it makes adjustments difficult, and you'll need to experiment with the placement of the player on your cheekbones to get the best sound quality. As a rule of thumb, if it sounds too tinny and bass-light then you need to tweak its position. Once in place, however, the sound is reasonable enough. Although you're (understandably) not going to enjoy a high-fidelity experience with the SwiMP3, it's good enough to alleviate the boredom of those endless lengths.

Getting music on to the device is relatively straightforward: plug and play into your PC or Mac, then either use iTunes or drag-and-drop to transfer files across. Despite iTunes support, the SwiMP3 doesn't support Apple's native M4A format, so you'll need to make sure your tunes are in MP3 (or WMA) before transferring them.

The unit has a reasonable 2GB of storage, which equates to a choice of 500 tracks, and the battery promises up to eight hours of use between charges. With this in mind, you won't be surprised to learn there's no onscreen display, and the four rather awkward buttons that control play/pause, skip/volume, power and reset are all you get.

Thankfully there's a shuffle function, plus by using iTunes to transfer music to your device you can build a collection of playlists, giving you a measure of control over which tracks you want to listen to. The awkward placement of the controls, coupled with the fact you probably don't want to be picking and choosing individual tracks as you swim, makes the shuffle and playlist support even more valuable.

Some customer reviews suggest question marks over long-term reliability, but this could be down to poor maintenance on the part of the user. Finis provides detailed instructions for maintaining the device, emphasising the importance of rinsing and leaving the unit to dry naturally after each swim. There's also updated firmware (X18) available that resolves issues with playback encountered by some users, and we had no problems during the review.

If you're looking for a lightweight, effective MP3 player to accompany your morning swim, then you'll find the SwiMP3 delivers adequate sound both above and below water. Howver, the unit's expense and the trade-off in sound quality may limit its appeal to die-hard swimmers only.

Finis SwiMP3 2G is rated three-and-a-half stars out of five by MSN Tech & Gadgets

Music players for jogging or gym work
Same amount of storage, no display, similar functionality: iPod Shuffle
4GB storage, half the price, MP3/WMA format support: Sony NWZ-B173

Essential info
Price: £88
Capacity: 2GB
Expansion: none
Screen (size, type, resolution): none
Audio formats supported: MP3, WMA
Video formats supported: none
Other features: none
Stated battery life: eight hours
Dimensions: 73mm x 40mm x 16mm, around 60g

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