Haier Ibiza Rhapsody Review: The PC-Free Portable Media Player

Haier Ibiza Rhapsody
This innovative player puts your Rhapsody music in your hand without having to be connected to a PC- even for setup. The concept is simple: The Ibiza uses Wi-Fi to connect to the Rhapsody subscription music service to stream or grab any of its 4.5 million songs. It has a 30GB hard drive as well, so you can be use it as a traditional portable media player. (You do need to connect to your computer to got non-Rhapsody files on the Ibiza.) It also plays video and displays photos on a screen identical in size to that of the iPod. On top of that, there’s FM radio, a Web browser, and Bluetooth. It’s an impressive device, apart from some design and interface issues.

Elegant design isn’t one of the Ibiza’s strong points: Taking cues from other popular devices, it has an iPod- esque screen (2.5 inches, 320-by-240-pixel resolution) and a Zune-like touch-sensitive control pad, but the body of the player is covered with buttons. It isn’t exactly ugly, but it’s not as graceful as an iPod or a Zune. The Ibiza also comes with some adequate-sounding but flimsy earbuds. It didn’t take long for the left ear on mine to give out.

The Ibiza excels at seamless (and wireless) Rhapsody Integration. Samsung’s P2 and the iriver Clix Rhapsody integrate the service into their devices by loading content when you connect to your PC via USB, but Haier has them beat. When powered up, the Ibiza searches for available wireless networks (it uses 802. 11b/g). Once connected, you get Rhapsody’s home page, formatted for the device’s screen. Log in, and all your channels and selections are available. You can save songs to the player-just press the click pad and tunes are downloaded as you listen.

You can move non-Rhapsody content onto the player via Windows Media Player or Rhapsody on your PC. The Ibiza supports DRM-free AAC, MP3 (all bit rates), WMA, and WAV for audio; MPEG-4, WMJV, and H.264 for video; and JPEG and PNG for photos. But once I loaded the player with my own non-Rhapsody MP3s and WMAs, operation became painfully slow-as slow as dial-up. The sluggishness didn’t seem to affect Rhapsody functions, but the wait to listen to tunes or view images from the hard drive was long enough to wreck my mood.

If you want access to your Rhapsody account on the go, you should give the Ibiza a try. On the flip side, if you’re not a Rhapsody fan, there’s no reason to buy this device over an iPod or a Zune. The integration of the service is excellent and the PC-free concept is brilliant, but the interface is too slow. This player is only for the very patient.

Haier Ibiza Rhapsody Review
Price range: $288- $299
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