The 8-in-1 comes with 256MB of standard built-in flash memory. With the SD/MMC slot, you can increase your memory storage capacity by quite a bit and as you can afford it. Or you could have several smaller cards dedicated to different music moods, you get the idea. I plugged in my 256MB SD card giving me half a Gig of storage total. Granted, it's not a 40 Gig iPod, but itís still a good amount of music. The kit comes with a unique little tether attachment that requires surgical dexterity to install but is solid once in place. It has a simple, little clip at the end.
Ultra has provided a really unique headphone hardware solution with the 8-in-1. The ear buds are connected to the neck strap that clips to the aforementioned tether clip. The wires travel up, inside the string and emerge out the sides. The string goes around your neck and can be shortened. At full length, the actual mp3 player rests about the middle of your chest.
For just casual activities, this is an excellent solution, you can keep it under your jacket, sweatshirt, whatever so it doesnít dangle into your soup or the magazine you are reading but it has some limitations. I think it wouldíve been better if more play were allowed where you could put it in an inside jacket pocket or something would be better. Because the earphones are integral to the neck strap, you are limited to just wearing it around your neck. Of course, if you demand more flexibility, you can always use your favourite brand/style of earphones since it has a standard audio jack.
A closer look at where the neck strap/headphones clip into the tether.
Ultra was very clever to include this little USB cable extension. Because the body of the player is a little bigger than the USB connector, plugging it in to every type of USB connector on a computer could get awkward. I experienced this with my desktop system front USB connectors but no problems with my laptop, unless I had my external USB mouse connected, then the cable was invaluable. This little extension gives you the ability to plug it in regardless of the USB landscape you are dealing with.
One of my favourite features of the 8-in-1 is that not only did Ultra include the AAA rechargeable battery, but it is recharged in the player whenever it is plugged into a USB port. This is an incredibly convenient feature. Ultra's official specs state you can get upwards of 10 hours of playtime on a full charge. I never saw 10 hours of play but it came close. My longest run was a little over 8 hours but with the caveat that it is a little difficult to make sure you have an absolutely full charge on the battery. When it is plugged in, the display shows charging battery and you do have a very basic battery life meter when the player is on. In either case, I was very pleased at the playtime allowed by a single AAA Battery.
Now to the player
You basically only have three buttons. The top one is the Power/Stop button. The middle, round button is actually a four position toggle switch that allows you to easily navigate the menu items and control your play list (right/left moves to the next song - up down adjusts the volume during play). The bottom button is your play/pause button.
The display is clear and easy to read. It also is backlit blue and comes on whenever you touch any of the buttons so you can read it in the dark. Because the Ultra player supports song tags (in my case ID3), you get a lot of information on the screen. As the song plays, it scrolls all the information in the tag including the sample rate.
Pushing the toggle switch straight down prompts your options menu. Select a category and push again, itís very intuitive.
Beyond the standard MP3 function, you have the ability to record voice for personal reminders or espionage. Using the menu, you can also playback recordings. I had no problem playing the files on my PC after downloading to the laptop. Recording quality is clear but not the best in the world. You are not going to record your demo tape to a recording company on it but it certainly serves its purpose.
Yet another audio tool at your disposal is the FM Radio tuner. This was pretty neat I must say. Most MP3 devices are dedicated to that function. Having access to FM Radio is a definite plus. I will say the tuner function is a little difficult to work with but once you have found some of your favourite stations, you can store them into memory and I was surprised at the quality of signal and sound quality. Itís probably not a function most people will end up using who are in the MP3 frame of mind but itís just one more bonus.