Most people think of Viewsonic as a monitor manufacturer, but in the last few years the company has diversified considerably, into projectors, Media Centre PCs and most recently into portable media players. The VPD400 and its higher spec cousin, the VPD500, are intended primarily for playing back videos, but can also do audio, photos and ebooks.
The VPD400 has a 4.3-inch, 800 by 480 LCD display in wide-angle format, which is large enough to play back films and is bright and pin-sharp. Using it as a personal player, you could comfortably watch a feature film and with 8GB of main memory and a MicroSD card slot for expansion, there’s room to hold a few films.
The Lithium ion battery, which isn’t customer replaceable, is said to be good for 3.5 hours of 720p HD video, or 4 hours of more regular stuff. 15 hours of audio, with the screen off, is also claimed. Since Li-ion units only last two to three years, getting the battery replaced could be annoying.
The VPD400 cries out for a touchscreen and a stylus, as its controls are neither intuitive nor particularly well organised. Ranged along the top edge are six indented buttons in two groups of three, marked play/pause/stop, left/escape, right and up, down and enter/mode. You’ll need most of them, most of the time to navigate around the menus. The machine makes a satisfying digitised ‘click’ each time one is pressed.
Although remote controls for portable players usually seem superfluous, the one here is easier to use than the edge buttons. The other accessories comprise a charger – with numerous European and US plug-types – plus a USB lead for downloads and cables for audio and video output, should you want to play back on something more substantial.
The bundled headphones are pretty standard fare, good enough for film soundtracks but lacking the clarity or range you’ll probably want for your favourite music. There are also twin speakers built into the left and right edges of the player and these are surprisingly loud, though as you’d imagine, lacking in any form of bass output.
Getting material on and off the machine is down to USB, as there’s no wireless or Bluetooth support, and on one of the three PCs we connected it to, which was running Windows XP, the VPD400 was listed as an unrecognised device. The other two (one XP, one Vista) saw it without problem. On those two it looked like a regular external drive, and drag and drop worked fine for shifting files.
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