Hands-on review: Aluratek Cinepal media player

Summary:Aluratek recently released the 8-inch Cinepal HD portable media player. Here's the hands-on review.

Aluratek recently released the 8-inch Cinepal HD portable media player. Here's the hands-on review.

SET-UP

The best thing to do first (as always) is charge up the device. Along with the charger, the box includes A/V cables, headphones, a USB 2.0 and another mini-USB to USB 2.0 cable.

What is not included, unfortunately, is an SD/SDHC card. That is sold separately, but it is truly necessary to make this gadget worthwhile as there's only 4GB of on-board memory. The SD/SDHC card slot supports up to 32GB, which is best if you want to use this for playing movies and music.

Additionally, you might want to spring for another pair of headphones or use whatever you have as the pair included are on par with those you might get for free on an airplane. (If any airlines actually still give headphones away for free...)

USE

The Cinepal is ideal for longer car and train rides along with short-haul flights. Short-haul because the battery only survives up to four hours when on video playback after a full charge. So you'll get at least a movie, possibly two or even a couple episodes of your favorite TV show. Naturally, the battery will last longer when only displaying photos, e-books and for audio playback.

One of the really great things about the Cinepal is how versatile it is for a budget-friendly price. It supports a number of different video file types, has an e-book reader function, an audio player and could double as a digital photo frame when propped up. (Fortunately, there is a fold-out stand included on the back to help with just that.)

However, don't expect too much when it comes to video quality. The Cinepal sports an 8-inch HD LCD display with a 1,280 x 768 resolution ready for 720p/1080i movies. I sampled the Cinepal by watching a couple of 720p movies that looked pristine on my laptop or an iPad, but were grainy on the Cinepal's display. Nevertheless, they were still watchable and would suffice if I was stuck on a train or plane somewhere with little else to do.

Additionally, touching back about the headphones, you really want to supply your own here. This kind of device is perfect for when you're in transit, but if you're in transit, it's likely that the people around you won't want to hear whatever it is you're watching or listening to. But you won't want to watch or listen either without headphones as the built-in speaker is not very pleasant and sounds rather rough. Headphones are the absolute best remedy here.

An e-book reader function is also available, but it only supports .txt files. Sure, it can store up to 40,000 e-books, but don't trade in your Nook or Kindle just yet.

AVAILABILITY

The 8-inch Cinepal media player retails for $149.99 and is available for purchase now. There is also a very similar Cinepal with a black bezel and 8.9-inch display for the same price, but it is currently out-of-stock.

That price is actually quite fair for what you're getting. It doesn't have the best display and the built-in speakers are subpar, but it's a cheap multimedia player that does what it promises to do.

Topics: iPad, Laptops, Tablets, Travel Tech

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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