Olympus W-10 Visual Voice Recorder

  • Editors' rating
    7.3 Very good


  • Good-quality digital voice recording
  • very light and compact
  • easy to use, with straightforward software.


  • Poor quality images
  • no flash
  • no image view facility
  • battery power only.

Digital dictation is undergoing massive growth at the moment. Olympus, a major player in this area, recently added new features to voice recording with the DM-1, a combined voice recorder and MP3 player. The company's latest 'convergence' dictation device is the W-10, which combines digital voice recording and basic digital photography.

The W-10 is designed to facilitate the creation of multimedia slide shows -- a rather grand title for a collection of WAVs and JPEGs that can be downloaded to your PC via a USB cable and processed using Olympus's bundled Voice Album software.

The device's 16MB of internal flash memory supports up to 3 hours of recording in Long Play mode, 67 minutes in Standard Play, or 45 minutes in High Quality mode. Audio recordings are stored in either of two folders on the device and there's a maximum capacity of 100 WAV files per folder. The single image folder is limited to a maximum of 250 JPEGs.

The W-10 has the dimensions of a small chocolate bar (29.5mm by 119.5mm by 19.5mm) and weighs just 70g, so it will slip easily into a pocket. The curved metallic blue casing has a matt silver front panel with the controls located beneath a square LCD panel. The menu system is navigated using a four-way rocker switch and a trio of buttons, with a fourth one at the bottom for the camera.

The menu system is pretty simple. You hold down the menu button to bring up 'Mode' on the LCD screen, and then right-scroll through the features --'Mic', VCVA (Variable Control Voice Actuator), 'Alarm', 'Beep' and 'Time'. Options for each feature are selected using the four-way rocker switch.

There are two microphone settings: dictation (Lo) and conference (Hi). Voice-activated recording, or VCVA, is provided to save memory and conserve battery power. This is useful as there's no mains power connection, so you'll have to rely on the two AAA batteries, which give an estimated 24 hours' use. There's an on-board speaker, plus an earphone jack and a set of earphones if you require privacy or don't want to bother people when playing back your recordings. A locking device on the side of the device ensures that it won't unwittingly record when bouncing around in your pocket, briefcase or bag.

Top ZDNET Reviews

The camera lens and viewfinder are on the edge of the device at the top, while the shutter button is located below the silver front panel. The simple 0.3 megapixel camera lacks flash, so you need to press the shutter half-way down and then wait for an LED to turn from orange to solid green before you can take a photo. You'll need plenty of ambient light before you can take a snap. This is a very basic camera whose images have a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels and are of very low quality: in fact, they're better used as a visual indexing tool for your voice files than for anything resembling serious photography. When it’s hooked up to your computer via the USB cable, the W-10 can be used as a Webcam.

The supplied Voice Album 1.00 software manages the USB download to your selected audio or image folder. Transfer times based on five-minute recordings and one image were: one minute in HQ mode; 30 seconds in SP mode and 15 seconds in LP mode. Images between 30KB and 50KB take two or three seconds to download. Voice Album allows you to edit your audio and image files into slideshows and export them to AVI format.

If you like the idea of combining a more than adequate digital voice recorder with a simple digital camera, the W-10 will keep you happy. The device is ultimately about convenience, combining a straightforward digital voice recorder with simple image capture and a basic slideshow export option. Although many digital cameras offer limited audio recording facilities, Olympus has taken the opposite route and delivered a slim, well designed and desirable gadget that's both useful and fun.