Recently I was approached by Ruizu to review one of their players. I selected the X50 to review and purchased it from Amazon at a heavy discount. I’d like to thank Ruizu for the opportunity as it is always a pleasure to try new gear. If you decide you’d like to try one, they are available here:
The little player is very reminiscent of the earlier Sandisk Clip or Phillips Go Gear line of players. We all grew accustomed to the tic-tac box size players with 4 or 8gb back in the early days of mp3 players but most of us moved on due to the limitations of those designs. What if, somebody took that design and re-imagined it with all the modern bells and whistles available today? What if it went for less than $40 just like the old school players did in the early days? Ruizu may have accomplished just that with the X50.
This is probably the least exciting part of the product, plain cardboard box made thin enough that by the time it arrived all 4 corners were bent. A small plastic tray holds the player in a protective cover with a set of earbuds, a manual, and a charging cable underneath. Sparse to say the least but realistically we are talking about a budget item and I would much rather they spent little on packaging and focused on more important things.
The little player is awfully reminiscent of the clip zip to me with screen size and even button layout being similar. It also has the same distinct lack of heft of those early players. For joggers, the good news is the X50 weighs next to nothing so certainly wont slow you down. It is however 100% plastic and feels like it. I wouldn’t expect this player to take too much beating and banging before something broke or cracked. The earbuds are typical of those shipped with budget players. Non-removable cable with decent strain reliefs but made of lamp cord and microphonic as the day is long. I listened to them briefly and then moved to others so I could really test the resolution of the player.
Ok, if my comments so far have been a little deflating, this is where the X50 turns a corner. Ruizu has taken that tic-tac box and crammed in a lot of things we all wished for in the old days.
First and foremost, while the player has 8gb of internal memory, it does have a micro-sd slot and supported cards all the way up to and including 3 different brands of 128gb cards I had on hand. It did fail with a 200gb card but only claims support up to 64/128 so I am going to give it a pass on that.
Second, Bluetooth. That’s right, this little box has Bluetooth 4.0 (no Apt X support though). I have seen several different descriptions on the web listing 2.0, 4.0, and even one listing 5.1 (is that even out?) so I was forced to do a bit of testing which reveals the chipset is 4.0 in the model I received from Amazon.
Third, FM Radio is included. I was able to set the player up with presets for all of my local stations with a minimum of hassle. The one drawback I found is that the radio relies on the headphone cable to double as an antenna so when the player is used with Bluetooth, the FM reception is non-existent. I could use FM with Bluetooth if I left a wired set of headphones connected to act as the antenna but that seems a bit defeatist.
Next on the list is video playback. This is limited to very low resolution and should probably be omitted as the screen size is simply not large enough to make use of it. Picture display on the other hand is nice and album art is reasonably well displayed.
Other features include an e-book function, which is a nice addition since gapless playback is not supported on the music side, a pedometer for those who walk or run (My wife tested this on her daily lunch walks and compared it to her fitbit and it was within 5% +/-), and the ability to record.
The connector at the bottom has been updated from the mini-USB of old to micro-usb for charging and data transfer tasks and supports USB 2.0 Transfer rates.
This is where a lot of budget players really fall apart. Lots of features and a UI that makes it as uncomfortable as possible to get to them. I am happy to report that the X50s interface while fairly minimalistic is also very straight forward and from box to listening time is less than 5 minutes without reading the manual. The only thing I found somewhat fiddly was the pedometer function and a quick read of a couple of manual page put that to rest.
You first select from Music, Video, Recordings, FM Radio, Pictures, Ebook, Tools, Set, Folder view, Bluetooth, or Pedometer. Once in Music, you have the typical choices of Song title, Artist, Albums, Genres, or Playlists as well as links to the local folder or card folder (also accessible from the Folder View main menu). For a player of this style, I spend most of my time with it set to shuffle all and leave it that way. I tested playlist functions some and found it easier to make playlists in foobar and import them than it was to make them on the device. Playback once on the device is fairly straight forward but the lack of advanced controls makes it easier to build them elsewhere.
The FM radio was easy to manipulate and tune to local stations and the presets make it a one time operation so even if it takes a few minutes to accomplish, it isn’t a huge investment of time or effort. Once setup I found the reception to be good as long as headphones were attached.
The unit advertises a 300mAh battery that seems tiny by todays standards but it runs the player for between 5 and 6 hours on a charge if the screen is turned off. I found it lasted longer when used as a FM radio than it did when using files which makes sense considering the power draw of the SD card. I didn’t attempt to calculate battery run-time on video modes as it seems unlikely to be used for that as a primary purpose.
Range was reasonable (5 to 10 meters considering obstructions) and battery life while impacted by the use of bluetooth did not become unacceptable. I found that on average I could get 3 hours when using Bluetooth in-ears paired to the X50.
Sound quality is on the level of others in the class and while not an audiophile player by any measure, it is very listenable without a lot of coloration. I did find that what coloration of the sound that is present is a slight elevation of the upper mid/lower treble which is probably intentional as it pushes vocals a bit forward. With a player that is likely to be used in noise environments, making sure the user can hear the vocals doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
While it would be easy to dismiss the X50 as a non-audiophile grade player, I think it foolish to do so. There are plenty of use cases for a player that offers the features of the X50, the gym, the car on roadtrips, mowing the lawn, out by the pool, etc. Anywhere ambient noise prevents critical listening anyway and concerns over ruining a high-end player come into play, something like the X50 makes a lot of sense. Those with children will appreciate the fact that a feature-loaded player can be had for $30 so buying one for each child isn’t going to break the bank. As for me, I’ll keep my X50 in my kit as it offers a lot for a little.