A unique music player that can be a novelty but also a true hobby. (June 13th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Sony
Price: $400 (2GB)
- Very fun to watch in action.
- In-depth choreography software, but easy to set on auto mode.
- Simple setup as a Bluetooth speaker.
- Customizable look.
- Expensive for what it does.
- No headphone jack.
- Programming an elaborate dance routine takes a long time.
- Speakers are good for the purpose, but not audiophile-level.
Japanese electronics makers once had (and to some degree, still have) a reputation for eccentric but entertaining gadgets -- devices that were fascinating precisely because they didn't make business sense and did something imaginative that no other device would do. For awhile, that creativity seemed to fade away. The Rolly brings that oddness roaring back in a player that can't help but generate smiles. Whether it justifies its feature set and price tag is the real debate.
the design and add-ons
What's immediately apparent about the Rolly is its unusual shape. Whether it looks more like an oversized egg or an undersized football, it's completely unique as far as MP3 players go. The size is also a bit surprising: photos often make it seem larger than it actually is, and in practice it's just small enough to fit in your palm. It's decidedly thicker than just about any portable player, however, and definitely isn't meant for pocket use. It's also fairly heavy due to the motors and speakers, which helps with balance but again makes it a bit unwieldy.
There's little to complain about its ergonomics for its intended role. The switches and ports leave very little guesswork as to what's about to be activated or what plugs in. Thankfully, Sony chose to use a standard mini USB port for syncing and charging with a PC; anyone with a cable from a digital camera (or most other small USB devices) can swap theirs in if they lose the pre-supplied cable.
Sony also bundles in a proprietary cradle, though it curiously only has the option of charging the Rolly. There's no port for a USB cable to sync the player while it's in the cradle, which unfortunately leaves the peripheral to sit in the living room. It's really meant to make the Rolly a conversation piece rather than provide a stable place for the player on your desk.
That there's no earbuds included in the box underscores one of the key limits of the player: there's no headphone jack. While private listening isn't the Rolly's real purpose, no option exists to use it as an ad-hoc personal media player, even while idle at home. Sony's device simply isn't an iPod or Walkman replacement.
There are at least accessories: beyond a surprisingly high-quality carrying pouch, the Rolly can also be outfitted with different-colored arms. They're not especially essential, but they do add a nice accent to a device whose success depends almost entirely on its appearance.