If your face is regularly complimented with goggle rings and you spend hours every week following the black line, this review might just interest you. If don't know what I'm talking about, it won't.
I like to swim. This is a good thing, since I'm currently employed as a head guard, and spend more than 40 hours a week at the pool. I'm required to swim at least 500 meters every workday, and I usually go well beyond that. And I really, really enjoy it - far more than I've enjoyed any other form of physical exertion.
But - let's face it - a long workout, especially distance sets in a 25 meter pool, can start to feel like Groundhog Day. Swim swim swim, turn, swim swim swim, turn, swim swim swim . . .
The Finis Swimp3 1G is one of the latest mp3 players designed for swimming. I picked up one a couple of weeks ago, and it's certainly not a purchase I regret. It's good to keep in mind, though, that it's not a typical mp3 player, and it does have both good and bad points.
What it is and isn't:
The Swimp3 is not a waterproofed mp3 player. It's an mp3 player that is specifically designed for in water use. There is a difference, and it is an important one. Waterproofed mp3 players are typically just that - regular mp3 players that are safe to use in the water up to a certain depth either because it's had its components waterproofed or because you've put it in a waterproof case. Typically, the sound from a waterproofed mp3 player reaches your ears through a set of waterproof earbuds. The Swimp3 is a waterproof mp3 player that's contained within a pair of bone-conduction headphones. This gives it certain advantages and disadvantages over a less-specialized music player.
1. Using earbuds underwater works great, right up until the point when water leaks past them and into your ears. Once that happens, you discover that you've just combined all the fun of swimmer's ear with all the sound quality of listening to a speaker underwater. The swimmer's ear can be fixed with a little vinegar and rubbing alcohol, but there's no quick and easy fix for the water-distorted sound.
Finis got around this with the Swimp3 by building the player into a bone conduction sound system. It doesn't go into or over your ears; it sits in front of your ears, against your cheeks. The sound is transmitted via your bones, so you get good sound quality even with water in your ears. More importantly, the sound quality remains the same no matter how many times your head goes into and out of the water.
2. Compact design. The entire unit consists of the two bone conduction units and a single short wire that connects the two and incorporates a USB connector. There's no separate head straps - the two bone conduction speakers clip to your goggle strap, and the USB plug can be tucked into the goggle strap behind your head.
That means that there is no part of the mp3 player that's below your head. There are no wires running from your ears to an armband or waist pouch (which is what you usually have to do if you're using a standard music player in a waterproof case). Keeping everything on your head keeps anything from interfering with your arms.
3. Other features. The player has a 1 gig capacity, about 8 hours of playtime, and can handle playlists.
1: Compatibility. The Swimp3 is billed as Mac compatible. That might be the case, but it doesn't seem to be very mac friendly. To work properly, the player needs to be formatted for a FAT filesystem, not FAT32. I didn't get the thing working right with the Mac, but I have to admit that I didn't try too hard. I've got Windows on my machine, so it was quicker just to work it on that OS than try to figure out what I needed to do to get it to work right on the Mac.
2: Price. This is a 1 gig mp3 player that has a suggested retail price of $150. That's not cheap, particularly given that it's designed for use only in the water
3: Flexibility. The swimp3 is designed to be used while swimming. It's probably possible to find some way to configure it to use on dry land, but I doubt that it would be worth the effort. This is important to keep in mind, particularly given the price.
Overall, this is a nice product and I am very happy that I bought it. However, it's clearly not a piece of technology that most people will want to own. It's very well designed for, and works very well in, the swimming environment. If that's an environment that you are frequently found in, there's a very good chance that you'll think that the player's benefits are worth the price. If you rarely swim, it will be a waste of money.