An odd one, this. It's nearly full iPod-sized, despite being a mere 2-4GB.

A lot of folk will find it less appealing than other flash-based players, wanting something they can carry without noticing. It does mean the GoGear has a much bigger screen though, so watching video on it isn't the squint-induced agony of so many others.

Furthermore, it's a shame that the controls couldn't have been much bigger - there's a lot of wasted space on the player. One could argue that this gives it a pleasing minimalism, complemented by high build quality.

The tiny side-mounted volume controls just don't make any sense, though. The directional and playback controls, meanwhile, look like they're supposed to be a spinnable wheel, but turn out to just be standard click-buttons in a circle.

This is shameless iPod imitation - just ripping off the look, but not the actual functionality. The plagiarism is even more obvious in the menus, which have only minor cosmetic changes from the familiar Apple interface.

There's some weird lag, too: the player generally has a brief think after you press a button before it does anything. Firmware updates may sort this out, but for now it slows down browsing through a large music collection. Another minor irritation is needlessly placing the headphone socket on the side, rather than top or bottom, of the GoGear. This means that its in-pocket width increases by a centimetre or so.

Retro-chic

In better news, it doesn't try to force any nasty proprietary software on you. Windows Media Player is on its CD, so you won't end up with a PC full of junk.

Usefully, there's an application to check for firmware updates and fix database errors on it, and another by video experts Arcsoft to handle re-encode. This doesn't offer at lot of options, but it's pretty fast and reliable, and offers a high-quality picture. It's just a shame that it won't crop a widescreen movie into a full frame one.

Also standing out is a cheerfully over-the-top, 80s-style digital clock screensaver, which sees it strive for its own personality rather than Apple's and makes it look pretty cool if it's left on a table to its own devices. With a radio and a mic built-in, all for a cheaper price than other flash players, it ends up being good value. Its audio quality is perfectly acceptable and the 15-hour battery life is decent, even if the larger size of the GoGear surely means there's room for a more capacious power cell.

While it's by no means a failure, the GoGear does end up looking fairly ordinary next to its rivals. Its controls aren't great and, despite the benefits of the larger screen, it's just too large for a player of its capacity.

Good construction and few fun bells and whistles suggest that Philips can certainly make something pretty special of the GoGear range. This isn't it, although its low price means it's something to consider if every last penny matters. However, when just £10 more nets you the vastly superior iRiver X20, it's hard to make a strong argument for doing so.