Mechen M3 review: A jack of all trades digital audio player but a master at none

An all-in-one entertainment machine with many caveats

The Mechen M3 being held in a hand.
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

The Mechen M3 looks too good to be true with support for video playback, eBook reading, FM radio listening, voice recording and more. That's because it has limited file support and a tiny display, making these features redundant.


  • +

    Premium design

  • +

    Cool recording feature

  • +

    Books, videos, pictures & more


  • -

    Limited file format support

  • -

    Display is too small

  • -

    Poor-quality in-box headphones

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Mechen M3: Three-minute review

The Mechen M3 appears to be feature-rich on the surface but when it comes down to it, it's not the most talented of music players. Because of this, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that Mechen’s engineers were so preoccupied with whether they could do certain things, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Mechen is a Chinese tech company that sells a small range of MP3 players. If you’ve seen one of them, it’s probably because you’ve found it listed on Amazon alongside a small army of similar low-cost Chinese MP3 players.

Most of the best cheap MP3 players focus on nailing one area: maybe they’ve got great file support for music tracks, or they have a lightweight and easily-portable design, or they have loads of space for music. Mechen’s angle is to go for breadth instead of depth: it’s not just an MP3 player but a portable video player, a mini eReader, a little recording device and more.

However, to return to that Jurassic Park quote from the opening, Mechen has seemingly stuffed in lots of these features without making sure that they’re worth including in the first place.

File format support for both video and e-book functionality is incredibly limited, missing out on most of the standard files you’ll probably have in your library – and then, if you spend ages poring over a file converter to transform your library into a compatible one, you’ll still be viewing these videos or pages on an absolutely tiny display.

Similarly the touch-screen is a neat feature in an MP3 player this cheap, but the interface doesn’t seem to have been designed with a touch-screen in mind. Navigation beyond the main menu is annoying and hard, and in my testing I often just gave up and started listening to whatever music was already in front of me.

That’s not to say that the Mechen M3 is rubbish. It can record your voice and also audio from a device connected via the 3.5mm jack, which could be really handy in certain situations. It also has a design that’s surprisingly premium-feeling for its price.

And at the end of the day, this is an incredibly cheap MP3 player that… well, plays MP3s. So if that’s all you need, it’s fit for purpose – it’s just a shame about all the failed attempts at making it more than that to compete with the best MP3 players.

Mechen M3 review: Price and release date

The Mechen M3 on a tree stump.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Costs $39.99 / £29.99 / AU$59.99
  • Available since January 2024

The Mechen M3 is positioned at the low end of the MP3 player price scale: you can pick it up for $39.99 / £29.99 / AU$59.99, and often for between 10%-25% less thanks to frequent sales on Amazon.

At that price, you’re probably finding this MP3 listed alongside countless similar affordable MP3 players, all with similar feature sets and specs.

It’s a relatively new MP3 player, having only been listed on Amazon from early January, so it’s a little more up-to-date than some rival devices which stay listed on the site for years.

Mechen M3 review: Features

The Mechen M3 being held in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • 64GB memory, expandable to 128GB
  • Offers video playback, eReader, FM radio, images and more...
  • ...but only select file formats, which hampers functionality

There are an absolutely massive number of features offered by the Mechen MP3, including some that’ll have very particular uses for savvy users.

For starters, this ‘MP3 player’ lets you view a range of other file types beyond MP3s, and beyond audio ones in general. From the homepage you can see options for music, video, radio, photos and more.

Let’s start with the radio: if you’re using wired headphones, you can tune into FM radio and even record live radio onto the Mechen. Why wired headphones? Well it’s because they act as an antennae, so you won’t be able to use Bluetooth connectivity for the radio.

The Mechen offers the ability for you to watch videos you’ve uploaded… with the massive caveat that they have to be AVI or AMV file types. That means the most common file formats like MP4, MOV, FLV and WMV are all out the window. I found an AVI file to test, but for some reason it still wouldn’t play on the device.

This same issue affects the eReader functionality. Almost all the standards are out: no PDF, no EPUB, no CBR, no MOBI, obviously none of the Kindle file formats. Instead, all you can read is TXT files, like what Notepad creates – my lengthy eReader library features exactly none of this type of file.

Mechen has also put in a voice recorder into its M3, so you can leave yourself voice notes or record meetings, but it’s expanded that in a neat way. If you connect a music-playing device to the Mechen via a 3.5mm - 3.5mm audio cable, you can record from that other device straight onto the Mechen.

In theory that’s great, though as always there are some kinks. If you’re recording set audio, you need to manually make sure it’s synced up. Plugging the Mechen to your device overrides the audio-out so, if you’re trying to record a call, you won’t actually be able to hear what the other person is saying. Plus, there are plenty of legal questions that’ll depend on your region and app; for example, Spotify bans the recording of songs in this manner.

What’s left on the homepage? There are stopwatch, calendar, alarm and theme-toggling options which all do what you’d expect.

The Mechen has Bluetooth functionality, so you can connect it to speakers, headphones or earbuds if you’d rather use them than wired audio. Curiously Mechen’s website lists the device as supporting Bluetooth 5.0 but Amazon bumps that to Bluetooth 5.3.

By default there’s 64GB on-board storage on the Mechen, which is a decent amount for the price. Using a microSD card you can bump that up by 128GB storage, which allows for loads of music, video or text files.

In terms of battery life, Mechen generally states 500mAh without giving a figure on how much entertainment this actually is; that’s because it’ll depend on what kind of format you’re using. I managed to get through many hours of music streaming without the battery dropping much, but battery use will increase a lot if you’re mainly looking at videos or reading with the display always on.

  • Features score: 2.5/5

Mechen M3 review: Sound quality

The Mechen M3 on a tree stump.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Neutral sound though with some peaking
  • In-box headphones aren't great

The M3 plays a few different file formats including MP3, WAV, FMA and FLAC, all pretty standard options. There’s no on-board equalizer so you’re going to have to listen to what you get.

Your sound will mostly depend on which headphones you decide to use alongside the Mechen M3; as a word of advice I’d tell you to avoid using the in-box ones because they sound absolutely terrible. The M3 also has a built-in speaker but this sounds even worse – don’t use it!

Generally speaking, the Mechen M3’s sound is fairly neutral. It tends ever so slightly towards treble over bass, but not so much that it’ll annoy anyone with particular tastes.

I did notice some peaking across the board, and on headphones that really shouldn’t be exhibiting it, so I imagine audiophiles won’t be impressed by the audio capabilities of the M3.

  • Sound quality score: 3/5

Mechen M3 review: Design

The Mechen M3 on a tree stump.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Small body but heavy
  • Premium design with glass body
  • Five different color options

The Mechen M3 is quite small as MP3 players go – this isn’t a massive smartphone-replacement that’ll burn a hole in your pocket. It’s just 1 cm thick, 5 cm in width and  7cm tall, which makes it roughly one third the size of my smartphone.

I’ve felt lighter MP3 players though. It tips the scales to the tune of 87g, in part thanks to its glass and metal build which feels pretty premium for a low-cost device like this. While glass tech gadgets can be a little fragile, a silicon case included in the box will let the device survive a drop or two.

The earlier comparison to a smartphone stands for lots of the device’s design: it has a small screen on the front with a fairly thick bezel and chin, a volume rocker and power button on the right edge above the USB-C port, a microSD card slot on the left edge and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom. Squint, and this is basically a smartphone.

That display is 2.4-inches across diagonally, with a resolution of 240 x 320, and unlike many same-price rivals it’s a touch screen. It’s not especially bright, but it’s fit for purpose if you’re not using it in direct sunlight.

Mechen offers five color options for the M3: black (as you can see in the review pictures), light blue, pink, purple and red. There’s no difference in these devices beyond the color.

While the premium-looking design sets the Mechen 64GB apart from some similar-priced rivals, the lack of portability consideration like a gap for a strap or lanyard, or a holding clip, does make the device a little awkward to carry around. It’s small enough to totally disappear in your pocket after all!

  • Design score: 4/5

Mechen M3 review: Usability and setup

The Mechen M3 being held in a hand.

(Image credit: Future)
  • Plugs into PC with USB-C cable
  • Main menu is easy to navigate...
  • ...but further menus aren't

The Mechen is pretty easy to set up, but when uploading your files, you’ll need to make sure you have your library in order.

That’s because when you plug the device into your PC, you need to upload different types of file into different areas: eBooks needed to be added to one folder, music to another, pictures to a third and videos to a fourth. You can’t just drag and drop your entire library into one area and expect it to work. It’s not an overly complex task, you just need to make sure your library isn’t one massive list of all the various file formats.

Initially, navigating the M3 is a breeze. Basically everything you need is housed in one of two menu screens, which you can swipe between like the most barebones smartphone in the world. Everything is clearly labelled and easy to find.

It’s when you get into long menus of tracks that things can be a little complicated. Arrows at the bottom let you move one option forward or backward, but if you’ve got hundreds of artists to sift through, that could take a while. Swiping up and down sometimes jumps through pages, but sometimes just didn’t do anything.

If I have another one small gripe, it’s that sometimes the options can be a little small; I’ve got pretty average-sized hands and I often mis-clicked and selected a different option than I intended to.

  • Usability & setup score: 3/5

Mechen M3 review: Value

  • Best considered solely as MP3 player
  • Design feels very premium

Whether you’re just looking for an MP3 player, or an all-in-one mini entertainment device, the Menchen MP3 offers you great value for money.

Despite being very cheap, the Mechen doesn’t feel like a tacky Amazon-filler; it has an impressive number of features for a device so affordable.

  • Value score: 4.5/5

Should I buy the Mechen M3?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Majority MP3 Player
FeaturesThe long feature list is marked off with red crosses.2.5/5
Sound qualityThe sound is pretty neutral but will mostly depend on your headphones.3/5
DesignA very premium design for a device this cheap.4/5
Usability & setupFairly easy to set up, but the menus are hard to navigate.3/5
ValueAt at price this low, you're getting what you pay for and more.4.5/5

Buy it if...

You don't want to pay much
You'd be hard-pressed to find a cheaper MP3 player that's worth buying, so if you don't want to pay much, the Mechen is for you.

You want to read TXT files
Of all its half-cocked file compatibility features, perhaps TXT is the most useful; if you keep notes in a TXT file, you can read them on the Mechen.

You want to listen to the radio
Want to tune into your favorite FM station while out and about? The Mechen is one of the cheapest devices on the market that'll let you do so.

Don't buy it if...

You want to watch videos
The tiny and low-res display, on a device that can only support certain file types, isn't great for video fans..

You don't want to buy headphones
If you're hoping to rely on in-box headphones to listen to music, you shouldn't opt for the Mechen, as its earbuds sound terrible.

Mechen M3 review: Also consider


Majority MP3 Player
A similar-priced MP3 player with a lightweight build, handy sports clip and barebones but easy-to-use user interface makes this a great cheap device.
Read our full Majority MP3 Player review

How I tested the Mechen M3

  • Three-week testing period
  • Pop, rock, classical and spoken word music tested
  • Used at home, in office and on walks

I tested the Mechen M3 alongside several other MP3 players, and it was the last I reviewed, so it enjoyed a three-week testing period.

For the majority of the testing time, I used the Mechen M3's in-box headphones and also the Sony WH-1000XM3s (via Bluetooth and wired). Most of the testing was done listening to music, with a range of genres tested, but I also tried listening to the radio, recording audio from my phone, watching videos and reading eBooks. Not all of these features worked due to file format issues.

As stated I tested the Mechen alongside some of its rival and I have a five-year history of testing various gadgets for TechRadar.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.