With 8GB storage capacity and 30 hours of battery life - all in a device smaller than your phone - on paper the LG JM53 looks promising.
Unfortunately for the winner of the Red Dot design award, the user interface reflects none of the sleekness of its outside design. Starting from the moment you attempt to sync the MP3 player with your computer, the JM53 experience is unintuitive, frustrating and drawn out.
A major complaint is that the JM53 doesn't come with a paper manual. The Quick Setup Guide was neither 'quick' nor particularly helpful, and the Installing Software section was effectively useless. It took at least 40 minutes to get the player up and running.
Progress was further hindered by the Media Center software which, after scanning your hard drive for music, then requires you to drag and drop individual files to transfer them onto the player.
In terms of ease of use, the JM53 does not score highly. The controls do not appear to be designed for use on the move: they're difficult to use without two hands and not marked clearly.
The main navigation control at the top of the device is particularly awkward. To choose a song you have to press the flipper inwards; a difficult task, given the angle it's positioned at. Meanwhile, it's almost impossible to skip tracks without repositioning your whole hand.
With every feature of this MP3 player, the LG interface lacks the user-friendly merits of its rivals from Apple or Creative. Sound quality itself is fine, once you've managed to navigate the maze that is the music menu. Rather than taking you straight to your music, photos or movies folders, the Menu button will return you to the main menu unless you give it a lengthy push.
The JM53 supports MPEG4 movies, and there is a 'convert format' function in Media Center. But at 160 x 128, the resolution of the screen is too low to make watching video a viable option. Unlike some other MP3 players, the JM53 does not function as an all-purpose storage device, either.
Laborious and slow, the JM53 fails to pose any competition whatsoever to the far superior - and easier to use - offerings from Apple, Creative and SanDisk. It is the existence of uninspiring MP3 players like this that strengthens the dominance of the iPod.