Thursday, July 20, 2006

Roadstar autoradios - why are cheap car radios the best? (Roadstar 852 USMP/FM excellent value for ~ 85 euros)

Well, I've no problem with cheap car radios being the best, but it is a bit surprising.
Thought I'd mention my new Roadstar 852USMP/FM which cost me ~ 85 euros.

Late 2004 I bought a Roadstar 650UMP car radio for 180 euros. I chose this model because at the time it was the only CD/MP3 player I'd seen which could read USB keys.

Unfortunately, the USB key functionality didn't work very well even with the supplied 64MBy USB key - very frustrating, so I quickly stopped using it. I contacted Roadstar to see if firmware updates were available/possible for the USB problems but got no reply. Not good.

Nevertheless, the CD/MP3 functionality was very good and the sound quality was fine.
I had a few niggles with the user interface, having separate play/stop/ff/rew controls for USB and CD player for example but I could live with those. Also, I'd much rather have a smaller display which shows lots of info rather than scrolling a few characters (especially as they don't show full names - id3 tag length limitation?).

I also read a lot of reviews on the web of people who were very happy with very similar Roadstar models.
So I figured I just bought too early - bleeding edge and all that and so I hoped to replace it someday.

Recently I had an excuse to put the old radio in a camping car leaving me free to order a new one. I looked around a bit and still felt that Roadstar was the best to go with (assuming USB would be OK this time!).

So I went for a Roadstar 852 which I ordered from here in France.
I'd give this model 9/10.
It's not perfect but it's extremely good value at 85 euros!

Below I've put in bold what to me are the more important good/bad points.

The pros:
- Now has USB key and SD/MMC card functionality
A 1GBy USB key (unknown manufacturer) and a Kingston 512MBy 3.3v SD card each played the MP3s on them without a problem. Both had a FAT32 partition on them, though I hadn't prepared them particularly (the SD card had also an ext2 partition and both keys had executeable files as well as MP3s) but they still played fine. This is excellent.
- No longer a USB key included - I don't care, I'd rather that any USB key works, so far so good. - Plays CD/MP3 perfectly as before.
- No longer (useless!) duplication of play/stop/ff/rew controls
- Different layout fascia black and silver (prettier maybe?)
- Has RCA audio inputs to connect some other player
(would have been nice to have an RCA to 3.5mm lead in the box).

- Still the constant scrolling of few characters on the display
- removable fascia is a little delicate because of the arguably nice spring loaded/damped opening. I prefer the old removable fascia.
- the plastic covering on the USB input is a bit of a pain but I guess you need to protect it.
- As before, the user manual is terrible, very basic with a minimum of information and definitely not written by a native english speaker.
- As before, unfortunate that skipping between folders isn't simpler (it's possible, but I'd have to read that manual!)

Anyway, the most important point was that USB+SD card item and the price.
This is an excellent car radio.
I'll probably use SD cards now as I like the way they sink into the device rather than a USB key which sticks out like a sore thumb from the radio.

I'm now wondering what size/make/speed SD card to buy to use daily. I'd like to go for something large but not too expensive but unfortunately here Roadstar are extremely cowardly giving no indication of tested products, recommended max., speed, max. size etc.
So I'll have to buy with fingers crossed. Come on Roadstar, make a little effort !

So I think I'm renting car radios now ... I'll buy another one in a couple of years when the features are right ...


mjbright said...

A few updates to this entry.

I sent a link to this entry to Roadstar - info@ and sales@.
No reply ... disappointing .

However, I've some good news.

I bought a 2GBy SD card (a Transcend mini-SD card with adaptor) for 70 euros ... hoping ... and it works just fine.

I had a problem that the card seemed limited to only 450MBy when writing to it from linux or from windows. Reformatting under linux didn't fix it (wrong partition type maybe - I chose type 'b' Win95 FAT32). Formatting under WindowsXP fixed it and I can now write 2GBy from linux or windows.

Filled it up with a random collection of MP3s, slid it into the Roadstar and bliss it worked.

Also ordered a Thomson Lyra MP3 Player and this also plays the 2GBy card just fine.
I'll talk about this in another post.


Other good news is that I got around to putting the old Roadstar in the camping car. I then plugged in a 1GBy USB key crammed with MP3s and that worked (this time) aswell.

Mind you I never figured out the conditions under which that worked or not, soooo maybe there's just a dodgy USB connector.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir.
First of all, excuse me for my poor english. It´s been a long time since I don´t write or talk in other language but portuguese.
But I´ll try to express myself.

Here is my problem:
Recently, I bought a car CD Player Mp3 Roadstar 3662, and after less than a week, it apears a problem on the equipment: when listening the memory card or one USB equipment connected, as a pen drive, using the "random mode", after one music finishes, and before the following began, the equipment plays a piece of one other music (less than a second), in the middle of the two musics.
Please, be patiente whit me, if I can´t express myself correctly.

But i´ve tryed every kind of sollution, since format the memory card, reset the equipment and even tag file by file in the memory card.

Maybe it´s a software problem, tha can be solve using a new version of firmware?

I apreciatte any idea for sollution.

Tank you

Mike said...

Hi Anonymous,

Your English is fine by the way, very clear!

Sorry, I can't really help you.
It sounds like a software problem and I don't know if it is possible to upgrade firmware on any Roadstar equipment. I suggest that you try to contact them via their website.


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