Epson’s P-4000 Multimedia Viewer; The Magic Box

I get many questions from readers, pros, and people I meet who don't trust putting their images into a portable storage device, hoping that they'll safely be there (in the card) when they get back from a vacation. After all, the gadget has a simple job to do; it must safely hold your image files until you download them onto your computer. There are many kinds of portable contraptions that can accomplish this task, even Apple's iPod, but what sets the Epson P-4000 apart from the rest is the big screen.

Digital Traveling Companion

The Epson P-4000 Multimedia Viewer can store and share thousands of photos, videos, and music files, although its size is a bit Godzilla-like when compared to Mothra's fairy priestess-sized iPod nano. Just as with the Epson P-2000, the big deal is that you can look at and edit image files on a 3.8" LCD screen that uses Micromechantronics (get the Godzilla reference?). This places 212-256 image pixels per inch for increased resolution with smoother gradation and less jaggies. Displays in other handheld products display only one color per pixel. Epson's Photo Fine LCD embeds three colors for each pixel and shows up to 262,144 colors. Plus it's up to 20 percent brighter, which means that the view is terrific.

Images files are stored on an 80GB hard drive; the less expensive ($450) P-2000 uses a 40GB drive. Because 6.2GB is reserved for system requirements, the P-4000 gives you access to 73.8GB for image storage. It has built-in card slots for CompactFlash (Type I and II) and Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard and supports other memory card formats with an optional third-party adapter. The big hard drive gobbled up all of the JPEG and raw image files I threw at it, although raw files by their nature vary from camera to camera and manufacturer to manufacturer, so if that's a big deal to you check it out first or caveat emptor.

During the editing process, the P-4000's zoom controls let you take a critical look at specific photographs to ensure they're sharp or see if people's eyes are open in group photos. Intuitive menus make it easy to organize files, so you can quickly access or view them. The easy-to-learn interface enables you to create folders to categorize and group image files into albums for easy access and viewing. While traveling I was surprised to learn that after you move images from the storage area into new albums Epson's software renumbers the files starting at 0001. If you create three albums, as I did, you will have a series of identically numbered files starting at 0001. All of the original files, as originally named and numbered, remain on the hard drive in folders based on the memory card's ID.

Battery life is estimated at two to three hours depending on what kind of media--photos, video, or music--you're using. When loading images I always used the AC adapter, but when viewing used the built-in lithium ion batteries and the P-4000 never let me down. The P-4000 may not be the perfect tool for a week-long backpacking trip in the high country, but a laptop needs to be recharged, too, and is lots heavier.