Kaiser Baas 1.8-inch Digital Media Keyring

Though the Kaiser Baas digital media keyring sounds like a novel idea, the reality is hampered by its tiny size and cumbersome navigation system.

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CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Editor's note: After contacting Kaiser Baas, it was verified that the trojan horse was limited to our review unit only, and the company assures us that no other devices being shipped are infected. Additionally, for users with the 1.5-inch digital key ring frame who have experienced a similar problem with their antivirus program detecting malicious software, Kaiser Baas has told us that it is not a virus, but instead a false positive detected by McAfee and Trend. Users can upgrade the firmware on their unit at Kaiser Baas' support website, which should rectify the problem.

At a diminutive 4cm across by 5.5cm high, the Kaiser Baas is definitely positioning itself as a rival to Apple's many incarnations of the iPod Shuffle. The big difference here though is that the Kaiser Baas has a screen; a relatively teeny TFT 1.8-inch colour one at that.

The Kaiser Baas is absolutely tiny when you hold it in your hand.
(Credit: Kaiser Baas)

In fact it's so small that without attaching it to something (like your keys or your clothes) it would easily be lost in the bottom of a bag, left on public transport or lost down the back of the couch.

On either side sit very small buttons that are used to navigate the menus, as well as an on/off switch. At the top is a mini USB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The unit is encased in a glossy, piano-black acrylic finish.

The Kaiser Baas thinks of itself as a bit of a jack-of-all-trades; it has 1GB of storage, an FM radio, MP3 and MP4 player and voice recorder packed inside. As mentioned before, the screen is a dot matrix TFT display with a resolution of 160x128 — so really, this isn't the device to use to showcase your splendid photographic panoramas. It's a keyring, sure, but it just tries too hard to be a bit of everything that it fails to succeed at any one thing.

Just like on the 1.5-inch digital photo keyring we also reviewed, you will have to resize your photos to make them fit on the screen and to reduce the space they take up as well — there's no provided software to automatically reduce the heft of your 14.7-megapixel beauties to fit on here. There is, however, software included to compress your videos to the format required for playback on the Kaiser Baas.

Unpack the box and you will be presented with the player itself, a mini CD with video compression software and a user manual, as well as a set of earphones, mini USB cable and keyring attachment.

From the limited instructions, we managed to deduce that in order to put any sort of content onto the media player, you had to attach it to a Windows computer and the device would install all the necessary drivers (without needing the included CD). This seemed easy enough, and the device was instantly recognised. There was no internal file organisation on the device itself — just a case of transferring all your media files over to the main directory.

This seemed to be easy enough, until our antivirus program swooped into action, alerting us of a suspicious, possibly malicious file present on the device — never a good sign when a manufacturer ships a device with a trojan horse on-board.

After some evasive action (hurriedly disconnecting the device) we tried to use the Kaiser Baas keyring with the files we had transferred across before the nasty trojan shock.

Turning the device on was a challenge in itself; you would think that flicking the switch to "on" would result in some sort of response, but instead it was a combination of this and holding down what appears to be another power and play/pause button on the right.

Navigating through the menu options should have been easy enough, yet the buttons seemed to want to do the opposite of everything we wanted to do. Flicking forward made the menu options scroll backwards, pressing the mode button worked as the enter key, and half the time we couldn't even get back to the main menu to change between MP3 playback, FM playback and viewing pictures.

The in-built tuner had difficulty picking up even the strongest signals from radio stations that our stereo easily got when positioned in the same vicinity, and in general MP3 playback sounded scratchy and fuzzy when the volume was turned up louder. Equaliser presets had to be set from the main menu rather than during playback.

The video playback of this device was the most surprising aspect, even though the sound was a little distorted. Clear, smooth transitions and bright colours were the most impressive element, though you may want to think twice about trying to watch an epic on the 1.8-inch screen.

This is much more of a novelty item than a device you would actually want to use as a fully fledged media player given the small amount of storage and cumbersome button system — and given that our review unit came shipped with malicious software pre-installed, we would give this one a wide berth.

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