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Review: Wolverine 9000 MVP

Wolverine By Joan T. Sherwood

You want a multimedia storage and player device. There are a few choices out there. With the Epson P-4000 and the FlashTrax XT you get a bigger viewing screen. With the Wolverine 9000 MVP series you get more built-in memory card support, larger storage capacity options, a smaller and lighter-weight package, and a better price, all in a cherry-red chassis. Despite a few quirks, I think this is a great option for a photographer who's willing to sacrifice the big viewing screen for a much lower price tag without giving up much else.

Out of the box:

A nice weight that feels sturdy that's not so light that it feels cheap. The plastic casing looks durable, but like any spinning hard drive, I wouldn't recommend dropping. The buttons and joystick-style selector respond with a pleasing resistance. I had no problem navigating. As for the overall look, in an industry where nearly everything is black or gray, I'm glad to see a splash of color. Sure, something cased in neutral would be more wise to accurately view photo colors, but if you're making photo color judgments from your portable storage viewer, you're in trouble already.

Features (see specs for more detail):

  • 2.5-inch (replaceable/upgradable) hard drive — 60GB, 80GB, 100GB or 120GB
  • Built-in memory card support  for CompactFlash (I and II), Smart Media, Memory Stick, SD, xD, MultiMedia Card (MMC). Others can be accessed with an optional adapter.
  • Photo viewer supports RAW (see specs for supported camera models; the Nikon D200 isn't listed, but it's supported, too, with the latest system version 1.2.5-B14)
  • 2.5-inch LTPS TFT high resolution LCD
  • USB 2.0 interface
  • Video player that supports AVI and MOV Motion-JPEGS, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, and xvid
  • Audio player that supports MP3, WAV, AAC and CDA
  • Built-in digital voice and in-line recorder
  • Rechargeable Li-ion 3.7V 1800 mAh battery (FUJI NP-120)

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Photo functions:

The LCD is good and sharp and bright. I loaded in JPEGs and RAW files from a Canon Digital Rebel, Canon EOS D30, Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro, Nikon D2X, Nikon D200, Nikon D70, and an Olympus E300. The color looks just as it should for everything but the Nikon D2X NEF files. They've got a distinct green cast, but Wolverine says they're working on it.

The photo viewer offers display options to include EXIF data and a histogram, a file counter, and a status bar or any combination of the three. The photo viewer displays RAW file thumbnails inside the folder, but it has to work to populate them every time. The Nikon RAW file thumbnails took noticeably longer to show up than those from the Canon or Fujifilm cameras.

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Using the rocker switch on the side, you can zoom way in.

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Files retain the name they were assigned in the camera or on your computer. There is an automated slideshow option with different transition effects, but photos don't automatically rotate, so you'll have to do that on the computer. You can rotate images on display with a click of the OK button, but the viewer doesn't retain the rotation in slideshows or even if you're just browsing back to an image you've just rotated.

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Audio functions:

I think the sound on this player is pretty good, but I'm not a demanding audiophile. It sounds as good as my SanDisk Sansa e140, which I love. The headphones included with the Wolverine are low grade cheapies (just like the Sansa's). Leave them in the plastic and find a set of decent ear buds or headphones that you like.

The speaker case (included, shown below) is cute but produces substandard sound. Use good headphones or higher quality plug-in speakers to hear the real deal. If you forget to turn on the key lock, you'll also find yourself unintentionally starting and stopping play, switching songs, etc., because that's all handled by the joystick, which easily gets bumped around even when the unit is zipped inside the case.

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The audio play options are limited but straightforward. If you want to create a custom playlist, connect the Wolverine to your computer with the USB 2.0. With the device mounted as an external hard drive, create your playlist folder in the Media > Music folder and move or copy the songs you want into that folder.

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One quirk: fast forwarding and rewinding  jumps in increments relative to the length of your sound file. So, for example, while an average-length popular song  may jump in increments of 10-15 seconds, a 45-minute podcast will jump in increments of 5-10 minutes. That can be annoying.

Video functions:

I don't have access to many different kinds of video files, so my testing here is limited. It worked great with the AVI files from my Canon PowerShot SD400.   

A/V functions:

The manual includes no instructions on how to connect the player to a TV. I wasn't able to get it to work.

Voice recorder functions:

Simple and works beautifully. The tiny built-in microphone picked up my voice clearly but did not pick up ambient noise the super-loud air vent in my office. There is a faint high pitch tone in the background. It may be more or less audible depending on the listener. Creates an AAC file.

System functions:

The system is well rounded with practical options. Set your auto shutdown between 1 and 30 minutes or turn it off. Set the hard disk sleep time between 30 and 180 seconds or turn it off. Pick from 12 languages for your display.

The first thing all photographers should do is go to Copy Speed (HD) and Copy Speed (CF) and bump it up from High to Ultra. The hard drive copy speed is fine, but the CF speed maxes out at 4MB/second. That means it would take over 4 minutes to copy the contents of a 1GB into the unit. Not the blinding speed you're used to with a card reader and your laptop. Well, it's a slightly different ballgame with these portable viewers. Be warned that the specs state a single battery charge has enough power to copy 20GB of information onto the drive. Given how much power display and review might require, I might not push it much past 10 or 12 GB.

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Wolverine promises frequent firmware updates and updated RAW file support.

The system will charge via USB if the unit is turned off, though it takes a lot longer than with the AC power connection.

Macintosh users: If you copy photo files from your computer onto the MVP, the MVP will show all of the files that are normally invisible on your Mac. Open the photo folder on the MVP and delete all of the files with the extra underscore in front of the file name. They show up as unreadable files on the MVP and you have to scroll through them to get to see your photos. Aggravating.

Overall, I'd compare buying this viewer to picking a roomy economy car in a hot color over a sporty luxury vehicle that might be a little outside your budget. It's got some quirks, and the manual is sparse, but it's going to do what you want it to, it's fun and it's got plenty of room to haul all of your stuff.

Wolverine MVP 9000 Series prices:

$399.99—60GB
$439.99—80GB
$479.99—100GB
$599.99—120GB