I’ve recently received the Pono player co-founded on Kickstart some months ago.

I will not introduce the “Pono ecosystem”, or the ideas of creators or an extensive review of what’s in the whole “Pono world”. Instead I’ll try to draw one of my beloved lists on what’s good and what’s should (could) be improved.

Start with the good news:

  • Is a very itneresting DAC and the music quality is far better than my iPod (also with rockbox on it), both in lossy and lossless formats.
  • It uses two separate storage, one is a MicroSD card that can be up to 128GB. Included a 64GB MicroSD. No spinning and fragile hard disk, no limited internal memories…
  • The touch screen idea is great.

And now the drawbacks:

  • Too big, definitely.
  • Battery. Internal and probably not replaceable (probably). No comments on duration as I only own it since last Friday.
  • Each time I power it on it rescans the whole media libray. This is maybe because I don’t load music with the official software (Pono Music World) but I simply copy folders on the removable storage. This is a main drawback because it takes at least 30 secs before I can listen to music. An incremental database or the possibility to not create the database or a manual scan could be a solution…
  • No physical hold button. Very annoying.
  • Screen rotation is a way too sensible.
  • If not “locked” (means you have to drag a lock on the screen to access to the GUI) the only way to switch on the screen is to press a physical button. And this means that you pause the current song if playing or up/down volume level. Better always keep it locked.
  • No gapless reproduction. This is probably a very close fix that will be released, if complaints on the Pono community forum will lead to something…
  • The touch screen is very sensible. Sometimes when you are scrolling for a song it changes because you didn’t press it very well (or very bad). Very annoying too.
  • No way to sort for folder (that is my favorite sorting), or album artist, or genre, or other. Just for artist, song, album and playlist. This means that you have to do a perfect job on tagging.
  • No audiobook support.
  • No video support. This is not a major issue but with a relative large screen could be an useful feature. Android (on which the Pono player is built on) is perfectly capable to do this and other OS like RockBox can do this as well…
  • Sometimes, when you unlock the screen the usual, ugly “arrow” mouse pointer is displayed for a blink.
  • Very long track names/album names and so on do not scroll, so you see only the first letters.
  • Album sorting is only with album-covers style, not list.
  • No linux support. To update firmware or use the “official” way to load songs into you have to use Windows or Mac. And there are a lot of complaints about.
  • No sources available, also if is based on Android…
  • No search function.
  • No left/right balance.
  • There is no possibility to use it as USB DAC.
  • The community is very fanatic, closed and the website (built on salesforce?) is pretty ugly (NO SEARCH!). Some interesting topics however starts to rise up online…

Most of these issues could be fixed in software, probably the worst in the very next firmware releases.

At the moment it does not worth the $300 (plus 120 EUR in custom duties) I’ve spent for this. At a better price FiiO offers better alternatives