What's unique about this player (Olympus m:robe MR-500I) is that you can create slide shows on the go (without a computer) using photos you've just taken with the built-in camera.

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I’m intrigued by the little multimedia devices that play back music, photos and slide shows. Some play back video or have other unique features.

With one of these in my purse, I can keep all my music and photos with me, and when the moment’s right, pull out the player and show the people I’m with the slide shows I’ve custom-made for them.

This handy handheld supports a spontaneous kind of sharing that can happen anywhere; just start the slide show on the device and hand it over like a stack of pictures, only watching a slide show (or video) is much more fun.

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I’ve already told you about one multimedia player, the iPod Photo, so this week we’ll look at the Olympus m:robe MR-500i and the Epson P-2000 Photo Viewer. Next week, we’ll cover the Archos AV400 and the Creative Zen Portable Media Center.

Olympus MR-500i m:robe:

The Olympus m:robe (20GB $499, Windows), can store and play back music and photos on a 3.7-inch screen, plus it can take pictures with its built-in camera.

The display screen is large enough for one or two people to view comfortably, and it’s pretty exciting to watch your photos appear on a handheld, especially when the images are big enough to see clearly and they look good.

If it’s a group viewing your pictures, use the included RCA cable to connect the player to a TV and watch on its bigger screen.

The m:robe also features touch-screen controls that handle most functions. Press the icon that looks like a headset to access music, the camera icon to view or take pictures and the cube icon to watch user-created slide shows with music. The touch-screen controls on my review unit are a little slow to respond, but maybe I’m a little impatient.

The m:robe’s built-in camera has 1.2 megapixels (like a cellphone camera), and though it can take good photos under the right conditions outdoors, it doesn’t do as well inside and there’s no flash.

After taking pictures, I can save them on the player or print them. The m:robe can print directly to any PictBridge compatible printer by connecting them with the included USB cable and choosing Printer on the camera’s screen.

It takes a little time to become familiar with the Olympus software for organizing music and photos and moving them to the player, but, once learned, it does the job just fine.

When making slide shows, I can choose between four disco-style templates with dynamic transitions that my kids enjoy, and I’m hoping that templates with less zooming and panning will be available soon.

What’s unique about this player is that you can create slide shows on the go (without a computer) using photos you’ve just taken with the built-in camera.

Epson P-2000:

The Epson P-2000 (40GB $499, Windows/Mac) stores and plays back music, photos and video.

It features a 3.8-inch screen, two built-in memory-card slots (CompactFlash, SD, MMC and others with an optional adapter) for transferring images from a camera. This player also can be connected to a TV for viewing on a larger screen, but the necessary RCA cables aren’t included.

The P-2000 supports JPEG and RAW image files (from select cameras), MPEG4 and Motion JPEG video files, plus MP3 and AAC audio files.

It has a built-in speaker so the user can listen without earphones (I like that a lot), and it can print directly to some Epson printers (including the Epson Stylus Photo R300 and R300M, R320, RX600, and PictureMate). When the battery’s charged, I plug the player into my Mac, open the icon that appears on the screen, and drag pictures, video clips and songs over to the folders I create. Then I disconnect the player and turn to its screen to locate the files I moved there.

Everything is on the player as it should be, plus the photos and video look great. I can even zoom in on photos.

To make a slide show of photos in a folder, I open the folder, press Menu and then start the slide show. I press Menu again to select a transition style (the five choices include plain and disco styles), timing and music. If I want to use one of my music files, I have to “register” it first.

I’m delighted everything works as it’s supposed to, and it’s so easy to use. However, I wish I could save the music with the slide show so I don’t have to choose it again.

Let’s compare them.

Here’s what the P-2000 has that the m:robe does not:

• 40GB of storage compared with 20GB, for the same price.

• Video playback (of some video file formats).

• Two memory-card readers.

• Built-in speaker.

• Compatibility with Mac and Windows computers.

Here’s what the m:robe has that the P-2000 does not:

• Built-in camera (1.2 megapixels).

• Touch-screen controls.

• Prints to any PictBridge compatible printer.

• Smaller and lighter size.

• Includes RCA cables for connecting to a TV.

To pick a favorite player, decide which of their unique attributes are most desirable. I’m not choosing until I’ve seen the last of the five players, next week.

Write Linda Knapp at lknapp@seattletimes.com; to read other Getting Started columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/gettingstarted