I’m a bit of a gadget geek. Between my own electronics collections and writing product reviews for outlets like GeekDad, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to play with gear. With Father’s Day fast approaching, I though I’d revisit one of my favorite portable music devices — one that’s inexpensive to boot — the Ryobi TEK4 AllPlay music player. Basically, this is a ruggedized, ultra long battery life MP3 player built around a rechargeable power tool battery. There’s nothing elegant about it and it does nothing but play music, but it will do that virtually forever. I’ve had one since a 2010 review, and it continues to amaze me with its performance.
Ryobi is the last name most of us would think of when it comes to music, but the company released the TEK4 AllPlay music player as part of its TEK4 power tools line. Think of an iPod Shuffle stuck on top of pair of C-cell batteries; now tack a clip onto it and you’ve pretty much got the design. It has 2GB of storage, supports most common music files (including MP3, WMV, WAV and AAC), loads with music via old-school drag and drop, has no display and sports minimalist controls. To reset the device, you remove the battery. In other words, it’s no iPod in looks or functionality.
But, the 4v Lithium-ion battery is user replaceable and rechargeable (so you can keep a spare on hand, not that you’d need it), the battery can be used in other Ryobi TEK4 power tools, the case is impact/water/dust resistant and the claimed battery life is 72 hours. Unlike most devices I test, this music player not only lives up to the claimed battery life, it consistently blows it away. In comparison, the iPod Shuffle goes for about 15 hours on a charge.
If you want a portable music player that’s compact, this isn’t it. If you want to carry around your entire music library, look elsewhere. Planning on connecting to a wireless speaker dock? There’s no Bluetooth, so better bring a cable. If you want album art displayed and touchscreen controls, it’s not not even in the ball park. But if you’re in the market for an inexpensive device that carries 200-500 songs (depending on bit rate), lasts for days on end, uses an interchangeable battery and is virtually impervious to physical damage, then the Ryobi TEK4 AllPlay music player is that device. I love my iPods, but I use the TEK4 AllPlay while cutting the grass, working outdoors and as my music source during camping trips (that frequently last a week at a time) — and I recharge the thing maybe twice a year. It has caused zero fuss over the past three years despite being in sand, rain, cold and heat.
You can still buy them at Home Depot for $63 (including battery and charger), but I noticed Amazon’s currently got the full kit on sale for $25 — if you’re looking for a Father’s Day gift, it’s pretty hard to beat that price. If you buy one, throw away the included earbuds, though. Those make Apple’s seem like audiophile versions, but that’s the only criticism I have for this device, which is saying a lot.