Are you a budget DAP lover? (Let us know, comments are always welcome.) Well, today I’ll be running another one through its paces – the IQQ C5. IQQ is the electronics company that brought us the C18 which had good audio quality but a button arrangement that was not optimized and an average UI.
This time they’re back with an even cheaper model that boasts a similarly “crazy good” battery life and 2.4 inch TFT screen. You would probably expect it to be a lesser player than the more expensive predecessor but things move fast in the world of electronics so you just never know. How does it fare compared to its more expensive sibling and a slew of other super cheap competitors? Follow on to learn more.
This product was provided for the purpose of an honest review. All observations and opinions here are my own.
Responsive User Interface
Incredible battery life
Awkward UI navigation and use
Average screen quality and small text
Support MP3,WMA,OGG,APE, FLAC,WAV,AAC-LC.
Aluminium alloy case
Support video play and picture viewing and TXT e-book reading
Support Voice recording, FM radio and FM radio recording.
Support TF card up to 32GB.
Solution: ATJ 2127.
Screen:2.4″ TFT screen(320×240).
Battery:650mAh, support 60 hours music playing by earphone.
Colour: Black, silver.
Packaging and accessories
The unboxing of the C5 is a very simple one indeed. Starting with an off-white cardboard box with a generic “[HIFI] Music Player on the front it’s a little unusual to see there is no sign of a brand name present anywhere. Looking on the back, however, reveals that the product comes from Shenzhen Tengsen Technology Co,.Ltd.
The first thing you see when you open the box is the player, wrapped in plastic and seated in a white foam cutout. Underneath the foam are the accessories which include a USB cable for charging and data transfer, along with a user manual and warranty card. It doesn’t get much more basic than that! When you consider the low price though it seems acceptable and you don’t need anything else to get going, assuming you have some kind of earphones to plug into it.
I received the C5 in the gunmetal grey/silver variant (it also comes in black). The C5 sports an aluminium alloy body and weighs in at just 64 g. Initial impressions when you first pick it up are good. It feels light but sturdy in the hand. Unfortunately just like the C18 and several other recent players the C5 has sharp corners that take away from the experience a little but keeping the low price in mind it’s not a major issue.
On the front is the 2.4 inch TFT screen and the navigation and control buttons. The cover on the display is plastic but feels much nicer and more durable than the flimsy one found on the Benjie players.
So the button layout is very simple. There are 4 directional buttons plus a central one which acts as the Select, Play and Pause. The play button in the centre has a small, blue LED light that flashes every 3 seconds when the unit is powered on. I’m not sure what its purpose is really but I guess it could act as a reminder if you’ve forgotten to power off the unit when it’s not in use.
On the bottom edge (from left to right) are a 3.5 mm headphone jack, microphone, On/Off switch and micro USB port. On the left side of the player is the micro SD card slot.
That’s really all there is to it. It’s a very basic layout – some might say a little too basic as once again there are no dedicated volume buttons (which is a real pet peeve of mine). Despite that, it has clean lines, looks quite nice and feels like the build quality is solid.
UI and functionality
In use, the display looks fairly good but there’s no setting to adjust the screen brightness so it can be very difficult and at times near impossible to navigate in bright sunlight.
The first time I turned on the player I thought I was in for a real treat when I saw the lovely startup animation. Sadly that wasn’t to be. The home screen looks great with nice, large icons and each one is clearly labelled. There’s a dark grey background with white text but the text is really tiny.
The text is heavily truncated and that combined with the small fonts make things difficult to read when navigating. I will say though that the UI feels snappy and responsive and does not suffer from any input lag. Album art looks pretty good but there is some unused space around it and it would have been much better had they enlarged it to fill the width of the screen.
Navigation is awkward despite the UI being responsive and that’s because of the limited buttons. As I mentioned earlier there are no dedicated volume keys and there’s no back button so you have this weird mix of functions such as pressing left and right to go up and down in the menus which just feels unintuitive and clumsy. There’s no dedicated back button so in order to get to the home screen from the now playing screen you need to press the down key 5 times! Doing a long press on the up button while music is playing activates the button lock while a short press gives you access to the now playing menu where you can change sound settings like repeat mode and equalizer. To change the volume you need to do a long press on the down key and then left or right to make adjustments, similar to the Benjie K9 and X1 – not ideal in the least.
There’s no gapless support but that is the norm for all ultra-budget DAPs that I have tested so far. Let’s look at some of the features the player does have. There’s a voice recording function and an FM Radio. During testing the radio works fine and there’s also the ability to record radio which could come in handy for some. There’s an eBook reader and the ability to play video but I didn’t test those as anyone with a half decent smartphone and a lick of sense would be better off using that for those things. There is also a calendar, stopwatch and alarm which are all pretty neat but again why bother if you have a smartphone?
Files are not sorted automatically so you’ll need to use a third party app like DriveSort to get your lists in order. Overall for basic music playback, the UI is just okay. It’s not really any better or worse than other super cheap DAPs out there and I don’t want to sound like a broken record but it’s important to make judgements in the context of the very low price these players come at.
A couple of final points to look at here. One is the On/Off switch on the bottom of the player. This is a great feature and very useful if you have to turn the player off in a hurry The only drawback using this method is that breakpoint resume points are not saved when you power off the unit this way. The other way to power off the unit is by doing a long press on the Play button. This will save your breakpoint and the next time you tun the player on it will resume playback where you left off.
If there’s one thing that IQQ do really well it’s battery life. The C5 has a 650mAh Lithium-ion battery is rated for 60 hours of continuous playback. I haven’t measured the actual time but I can say that I’ve been using this player over the last couple of weeks for 2-3 hours per day and there’s still more than 50% charge. Incredible! Charging time is about 3 hours.
IEMs & Headphones used for testing
Toneking Nine Tail
Dynamic Motion DM200H
Acoustic Research AR-H1
During testing, I tried a variety of IEMs all of which I’m familiar with, from different price brackets and all with their own unique sound signatures. The AR-H1 planar headphones were added because even though they have a low impedance (33 Ohm) they do require a fair amount of output power to drive to their full potential. The C5 comes across as a competent addition to the ultra-budget segment.
The presentation is close to neutral with good extension at both ends. Output power is near identical to the Benjie X1 and should be enough for just about any IEM. With the AR-H1 headphone, it was loud enough depending on the recording but needs to be near or at 100% volume for me. Those who like their music LOUD will be fine with earphones but for harder to drive headphones you’ll need additional amplification.
Neither the DM200H or the TNT (Nine Tail) have a “heavy” bass as they’re both fairly balanced in that respect but the C5 had no trouble drawing it out of them. There’s a little bit of extra weight added that feeds some warmth to the low end. This works great when listening to some old school Scarface in “On My Grind” from Balls And My Word and is a real treat with the TNT which on occasion can leave me wishing for a bit more bass grunt. The DM200H can also benefit from a slight boost in the basement but via the C5 it still manages to retain its fantastic etched notes and texture.
Midrange is well defined and has a good amount of transparency, once again highlighted by the amazing mids on the DM200H. There’s a good synergy with this pairing which allows the C5 to display its ability for detail and resolution. Vocals are front and centre with a reassuring weight and richness and at times it’s easy to forget you’re listening to a sub $25 DAP!
There’s not a lot to say about the treble and that’s a positive because its presentation is neutral. If your earphones/headphones have sparkle and air you’ll hear it again here. The C5 doesn’t boost or mute treble so with the right pairing you’ll have the energy and air to keep music light or energetic. One of the tracks I like to test lower treble is “Hem” by Mathias Eick. At the beginning of the song, there are certain chimes and light percussion tings and pings and they sound just as they should with this DAP and maintain their wide reach in the soundscape.
Benjie X1 ($26 USD)
The x1 is a hint warmer which makes vocals sound more intimate and closes in the stage a little in comparison. I’d give the C5 a slight advantage in sound quality but to be honest, there’s not much differentiating these two budget buddies. Output power and battery life are also very, very close here with neither gaining an advantage over the other. Where they do differ more is in their usability.
Although the X1 has a smaller screen its album art is bigger, as is the size of fonts so it’s a bit easier to read the text. The big win for Benjie’s X1 though is its dedicated volume buttons which make finding your listening level faster and easier and it can be adjusted easily while it’s in your pocket.
The IQQ C5 doesn’t really bring anything new to the ultra budget DAP arena. It’s not a bad player but there’s nothing remarkable about it either. It suffers from the same flaws as its big brother the C18, namely a less than stellar button setup that leads to cumbersome navigation. As for the UI, the only real drawback is the small size of the text and display is in line with other players in its class.
The screen seems like it should be large enough to do more but the developers haven’t utilized it to its full potential and result is empty spaces and truncated text. This is likely due to a limitation of the low power processor that is great for preserving battery life but struggles with more complex tasks such as rendering album art.
It’s not all bad though. While this review might have sounded negative the sound is easily as good as the competition around the same price and the battery life is absolutely terrific. I feel that IQQ definitely have the potential to make a truly excellent player if they keep at it. When you factor in the price which is always a large consideration in my overall rating the IQQ C5 is still a heck of a lot of DAP for your money and I’d take it for music playback over my smartphone any day of the week.