When Datz was announced, with its one payment pricing plan, DRM-free unlimited downloads, we had questions. Would the catalogue be as extensive as promised? Was the one-off fee for the ease of consumers, or did it hide the fact that Datz had a solution that wasn’t good enough to ask people to pay month after month? Well, we’ve had a play with our copy, and we think we have the answer (briefly, no, and the latter, but we can expand on that).
The service itself masquerades as a CD and a USB stick. The CD comes with all the installation gubbins, whilst the USB stick seems to work as the key to unlocking the service. Installation is pretty hairy – nothing makes me panic more than seeing the MS DOS stuff flash up. Basically, it’ll install a hell of a lot of stuff on your computer.
Once you’ve installed the software and plugged in the USB (don’t lose the USB, whatever you do) you’re faced with a browsing screen for the music. There’s a choice of 12 of what are presumably the most popular tracks (In The Air Tonight, anyone? Blame Cadburys). From there, you can browse by genre and by A-Z of artist or track name. And therein lies the problem.
There’s no search function. Currently, if you want to find Robbie Williams, you’ve got to go to R and then scroll through 26 pages. Because the catalogue is mainly filled with unknowns, it can be a time consuming and frustrating process. For instance, there are 93 artists with a variation of Robert on page 26.
Once you’ve found your artist, you’re presented with the individual tracks. There’s no option for downloading an entire album, no indication as to which track has appeared on what album, and seemingly no logic as to how tracks were listed. I found myself checking iTunes to see which tracks belonged on the album I wanted, and cross referencing it. Painful.
There’s also definite limits to the catalogue itself. They might have two of the four major labels involved, but those two labels are only offering forward a slim proportion of the stuff they have access to. You’ll see a lot of remixes and live tracks, and very few current Top 40 dwellers.
As promised, the number of downloads is unlimited, and they play perfectly happily with iPods, since they’re DRM free MP3 files. When you drop them in, it’s hit and miss as to what data you’ll get – artist name and track name are a given, but there’s sometimes no album title or other detail.
In it’s defence, it’s been promised that Datz will get a search button presently, and that the interface is a work in progress. To this, we’d perhaps point out that if you purchased Datz in its present state you’re likely to feel screwed out of £100 – the music might be unlimited, but the process of getting that music is tedious and time consuming. When you can search for tracks and artists, and when the catalogue is organised in a usable fashion, it will become a different service entirely.
Our advice? Patience, and a tight hold over your wallet.