MDs are inserted from the left side of the player, head first. The unit has clamshell "click and close" type loading. The lid is opened via a slide on the left side. When you put an MD in, the unit does a TOC read and goes into a 30 second standby- personally I don't like this.
Unit controls are small but usable, much better than those on the Sony E-35 (those are way too small). Back, Forward, and Play/Stop are located on the top left, as small studs. Volume is on the back, in the form of two round concave buttons. There is also a hold slide switch on the back, in the top left. There is no pause button, but the unit has resume so I guess it doesn't really matter.
The remote relatively large; it is the same length as the main unit and about 1/3 the width. It is very light. The remote has the same controls as the main unit, plus play mode, EQ, and light/display. All the buttons are situated beneath the display, except the hold switch... here's where it gets funky and sort of difficult to explain :-) The hold switch is a slide switch, located to the right of the display; when you slide it up (hold off), a panel slides up behind the display. The panel is backlit. When hold is on (slide down), the display is see thru - and very diffucult to read. It looks COOL, I suppose, because it's see-thru, but it's functionally a negative. With the panel up the display is much easier to read, but not as good as those I have seen on Sony and Sharp remotes. Contrast is adjustable. Play mode, volume and EQ buttons are operated by pressing on the edge, not the face, which boggled me at first. Also, there's a nice long clip on the back.
I was also disappointed at a lack of cool animations for untitled tracks (where are the swimming fish?) The display shows (left to right): the track number, title OR time, spinning disc icon, EQ mode, and on the far right is a 3-segment battery meter. The display is a combo of icon and dot matrix.
The unit comes with a very comfortable set of earbuds with good range and overall sound quality. They look pretty slick, too. They also toss in a black codura sack to carry the unit with.
Sound quality is very good. The EQ has two modes, SXBS and Train. SXBS greatly expands bass response, train mode hollows out the sound a bit. Volume goes from 0-25; I was pleasantly surprised, at max volume it's just as loud as the PMD-R3. TOC read time is shorter than my PMD-R3 and the XR-MD95 bookshelf system I have. Fast-forward and back cue also kick in faster than the PMD-R3.
Size/Weight: 11 (yes, it's better than a 10)
Remote: 6 (the display)
Controls/Ease of Use: 8 (you don't have to hit stop twice to shut down, yay)
Overall: 9 -- It's so damn small, and looks REALLY cool ;-)
I also got a set of Panasonic Clip headphones (RP-HZ70). They're very comfortable, but sound quality suffers a bit because they sit a bit futher from the ear and are 'open ear' type. They're available in 'skeleton' colors for all you I-Mac owners out there. My friend told me that the VMSS clip headphones do not provide anything 'extra' over the regular clips if you don't have a VMSS unit (so save your money). The headphones I got are designed for [MD] portables; the cord is only 50cm long. This to me is a bad idea, as I am very used to clipping remotes to my belt...