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09 November 2006 Thursday

Portable Media Players

MP3 and MPG/AVI and whatnot

slated in mainstream at 7:24 pm

So there’s a small frenzy as people are getting excited or disdainful over the arrival of Microsoft’s Zune player.

I spent a few minutes skimming Internet and this is what I’ve figured (for my own future reference..):

There are 5 choices out there:

Comparison chart of media players:

iPod 604 604 WiFi A2 Vision Vision W Zune
320×240 480×272 480×272 480×272 640×480 480×272 320×240
30-80gb 30gb 30gb 20-30gb 30gb 30-60gb 30gb
20 hrs.audio 16 hr 16 hr 18 hr 13hr 13hr 14hr
  5 hrs.video 15 hr 10 hr 4.5 hr 4.5hr 4hr  
2.5” 4.3” 4.3” 4” 3.7” 4.3” 3”
320×240 480×272 480×272 480×272 640×480 480×272 320×240
9.05oz/255g 10.23oz/290g 298g 239g 297g(60gb)
  130×78×17mm 133×78×18mm 133×78×22mm 124.2×74.4×20.1mm 134×78×22/26.4mm(30/60gb)  
none voice recording voice.r voice.r voice.r voice.r  
none FM radio   FM recording FM FM FM
future?   WiFi 802.11g       Zune to Zune wifi only
$250-350 $330 $330 $270-$320 $350 $270 $250

Sorry.. got a bit lazy with posting the specs..

And I didn’t link to the Zune because the seemingly official MS Zune website is… useless. Or I just didn’t have the patience to figure it out.

So anyway here’s the stuff that mattered for myself:

Vision versus the Vision W: Vision W handles more picture formats, but it’s a bit larger and heavier overall.. and that wasn’t one of its strong points with the plain Vision to begin with. But the W comes in the larger 60gb size.

I’m looking at the full-screen, high-storage capacity machines. Personally, 30gb won’t cut it. I’m looking at 60gb or up.

iPod comes in 80 GB, but has a small screen, I don’t like iTunes on Windows, and the price and popularity is ridiculous for its lack of really simple features like FM radio.

The 604 WiFi has touch screen LCD. That’s just cool. I don’t know much about Archos though.

I have experience with Cowon/iAudio. Solid products. But the screen res of the A2 doesn’t touch that of the Visions. Cowon music players play ogg. That’s not a huge deal for me, but it is a nice simple plus.

Zune sounds like it would be really nice to hold, but most of the specs are really only average and the proprietary wifi is dumb.
iPod /iTunes proprietary software is dumb (for me. I know it’s awesome for you Apple folks and people who like iTunes).

Most of them have clock/alarm/scheduling abilities. That’s cool.

I like having FM radio and voice recording on my player.
I like huge storage capacity, solid battery life, straightforward charging without needing a lot of peripherals (e.g. if I bring my player out of town, do I have to bring a docking cardle plus the AC adapter plus the USB cable to transfer music? Or can I just bring one USB cable that will charge AND transfer files, or can I bring just one AC adapter that will recharge at any electrical outlet?)
The idea of wifi and having opera on my mp3 player is excellent…but I’m not sure what it involves. It’s not straight-up internet access, neh? So….?
*edit: MUST be plug-and-play.. should function simultaneously as a media player AND an external harddrive without additional software/drivers or partitioning. Software/drivers should only be for extra features/auto-synching/music software,etc.

Only the iPod comes in 80gb, only the Vision W comes in 60gb.

Fact is, none of them cut it for me.

Current iPod’s screen is woeful for watching videos, compared to the rest — Yes, I know.. they’re supposed to be coming out with a beastly-awesome new generation, with wifi and widescreen and all this stuff… The STILL probably won’t have simple simple things like FM radio and the other companies should be improving their products and releasing new generations too. Anyway, they’d better do that, because right now there is absolutely no clear winner.

If I had to choose right now, I’d probably go with the 60gb Zen Vision W. But the specs really don’t cut it. Too heavy and large; needs better resolution.

I’m waiting.

Comments on Portable Media Players

  1. Nice comparison – I’d look for something that’ll let me up hook up to the computer and transfer files without needing to install any software – that’d be great for sharing content and files between friends.

    I’ve the first generation iriver jukebox, 40gb, and it’s awesome. Minus the fact that it doesn’t do photos or videos, but it’s from 2003 so it’s okay.

    By the way, this page looks skewered in safari and firefox 1.5 (mostly the table)..

    commented Mon 13 Nov 2006, 09:11:21 PM :: link
  2. Thanks Arif.
    Wait.. they don’t all hook up the computer and work without software!?
    They should all be able to act as straightforward external harddrives.. why wouldn’t they? Am I really just taking for granted that my iAudio M3 does that and it’s a logical thing to do? Because they really should just plug in and work (maybe without the extra music playing software, but as a plug-and-play drive).

    commented Mon 13 Nov 2006, 09:27:19 PM :: link
  3. Nope. I’m pretty sure that you have to have iTunes installed on a computer to load stuff on an iPod (and probably the shuffle as well, I imagine, which totally sucks). I believe that this is true for the Zune as well.

    commented Tue 14 Nov 2006, 12:55:47 AM :: link
  4. Seriously!?
    I understand (dislike) that you need iTunes to play m4a /files or whatever.. but you need it to move files between the ipod and the comp? I just plug mine in and move the files in windows explorer. There was software/audio player that came with it too, but I’ve never needed it.

    Thanks for the heads up.

    iPod and Zune have to be disqualified from any further consideration.

    commented Tue 14 Nov 2006, 01:20:55 AM :: link
  5. I’m not entirely sure of this, but this is how things used to be:

    with creative products, you HAVE to install software to access the drive, files or music. I’ve a friend with a zen who carries along the software cd wherever he goes because it doesnt work as a usb drive without it.

    with the ipod, you can use it as an external hard drive, but you won’t be able to share drm music you’ve put on through itunes (or any music from itunes, I believe). but if you’ve got like, files that you’ve added from your computer, they should show up on any computer you connect it to. basically, the ipod “hides” the drm music when it’s being used as an external drive. so you can’t copy your drm music to friend’s computer.

    most korean players (cowon, iriver) let you add music and files by dragging and dropping as if it was an external hard drive. no drivers or software required.

    I don’t know about the zune, I do like it the most though – microsoft’s peripherals has always worked without drivers or software so I’d expect the zune to do the same, but it’s a bit murky when it comes to drm music. I’d also expect the zune to be built to a higher quality and stricter tolerances than most players, save for the ipod.

    what turns me off from the zune is the lack of file support.. there’s just mp3 and seventeen (I’m exaggerating) kinds of windows media files.

    I’m not really a fan of archos products, but that’s not to say they’re not any good, just that my reasons for not liking them are a bit lame and somewhat embarassing, so I won’t mention them here.

    I do quite like the A2 though, brilliant screen for videos.

    commented Tue 14 Nov 2006, 04:51:59 PM :: link
  6. With the iPod, you don’t have to install the driver software on your computer, but you don’t need iTunes to manage your music. Just install it so you can format the iPod and keep it up-to-date with firmware, but you can use MediaMonkey to synchronize and play music (use a Winamp plugin for .m4a). There’s also Yet Another iPod Manager and a host of others. MediaMonkey (free) is nice though.

    I’ve used a Creative something (nano sized) before, but it wasn’t as easy to use as the iPod. You’d have to click the menu button, which would display a little menu that’d drop down, then you’d hav to navigate horizontally and vertically to get to genres, for example.

    commented Tue 28 Nov 2006, 10:58:30 PM :: link
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