My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

MP3 Player Advice

I’ve been meaning to write something like this for years… and having just spent the last two months shopping for one, and getting pestered by friends who know I’m an uber-nerd, I’ll give it a whirl. MP3 Players come is a couple different flavors and price points, all varied for the needs of the individual. Here is a quick breakdown of the available options on portable MP3 solutions:

High Capacity Players:

TV, Movies, and Digital Photos are these physically largest in class aim. The gold standard was the classic iPod, but has since been supplanted by the Toshiba Gigabeat. The Gigabeat may not have the iPod name, but it is lighter, has a better screen, more video capability, and longer battery life. There are also other options in this category, such as the Creative Zen (a good choice, but heavy), the Philips Gogear (slow with a small screen), and the Cowon iAudio X5L whose main drawback is its lackluster controls and proprietary cables. The iPod, while no longer the technological standout in this category, is the cheapest High Capacity Player for the buck, and the only one that is able to connect to iTunes (the worlds largest online music library). Expect these models to start at $250 and up, depending on how my gigabytes you “need”.

Mid-Capacity Players:

Smaller in size, storage, and “wow” appeal, these 4GB(ish) models work off of flash memory instead of the hard-drive setup used in the High Capacity Players. This leads them to be a bit more problematic, but less expensive alternative for those not interested in watching Star Wars or 24 on a 2” screen. There are a bevy of new options in Mid-Capacity Players, including the Archos (ill-refined in my option), the Cowon iAudio 6 (which was slow when I tested it), the iRiver (a good alternative to all others with excellent sound and controls, but iffy screen), Samsung YP-Z5 (basic player for a high price), Sandisk Sansa E260 (good for music only people, meaning it doesn’t support video at all), the Siren Edge (should be avoided at all cost for its terrible design), with the he easy leader in this category as the iPod Nano. All of these models fall around the $200 range.

Mini Players:

Cheap(er), basic, and easily portable, these tiny flash players are the small, go-anywhere, models that fit most people’s essential needs. The only option here is slightly larger storage capacity, and a screen. To me, the screen makes all the difference. The best player of the group is easily the Apple iPod Shuffle. It’s tiny, cheap (under $80), and clipable to almost any piece of clothing. Unfortunately, it is one of the last models in the category that does not come with a screen. So playback consists of either a random setting, or a shuffle setting. The other options in this category, the Creative Zen V Plus and the Sandisk Sansa C140 are both better options to me. The drawback with the Sandisk model is that it only runs on AAA batteries, which requires either a separate battery charger, or a never-ending supply of batteries. The Creative Zen is ugly, larger, and was hard to operate with my fat fingers, but did everything that I could have wanted in a Mini Player.

Things to Remember:

1,000MB = 1GB, and each song (MP3) is about 4MB.
1GB of memory in a player is equal to about 250 MP3s.
1 hour of video is about equal to 800MB.
Each picture is about 3.5MB.

So a smaller GB High Capacity Player (30GB) will hold 7,500 songs or about 37 hours of video, a Mid-Capacity Player (4GB) will hold 1000 MP3s, and a Mini Player (1GB) will hold about 400. Almost all models have adapters that can send their signals from the player directly into a car stereo, but only one (the iPods) have special controls prebuilt into some new vehicles and home stereos. Also, the iPod models are currently the only players that work with iTunes, but you can expect this to change as soon as some of the current lawsuits work themselves out.

So the real questions you need to ask yourself are as follows:

Am I going to want to watch video on my player?
About how many songs am I realistically going to store on my player?
How physically large of a model do I want to carry around?
Do I want an icon, some nice techo arm candy, or something that I’m actually going to use?

And of course, how much do I really want to spend to conveniently listen to music?

Anyway, that's my 2 cents. Hope it helps someone out there.

1 comment:

chuck said...

Hey there. I have an ipod mini but when the battery died, i could either get a new ipod battery from a third party or Apple. But like you ask above, I wanted to have video, so i chucked my mini and went with the 5th gen ipod video - way more storage too. just my two cents.