Saying “NO” to iPod

It seems I’m not the only one who can’t see paying a lot for Apple’s contraption and then paying through the nose for their iTunes download service.

MSNBC: Don’t want an iPod? Lots of choices available.

NEW YORK - When Marybeth Miller decided she wanted a digital player to carry around music from her massive collection, she had one important rule: no iPod.

“Everyone has an iPod. For some reason, I would rather find and purchase the ‘hidden gem’ MP3 player that is less popular,” said Miller, a Wilmington, Del.-based musician. “I don’t like the idea that nearly everyone has an iPod. I feel this way about other things, too. I appreciate obscurity.”

I agree with her. There are several better alternatives to the iPod out there.

My original choice was a Sansa Rhapsody player but I’m not too happy with it since it’s managed to ‘brick’ itself twice before I’ve owned it a year. I can’t really recommend the more pricey Sansa lines due to my experiences.

I also avoid hard disk based MP3 players. Having worked in the computer industry for many years I know that a hard disk is a common point of failure in computer systems. One that you carry around where it will get banged up just makes matters worse. This eliminates most higher end, high capacity, players from my list. While it’s cool, I guess, to carry around 30-60 gigs of music in your pocket you had better have a good backup.

What I’ve decided to do is to stick with flash players, like the Sansa. However, due to my experiences, I can’t see paying more than about $100 for one of these units. The larger the memory capacity, the better the video screen and the higher the price the more complex their internal software gets. Thus the number of potential bugs increases. Instead of “just working” you get “works, sorta, maybe, sometimes”. So, my recent method has been to scour the lower end of the market in the sub $50 range.

In this market I’ve found a number of 1-2GB gems that, while not very fancy, work reliably. My favorite has been the line of players from Coby. I’ve bought 3 of them, 2 1GB and 1 2GB, all for well under $50 each. They work with WMA based subscription music providers like Napster so I can try-before-I-buy from millions of titles. The narrow tube-like body easily slips into a pocket and you simply remove the cap to reveal the USB plug. The buttons are easy to control by touch while driving.

I also tried flash players from Sylvania and Craig. I didn’t like them as well due to to their design but they were functional. I ended up returning them and replacing them with a Coby.

You can find the Coby MP3 players in discount and close-out stores like Big Lots or online at eBay or a few electronics discounters sites. They’re certainly worth getting if you need a cheap, reliable, player that you don’t have to worry about if you take it on outdoor activities, to workouts, to leave in your car, to have at work and so forth.


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Comment by Florchakh
2007-10-07 11:15:38

For a couple of months I was reviewing hardware, products of Cowon seemed to be the best (I mean iAudio) :)

Comment by jfc
2007-10-07 15:18:05

Thanks Florchakh

I haven’t tried out the iAudio or Cowon. I’ll have to give them a look at some point.

I think it’s pretty hard to screw up the programming on these devices. The real trick is usabilty design and reliability. The Craig unit was too large, larger than my cellphone, and the Sylvania had a poorly designed headphone plug.

Which brings up something I forgot to mention. The earbud headphones on these cheap units suck. You’ll need to replace them with something else so you should consider that in the price.

Comment by Florchakh
2007-10-08 06:42:53

Honesty, I have seen LOTS of DAPs and exactly none of them was having good headphones. As far as I have my own Sennheisers I don’t even plug these cheap pieces of crap made in Taiwan…

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