By Rich Menta- 1/31/00
A few weeks ago, we published a review of an 4.8 GB MP3 player by Remote Solutions called the Personl Jukebox. To call it best player we tested to date was not enough. We called it a milestone player!
The reason was simple. Personal Jukebox is filled with such striking innovations that we had little doubt it would dramatically change the MP3 portable industry. Creative's announcement of its new NOMAD Jukebox is the proof that the evolution of MP3 portables has altered.
Remote Solutions great innovation was to leap over the biggest hinderance to MP3 portables - memory.
Most MP3 players use memory chips, either built-in or through removable memory cards, to store the music. It is the use of such chips that allow MP3 players to be so small, but it also limits them to under 100MB of storage capacity. Future units plan to use IBM's tiny, but expensive, micro-drives as another source of storage. These drives hold about 300MB of capacity.
The manufacturers seemed content to use memory as a perpetual upgrading point to new models, pricing units with more memory quite high. For example, right now the largest capacity flash memory on the market is a 224MB CompactFlash card which Delkin started shipping Dec 99. One player using this card is the RCA Lyra. The cost of the 224MB card alone is a very steep $800. Add to that the $200 cost of the Lyra costs and your up to $1,000.
Remote Solutions jumped through all that by releasing a unit that uses a laptop drive, much higher capacity at a far cheaper cost. So cheap that the Personal Jukebox was able to offer almost 5GB of space for...$799!
Think of this for a second. $800 for a 4.8GB MP3 portable. That's 1200 songs at the 128kbit rate. If Diamond or Creative came out with such a unit first, they would have priced it at $3,000
And that is what makes both the Personal Jukebox and the NOMAD Jukebox so important. They have changed the course of the industry, not just through design but through price. The former did it by creating the concept, the latter for confirming that other major manufacturers agree with them.
And so this spring Creative will release its version, the first MP3 competitor to act (react?) on Personal Jukebox's achievement.
The NOMAD Jukebox has a 6GB capacity, larger than the Personal Jukebox, and weighs just under a pound (what these new units offer in capacity comes at the cost of size and weight). Curiously, the NOMAD Jukebox is shaped like a portable CD player, in fact, we thought it was when we first saw it. The unit runs on four AA batteries which gives it a playing time of around 3 hours.
The NOMAD Jukebox plays not only MP3 files but also the WMA and WAV formats too. The operating system is upgradable via the net so the unit can support other digital formats in the future. The player connects to your PC through a USB cable.
And the price for all this? a very competitive $500, three hundred less than what the Personal Jukebox sells for now. Creative doesn't want to take any chances on just its name brand alone. They want to steal as much of this market for themselves and that price tells you so.
That said, look for all of the manufacturers to follow and announce laptop drive models in the very near future.
You can order the new 64 MB Nomad II from Amazon for $249 here
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