Creative's Nomad 3 Goes FireWire

By Richard Menta - 01/27/02

The successor to the Creative Nomad Jukebox (or is it the Nomad II) was unveiled earlier this month at CES. The Nomad 3 is a jukebox player, but its name seems to suggest that it will also stand in as a replacement for the flash player that has been so successful for the company. Makes one wonder what Creative's future plans are in the ever-competitive flash portable arena.


The Creative Nomad 3 is available on Amazon

The Nomad 3 looks very much like the older Nomad Jukebox and comes with a 20GB hard drive. The most notable feature about this unit is that it has added a FireWire port to go with the USB port for transfering files from PC to player. This addition is obviously an answer to the success of Apple's iPod, the first MP3 portable to use FireWire. The Nomad 3 will be the first player for the PC to offer this feature (unless the poeple at Apple release a Windows version of the iPod within the next couple of months).

The difference between the two ports? First, few PC owners have a FireWire port on their systems, which is why the Nomad 3 offers both. That said, you will transfer 20GBs a lot faster with the FireWire connection than with USB. It will take a USB connection around 16 hours straight to fill the Nomad 3 with music. The FireWire port will accomplish the same task in 40 minutes. That alone is compelling enough reason for a PC owner to spring $40 for a FireWire card.

Another improvement in the Nomad 3 over its predecessor it that it replaced the stodgy NiMH battery in the Nomad Jukebox with a lithium ion battery that offers significantly longer life. The NiMH batteries only offer about 4 hours of play time and are not as reliable to the recharge as the lithium-ion battery is. The lithium-ion batteries will offer between 10 and 12 hours of service between charges.

The Nomad 3 doubles the skip protection on the Nomad Jukebox, offering a 16MB buffer versus the Nomad Jukebox's 8MB. This puts the player on par with the upcoming Rio Riot jukebox player, but less than the 32MB of buffer protection offered by the Apple iPod. Still, 16MB should be more than enough.

The Nomad 3 not only plays MP3, WMA, and WAV files, but it is also a recorder capable of recording in MP3 or WAV. A line-in jack facilitates input of anaolg/digital signals from vinyl, tape, and MD sources not easily ripped off your PC.

Other features offered on the Nomad 3 include a wired remote with FM tuner, a wireless remote for when the unit is hooked to a stereo, and a docking station to facilitate regular file transfers without having to set up the cabling each and every time.


Nomad 3 with Dock next to a Nomad II MG
(Photo courtesy of IGN.com)

How Big?

The big question about the Nomad 3 is how big is it? The Nomad Jukebox is the largest unit on the market weighing in at a hefty 397 gram (14 oz) and that became the biggest complaint about this unit after newer smaller jukebox portables followed it on the shelves. This includes the LYRA Personal Jukebox at 11oz (310 grams), the Rio Riot at 8.8oz (250 grams), and the Archos Jukebox at 10.2oz (290 grams). The winner in the weight to storage ratio is again the Apple iPod at 6.5oz (185 grams), less than half that of the Nomad Jukebox.

In terms of dimensions, the Nomad 3s girth at 4.8" x 5.12" x 1.38" is slightly slimmer than the Nomad Jukebox's 5" x 5.5" x 1.5" measurements, but that is still fairly large. The Lyra, the Archos and the Riot are all smaller in comparison and the Apple iPod is downright petite (4" x 2.4" x 0.78").

The Nomad 3s weight is an even more disappointing issue here. When we originally heard about the Nomad 3, rumor had it the player dropped the Nomad Jukebox's size by a third. While the unit is a smaller than the Nomad Jukebox, it weighs in the same at 14oz.

The Nomad 3 is due to hit stores in April at a price of $399, the same as the Apple, which only comes with 5GB of capacity. Despite having four times more storage and a FireWire port to match the Apple, size is a crucial issue and may play against the Nomad 3. While it is certainly a competitive unit when compared with its Windows-capable brethren, it doesn't look to be an iPod killer. Fortunately for Creative, the iPod is Mac only - for now.



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