iPod Killers for Christmas Part II

By Richard Menta 10/17/04

Two years ago Apple built the better mousetrap. This is the core reason why the iPod became as popular as it is. But give Apple marketing credit too; with sexy silhouette commercials running on prime time TV (the first MP3 player to do so) they turned the iPod into the latest fashion statement, an accessory of cool and style.

A little of the iPod's rise has to be credited to its competitiors too. That's because it took two years before they mounted competing products that could, well, really compete. These post-iPod units like the first Creative Zen and the Rio Riot were very good players, but much heavier and bulkier than the iPod. Apple didn't sit on its laurels either, evolving their player four times in those two years.

This latest crop of portables are of high interest because they have all absorbed the iPod's more compelling advantages, while offering more features to boot. This narrows the technical difference, but there is still the marketing chasm that has developed. These days many people are using the words iPod and MP3 player interchangeably (the way most of us call all gelatine desserts by the brand name Jello regardless of who the actual food manufacturer is). Such branding is rare and coveted in the marketing word and this will make it all the harder for other players to chip away at the iPod's dominence.

This simply means they will have to try harder, bringing new features and dynamic styling at a pace faster than usual. Personally, I think this is great news for the consumer as the evoulution of the digital music player will make signifigant advancements faster. Even if some of these portables are not all that iPod-worthy yet, future siblings will be.

Trust me, as the average life of a digital music portable is probably no more than a couple of years this is an explosive market and we should see some impressive products over the next couple of christmas'. Still, remember that iPod Killer is a marketing term, one that will become annoying and meaningless unless competitors come through with the goods.

Dell Pocket DJ 5

The new Dell DJ complements the larger Dell portable player with a unit that goes after the iPod Mini. Selling for $199, the Dell DJ comes in at $50 less than its Apple competitor, but offers 5GB of memory instead of four.

Utilizing the same Texas Instruments' Digital Audio processor found of the the 20GB Dell portable the new unit weighs in at 4.4 ounces. That's almost an ounce heavier than the iPod Mini that comes in at 3.6 ounces, though that's still pretty light. We have no dimensions for the new DJ, but they should be comparable to the iPod-Mini.

Dell Pocket DJ 5

Epson P-2000 PhotoViewer

Epson PhotoViewer

This unit, due in stores this November, is being marketed as a photo viewer by Epson, which is odd because it is really much more. The P-2000 is really an MPEG-4 video/MP3 player, a pure competitor to the Archos AV series of media jukebox portables.

Possessing a 40GB hard drive, the Epson has a large 3.8 inch VGA display. That display keeps battery life short, 3 hours as reported by Epson. The unit also plays AAC music files and has a video out to watch movies on your TV screen. Epson does not indicate the unit's size and weight in its press release. The P-2000 will accept CompactFlash and SD memory cards directly.

SanDisk Digital Audio Player

SanDisk, the maker of flash media that populates the memory of a fourth of all MP3 portables has decided to release its own player, a flash-based unit naturally.

The SanDisk Digital Audio Player will come in three flavors, offering 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB versions. The units will support standard MP3files, Windows Media file and Windows Media-based DRM file playback. This means they will be compatible with the new pay-to-rent song services the likes of Napster and MusicMatch will offer.

The tiny players also offer an FM tuner and voice record capabilities. Prices for the players will run $99.99, $149.99 and $199.99 respectively.

SanDisk Digital Audio Player

SoniqCast Aireo 2

What helps set the SoniqCast Aireo 2 apart from othe 20GB iPod clones is its inclusion of 02.11b-based wireless networking, which will allow the unit to download music over Wi-Fi connection. The unit also has an FM tranmitter to allow it to be played over your car's stereo without the need of annoying wires. FM quality is nowhere near the quality of a direct connection, but we have found that feature to be a damn convenient one nontheless.

Dimensions of the player are 2.6 by 4.1 by 0.74 inches, similar to the iPod's 4.1 by 2.4 by 0.57 inches. The unit is a little heavier though, weighing in at 6.3 ounces. The unit plays the common MP3, WMA and WAV audio formats.

SoniqCast Aireo 2

Woodi Cool

Woodi Cool

Korean manufacturer Woodi has turned to Ogg Vorbis as its secondary codec behind the MP3 standard out today. Savvy digital portable fans and gamers are very supportive of the open-source Ogg format and for good reason, it is an excellent codec. Even better, the Cool offers Linux support out of the box, a welcome feature to non-PC/Mac users.

The Cool has an unusual jacknife cover that hides the USB interface. Available in several different colors the cool also includes an FM tuner and voice record. The cool is available in 256MB and 512MB versions and is powered by a LI-Polymer Rechargable Battery

Roc Digital RocBox

Music entrepreneur Damon Dash has turned his sights on the iPod movement with his competing portable the RocBox.

Hoping to repeat the success of his Roc-A-Fella Records and Rocawear brands, Damon sees digital music as a groeth area for his business to balance the difficulties in making money in the record business alone.

The RocBox line launches in November with two chrome-colored models, a 20GB model that’ll sell for $299 and a smaller 246MB flash-based player that’ll cost $159. Both units will play MP3 and WMA files. The units will be available in CompUSA stores and marketed heavilty through Dash's other business enterprises.

Roc Digital RocBox

Muzio JM-600

Yet another Ogg Vorbis player to appear, the Muzio is one of the more interesting (OK ugly) shaped digital portables to appear this year. Available in 2.2GB or 4GB hard drive configurations this iPod Mini competitor also allows jpg file viewing on its 1.5 inch color screen.

Rumor has it that the next iPod's will possess photo viewing capabilities. If that happens, the Muzio will be well-positioned with the addition of an FM tuner and of course its Ogg support. If it weren't so damn ugly. Maby it will succeed as the Saab of the digital player set.


The 20GB Archos Gmini 400 Digital Audio/Video Jukebox is available on Amazon

Other MP3 stories:
iPod Killers for Christmas Part I
iPod Killers for Christmas Part III
iPod Killers for Christmas Part IV
iPod Killers for Christmas Part V

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