iPod Killers for Christmas Part III

By Richard Menta 10/24/04

Here is round three of the latest digital music portables:

Motorola m500

Motorola releasing an MP3 player? The same Motorola that abandoned the TV and radio markets decades ago. Well, it's not all that far fetched considering that recently signed a deal with Apple to make the iTunes music player standard on all of Motorola's music phones starting next spring.

So does this mean that the Motorola m500 will play Apple's DRM-coated AAC files? If so they havn't listed it in the in initial specs for this player, which state only MP3 and WMA. But if Apple is going to enter the phone/music download market through Motorola (which means they are extending FairPlay capability beyond the iPod) they might as well offer it in the m500, even if through a later firmware upgrade.

Thumbstick controls and an FM radio are offered in this 5GB unit, which is powered by owner removeable lithium-ion rechargeables. We have no size specs on the m500 so we can't say how it fits and weighs compared to the iPod Mini.

Motorola m500

iRiver PMP 120

The iRiver PMP 120 is available on Amazon

iRiver recently announced that they are entering the automobile digital music player market with a soon to be finished factory that will pump out 700K systems a month. They also announce this Linux-based (as opposed to Windows Media Center based) video/audio mediabox.

Along the lines of the Archos and Creative portables, the PMP120 has a 20GB drive and includes a 3.5-inch TFT LCD display. The unit plays video files compressed in DivX 3.11, 4.0, 5.x, XviD,and MPEG-4. For audio it handles MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA and ASF.

The PMP 120 measures 5.5 x 3.3 x 1.2 inches and is a bit heavy at10oz. The unit has an FM tuner and voice record capabilities as well as a TV out supporting both the American NTSC and the British PAL systems.

DMC Xclef 500 137GB Portable - Made in the USA

If you can't beat the iPod with looks, beat it with capacity, 100GB to be exact. The first 100GB portable, this unit will have a 137GB version out soon.

For the uber-user, Digital Mind Corp's player has been nicknamed by the company's marketing team as the "Big Brother". It's certainly not a small unit like the iPod. The unit weighs 9oz, not as heavy as some portables, but significantly more than the iPod's 5.6 oz. Dimensions are 5 x 3.2 x 0.87-inches versus the iPod's more svelt 4.1 x 2.4 x 0.57 inches.

But it's the capacity that is meant draw digi-philes to the Xclef. Another intersting note about this player is that it is one of the rare few manufactured in the USA as opposed to South Korea or Taiwan.

The Xclef plays MP3 and Ogg Vorbis files as well as WMA and ASF. The unit has an FM Tuner and voice record capabilities.

DMC claims that the Xclef's Lithium-ion batteries will hold out for 20 hours of playback time.

DMC Xclef 500

Jens of Sweden MP-400

Jens line of players go after the iPod not by adding a lot of features but by aiming at the style concious, particularly women. Just look at the colors of their newest player, snow white, falun red, amber, ice and pink. The OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode ) display is a feature that shows the MP-400 is more than style.

Available Nov 3, the MP-400 has the features too. It plays MP3, WMA, ASF and OGG files. It also has a built-in FM radio and voice recording. The 1GB version sells for $500. There are also 256 MB, 512 MB versions available. Dimensions are 63.6 x 27 x 15.7 mm

Jens of Sweden MP-400

Digital Square i-Station PMP1000

Another new unit to throuw its hat into the blossoming Video/Audio player market the, i-Station PMP1000 sports a 3.5-inch color LCD to watch movies and navigate the menu. Selling for $500, Navigation is handled directly on the touchscreen display.

The player handles a wide range of competing formats. On the audio side we have another Ogg Vorbis unit that also plays MP3 files. For video the i-Station PMP100 plays MPEG 1/2/4, DivX, and XviD. JPEG playback is also offered for viewing photographs.

An FM radio is included with the i-Station PMP1000. Other features include a calculator and a dictionary.

Sony NW-S23 S2 Sports Network Walkman

A big reason Sony has failed to dent the digital portable market is that none of their players support the MP3 format, just their own proprietary (and very good) codec ATRAC3. The problem is consumers have all their music in MP3 and resent having to transcode each file laboriously to ATRAC3 just to play them on a Sony portable. In the end, they simply didn't buy them.

To drive sales Sony capitulated and recently claimed that they would start selling all of its future portables with MP3 capability. Unfortunately, the new Sony Sports Network Walkman doesn't have that capability.

The ATRAC3-only Sony Sports is 3.9 x 1.9 x 0.78-inches, is USB1.1 only, and holds 256MB of memory. Not a lot for the $230 price they are asking though. The unit is water-resistant (not waterproof so keep out of the pool).

The Sony NW-S23 S2 Sports Network Walkman is available on Amazon

Shinco’s Z2

The Z2 out of France is the smallest of the latest round of digital music portables. Meant to be worn like a pendant, the unit weighs in at only half an ounce. 1.7 inches in diameter and 0.4 inches thick, the Shinco Z2 unit comes in 128MB or 256MB versions. The player utilizes a Lithium-ion battery that is recharged through the USB 2.0 connector. Shinco says that the battery will offer up 8 hours of playback time.

While there isn't a lot to this player that makes it an iPod killer beyond size, the Z2 does have a curious feature. The Z2 also has the duel capability of booting a computer with the company's stripped down Linux offspring Shinux. There are a couple of dozen open-sourced applications that use the OS.

Toshiba Gigbeat

The 60GB drive in the Toshiba Gigabeat seemed to posess some very healthy capacity until Digital Mind Corp announced they have a 137GB version of the Xclef due soon to complement the 100GB Xclef they just released. Of course, the Toshiba uses their smaller and lighter 1.8" drive - the one found in the iPod 40GB and 20GB models - and that give it a leg up on the fairly big and heavy Xclef..

As of this writing, Apple has not disclosed if the iPod will get this 60GB drive too (we expect it will because Toshiba shares in the iPod's success strategically and financially), but the Gigabeat is getting it first.

Navigation is controlled by a sliding "Plus Cross". The unit comes with a 2.2" color screen, USB 2.0, and the company is claiming 20 hour lifespan on the unit's batteries. Toshiba has not released a price on this unit yet.

Toshiba Gigabeta 60GB Player


The U2 iPod is available on Amazon

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

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