iPod Killers for Christmas Part IV

By Richard Menta 10/31/04

This past week Apple announced two new iPods, one that added photo viewing capabilities with a video out to show on TV screens. The other a version of their standard player in black, red, and the band U2's moniker scribbled all over it. Apple again denied an iPod Video was in the works, an idea whose real power will come from convincing television broadcasters to make their TV shows available on iTunes for $0.50 an episode. When that happens, the iPod Video will happen.

As for the existing flavors of iPod, it strengthens the notion that Apple's success came not from a myriad of unique features, but from building more convenient players. The competition's goal is to do the latter while offering the former to differentiate themselves. Here are the latest entries.

Sony NW-E99 and NW-E95

Sony's first MP3 players. After several years of digital music portables that languished on shelves because few wanted a player that only played the ATRAC3 format, Sony finally did what it needed to do. Listen to their customers.

These players are light and simple flash units that get, according to Sony, 70 hours of playback from its battery. Not a lot of features on them, but they have ample capacity.

The $300 NW-E99 comes with 1GB of memory, while the $255 NW-E95 comes with 512MB. Otherwise, these two units are the same.

Sony NW-E99 and NW-E95

Gateway MP3 Photo Jukebox

Gateway MP3 Photo Jukebox

Hey, if Dell gets to have an iPod killer and HP gets an actual iPod, then Gateway is getting into the game too. Their photo jukebox was only announced two days after Apple's, so a color screen with photo capability has taken this player from a unit with features Apple didn't offer to one that only matches them.

But, that may be OK as the iPod Photo hype also showcases the value those features to the marketplace. That can work in Gateway's favor as the Gateway is also a lot less expensive that the iPod Photo at $249.99. The Gateway MP3 Photo Jukebox comes with a 4 GB hard drive and a 1.6 inch color screen for viewing. It will be available in stores mid-November.

Jens Of Sweden Excentrique MP-400 Gold-Plated

Nope, your not seeing things. The Jens Of Sweden Excentrique MP-400 is plated in gold. 24K gold to be exact. While Jen's players may be very standard with regards to their electronics, he's not selling you just the player, he's selling style.

With the Excentrique MP-400 Jen's is also selling exclusivity. A portable player that stands out from the rest visibly rather than technically and what stands out more that good old gold. Dimensions for the Excentrique are 2.5 x 1 x 0.6-inches. It has 1GB of memory, an FM tuner and ys MP3, WMA, ASF, and OGG.

For the ostentatious and those who want a unique instrument, something the all too popular iPod cannot offer. Plus it plays Ogg Vorbis! Cost: $1,199.00.

Jens Of Sweden Excentrique MP-400

Asono Elio Photo

Hailing from Scandinavia, the Asono Elio Photo is another direct competitor the the recently released iPod Photo.

Selling for a healthy $499, the Elio offers 20GB of capacity and a 2.2-inch color LCD display. The Elio reads the JPEG, BMG, and GIF picture formats for photos. For music the Asono supports MP3, WMA, WAV, and ASF audio formats

The unit does not possess a video out like the iPod photo, a negative for those who prefer to view their pics on their TVs. On the plus side the Elio does take SD flash media and allows for direct USB transfer from other devices, two features the iPod does not have. Asono claims that the Elio gets 12 hours on a single charge of its rechareable batteries.

Samsung Yepp T5V

The Samsung Yepp T5V

Samsung's most recent MP3 addition, the Samsung Yepp T5V offers up to 1GB of music in its small case.

Starting at $120 for the 128MB version going up to $249 for the 1GB, the Yepp T5V is a fairly simple, if not run-of-the-mill, unit. It offers an FM tuner and comes in several colors, similar to a number of other digital music providers. The T5V has MP3 and WMA playback, but utilizes no other codecs like Ogg Vorbis or ACC.

The T5V does offer simulated surround sound, offering improved sound that sets it slighly apat from other players.

Transcend Digital Album

And yet another competitor to the iPod Photo. Selling for $349 the Transcend Digital Album features a 2.5-inch True Color LCD monitor and stores 20GB of material on it's 1.8" drive.

What makes the Transcend particularly interesting is that it can take most variety of flash media using two built-in memory card slots. The slot on the top of the player accepts CompactFlash Type I and II solid-state flash cards, which can also run the Hitachi Microdrives found in the iPod Mini. The side slot accepts SD/MMC cards, Sony's Memory Stick cards, and good old fashioned Smart Cards.

The Transcend Digital Album plays JPEG photos and JPEG movies as well. Like the iPod Photo the unit has an AV out to view content on a TV, plus it adds an infrared remote for further convenience. Output plays both American NTSC and British PAL TV formats. The unit plays MP3 and WAV files.

The Transcend Digital Album is available on Amazon

Perstel PMP1004

Perstel PMP1004

British company Perstel, known for its digital radios, has annonced its entry into the video jukebox segment with its PMP1004.

The 20G unit has a 2.83-inch LCD color display, offers line-in audio/video encoding and offers playback video in the MPEG4 and DivX formats. The unit also plays music compressed in the MP3 and WMA codecs and can view JPEG photos.. We have no price on the unit as of yet

GoVideo Rave-MP ARC5.0

Way back in the early years of MP3 portables, a company called Sensory Science made the best players available with their Rave-MP line. Sensory Science was then aquired by SonicBlue, who had acquired the Diamond Rio line of players a year ealier. SonicBlue folded the Sensory Science engineers into the Rio brand and the Rave line came to an end.

In the wake of SonicBlue's implosion (where Denon Marantz picked up the now revitalized Rio brand) it looks like the Rave players live again. The new unit is the Rave-MP ARC5.0, a 5GB iPod Mini competitor that is now produced under the GoVideo brand, another SonicBlue refugee who were Sensory Science's original parent. Priced at $229, the ARC5.0 has an FM tuner, both voice and radio record capacity, and an Li-ion battery for ten hours of playback ability.

The ARC5.0 plays MP3 and the WMA format. I can't say if any of the same designers are still with the company. Also, what was fantastic in 1999 is run-of-the-mill today, which is another reason why there is no guarantee that the Rave-MP is up to the standards the iPod set and then raised. The specifications are right in line, so the potential is there.

The Rave-MP ARC5.0 is available on Amazon

Aiwa HZWS2000S

Aiwa HZWS2000S

While Jens of Sweeden puts out a gold-plated portable, Aiwa decided a chrome-plated portable would be just as stylish. The recently announced Aiwa HZWS2000S is only a centimeter thick (a little over a third of an inch) and comes in red and blue also.

The unit has 1.5GB of capacity, modest for a hard drive portable. To keep the unit small, the display was moved to the unit's wired remote, a ploy first seen in 2000 when Nike released its first gym player, the neoprene-clad PSA Play.

The unit only recognizes the MP3 format and is pretty sparton on the features. One interesting feature it does have is Music Charger mode, which allows you to throw four entire songs into the unit's flash memory to eliminate breaks when the unit's hard drive is bounced during exercise.


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 II
iPod Killers for Christmas Part III
iPod Killers for Christmas Part V

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