iPod Killers for Christmas Part V

By Richard Menta 11/18/04

To be perfectly frank, while I expected a rush of iPod clones to be announced for the holiday season I did not expect it to take five articles to cover them. Considering this list was at the exclusion of players that were announced before October (like new video/MP3 players from Sony and Creative or the Oakley Thump) there is a lot of product out there fighting for a market Apple has alone claimed two-thirds of. With so much choice it will indeed be survival of the fittest - or at least the best marketed. Furthermore, attrition will be brutal if the iPod can retain its present market share through the holidays.

Interestingly (and ironically) the companies offering these iPod Killers are hoping that holiday iPod sales are a little BETTER than expected. That's because there is the potential Apple will run out of players after the first week of December, leaving the peak days before Christmas to everyone else. Jobs has already warned shoppers to put their iPod orders in early. It's quite possible that those iPod commercials have created such a hype for digital music portables this season that it will significantly benefit sales of non-Apple players too.

There is no shortage of them if that's the case.

Aiwa XDM-S710BT Bluetooth

The BT in the long number that identifies this player stands for Bluetooth. This 256MB portable supports both MP3 and ATRAC format, but not the more popular WMA or ACC codecs, a selection that gives away Sony's relationship with the Aiwa.

The aluminum bodied unit is powered by 1 AA battery. Dimensions are a slim 88.6 x 24.6 x 24.3mm.

The XDM-S710BT does not possess many other features like an FM tuner. Iit does support the "Bluetooth Hands-free/Headset Profile allowing users to wirelessly connect with Bluetooth-supporting cellular phones.


Aiwa XDM-S710BT

Entempo Spirit


The Entempo Spirit is available on Amazon

A 20GB player for under $200? That's an excellent price for a newly released portable and one that should generate a look or two for those who prefer not to have the same player everyone else does (read iPod).

The Entempo Spirit offers an FM tuner and garners about 10 hours of battery time through its Li-ion rechargeables. One of the features that the Spirit touts is something they call the ShoX drive protection system. The system is designed to protect the units drive from excessive jarring during rough activities. Entempo claims that ShoX offers five times more protection over a normal hard drive.

 

Sony Vaio U Plays iTunes


Apple has refused to the license FairTunes DRM to makers of other digital portables. This way only the iPod can play music purchased on iTunes. Well iPods and any PC using the Mac OS or Windows.

So what happens when you make a PC almost the size of the larger digital music portables? You have a portable media center that plays all formats. Interesting workaround, though it is not a cheap one.

The Sony Vaio U weighs in at 1.2 lb - light for a PC, heavy for a digital media player - uses a 20GB 1.8" drive and plays audio, video and anything else. The cost is $2000, far more expensive than an iPod and more than most laptops, so the premium priced Vaio U is not the most cost effective if you only want an entertaiment device. For road warriors whose company is picking up the tab.

Digital Minds Corporation Flash Player

DMC, the company that presently offers the first digital music portables above 100GB of capacity, has announced a complementary flash player to extend its portable line.

The DMC Flash offers 256MB of memory with an SD/MMC slot for additional capacity. Available in two colors, snow white and blue, the unit has an FM tuner as well as voice record capabilities.

The price for this unit will run about $100, a good price for a flash unit with expandable memory.

Digimaster HAAP3

Equipped with an O.L.E.D display, Digimaster Singapore has announced the HAPP3 MP3 Player. The unit comes with 256MB of memory and like most other flash players these days comes with an FM tuner.

The unit is available in three colors, Pearl, Orange and Blue. It is powered by a single AAA battery.

Overall there is nothing all too spectacular about this player and with a suggested list of about $200 it runs more expensive than others in its class. This includes the new flash player by Creative, which offers a 1GB unit for about the same price.

X2 MegaView

Touting itself as a 7-in-way portable, the linux-based X2 MegaView joins the new fray of mediaboxes supporting both audio and video playback.

Selling for a $400, the MegaView is a 20GB unit with a 3.5-inch, backlit TFT display. The unit has both video playback and video record capabilities and supports MPEG-4 and DivX. Like the iPod photo as well as all other video-audio portables the unit can display stills covering the JPEG, GIF, BMP or TIFF formats.

The MegaView plays MP3 and WMA music files, though it does not say if the unit supports Microsoft's latest incarnation of Windows Media's digital rights manageement scheme.

To round out the features, the X2 MegaView has an FM tuner and supports voice recording.

X2 MegaView

SIGMAtek DX740


SIGMAtek’s new DX-740

Whenever someone brings up the iPod Video to Steve Jobs at the various Apple news conferences he vigorously denies that such a creature is in the works. He gives a myriad of reasons why they won't sell, but other manufacturers are not listening as we have seen a flood of new mediaboxes this winter.

The DX720 is the latest contender. This unit plays video MPEG-4, DivX, and RMP video files on a wide 6.5-inch LCD. The unit also plays music and stills in the dollowing formats: JPEG / GIF / BMP / TIF / MP3 / WMA. The unit weighs 400g without battery and the dimensions are 7,52’’ x 4,33’’ x 1,02’’.

Added bonus, the DX-740 offers an optional GPS plug-in for local navigation.

SAFA SR-M800F

Another name for the SAFA SR-M800F is the Color MP3 Entertainer, another photo displaying, color screened digital music portable that most people ignored until Apple introduced an MP3 player with the same features.

The flash-based player comes in 256MB, 512MB, and 1GB versions. The unit has an FM radio and can record from live radio broadcasts as well, a feature we would like to see in more players with radio tuners. The SR-M800F also has voice recording and MP3/WMA/OGG support. Photos are displayed in the JPEG format.

A built-in speaker is one feature I always liked, yet haven't seen in a digital music portable in a while. Good for playing background music at picnics and the like, I always found this feature useful despite the fact that such small speakers are always tinny with, at best, mediocre sound.


SAFA SR-M800F

 

 

 

 


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 IV

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