More iPod Killers for Summer 2006

By Richard Menta 7/7/06

This is a big summer for iPod competitiors. In May when we released the iPod Killers for Summer we didn't realize that there were still quite a few portables of significance yet to be announced and released. It turns out enough showed up to warrant another article so here they are:

Creative Zen V and Zen V Plus

As Apple and Creative square off in an acrimonious patent dispute Creative is still searching for that magic formula that will allow it to begin the crawl back up to double digit market share. Last week the company ran some ads announcing that its mystery player was coming. With all the suspense we expect something of interest and here it is - the Creative Zen V and Zen V plus.

The Creative Zen V is a flash unit offering 1GB, 2GB and 4GB capacities. In other words it is going after the iPod nano. The Zen V offers a 1.5" 128 x 128 pixels OLED display in a 1.7" x 2.6" x 0.62" body , bigger than the nano's 3.5" x 1.6" x 0.27" specs. The unit weighs in at 1.5 ounces. The Creative Zen V supports MP3, WMA, IMA ADPCM, WMA PlaysForSure formats. The Zen V does not support the new WMA 11, for all of you thinking of using MTV's new Urge muisc service.

The Zen V plus is the same player with the addition on video and photo support as well as an FM tuner.

Creative Zen V

Philips SA 9200

Philips SA9100 and SA200

As we sail past the end of spring with the solstice upon us and look to the last group of summer MP3 portables we find Philips has introduced its latest entry. Two actually, aimed squarely at the iPod nano in size and capacity.

The Philips GoGear SA9100 and SA9200 hold 1GB and 2GB of memory respectively, otherwise they offer the same feature set. Both units offer an FM tuner paired with a voice recorder. Rechargeable batteries gather 14 hours of playing time and the touchpad is backlit for low light navigation. The display offers a color screen for viewing album art and family photos, otherwise nothing to differentiate it from the nano.

The GoGear SA9100 will retail for $150 and the SA9200 will sell for $200, matching the iPod nano's price points. Release date of this unit may not be until early September, which means this unit really should not be classified as a summer player, but a candidate as the first portable for our iPod Killers for Christmas list, which will be released sometime in October.

MusicGremlin MG-1000 has WiFi

Following in the footsteps of the Sonique Aireo the MusicGremlin company has released its first MP3 player, a WiFi unit that uses 802.11b technology to access files via wireless.

MusicGremlin released its MG-1000, which offers 8GB of memory and an FM receiver. Capable of playing MP3 and PlaysForSure WMA files, the MG-1000 is matched with MusicGremlin's new download service that sports 2 million tracks. The service is also WiFi enabled allowing users to download tracks from a hotspot without the need of a PC. Users can also use the WiFi feature to trade tracks with friends (or strangers) who have MusicGremlins, a feature that should keep the RIAA up at nights.


Toshiba Gigabeat P5 NANA

Toshiba Gigabeta P5 NANA

Apple has the nano, so Toshiba HAS to have a NANA.

The tiny P5 offers a 1.1" color screen and is available in 512MB and 1GB capacities. It handles MP3 and WMA as well as photos. Other than that it is a pretty base unit with the 1GB coning in at just under $140. The unit is expected to hit Japan in July, but it is unclear yet if it will see its American debut before the fall season when makers unveil their latest products for the Christmas holiday.

JVC XA-C109 and the XA-C59

A lot of people don't know that JVC stands for Japanese Victor Company and that it was originally a foreign subsidiary of RCA, hense Nipper on the faceplate. Now it is owned by Matsushita, the company that owns Panasonic and is all Nippon owned and run. Now they have released their latest players the XA-C109 and the XA-C59.

Both units are identical except that the XA-C109 offers 1GB and the XA-C59 offers 512MB of memory. Both units support MP3 and PlaysForSure WMA (but not the new WMA 11). Both also offer an FM tuner, voice record and a 20 hour battery life per charge. In other words nothing particularly special about these two units. The faceplate with its faux-wood lines and scroll wheel that looks like a speaker gives it an old school look, but that's about it.


MobiBLU US2 Ultraslim

MobiBLU US2 Ultraslim

Now that MobiBLU is sold in WalMart and Target stores you have to look at them as one of the bigger contenders despite the fact they haven't had much luck grabbing iPod market share either. This little unit shows that the maker is going to give it a good run though.

The Ultra-Slim 2 (hence US2 moniker) is virtually the identical size of the nano with a 80mm x 40mm x 7mm shell versus the nano's 89mm x 41mm x 7mm. The MobiBLU sports a 1.5-inch OLED color screen, which will eat up less battery than the iPod's display. The US2 comes in 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB saizes like the nano, but also offers video playback support along with the music and photo play capabilities. The US2 is also a recorder, though it is not clear if that is audio only or video too.

Philips SA1200

Nothing too exciting to report on Philips' SA1200 other than it is targeting the iPod Shuffle, which at this writing constitutes one-third of all iPod sales. The Philips players do offer a small display for the money offering the unit in 512 MB and 1GB flavors. The Philips SA1200 plays MP3 and WMA files and not much more.

Philips SA1200

Siren Edge

Siren Edge

For those of us who miss the Rio and what might have been had Denon/Marantz not liquidated the brand there is the Siren company and its first MP3 player the Edge. Launched in December 2004 by ex-Rio designers Gil Miller and Kevin Brangan, the company hopes to grab the late Rio's baton and continue its tradition of fine MP3 portables. Yeah, the iPod crushed Rio in the marketplace, but that didn't mean Rio stopped making damn good portables. The question is have Miller and Branagan really delivered the Rio Cubic's successor?

Shaped like the side view mirror of a '64 Chevy, the Siren Edge is a 4GB flash unit with an FM tuner and a fairly simple, straightforward display. It's bigger than an iPod nano, is MP3 and WMA compatible and runs on a single AAA battery. WalMart will sell it for $210.

Transcend T.sonic 530

Transcend T.sonic 530

It looks like a pretty tin of mints, but it is in reality the latest in a long line of MP3 portables appearing this summer looking to make a mark in the digital music market.

The Transcend T.sonic 530 (try looking up a name like T.sonic in Google and see if that search engine can pick it up) offers a one line OLED display, which is one line more than the iPod Shuffle it targets. The 530 comes in 512MB and 1GB capacities and offers both an FM tuner and voice record as part of the standard feature set. That gives the T.sonic another leg up against the Shuffle.

The lithium ion batters in the 530 offer 15 hours of play time to the charge. The unit's 51mm x 26mm x 19mm shell fares well against the iPod nano's 89mm x 41mm x 7mm. No word on the pricing of the unit yet.

Samsung Yepp TP-T9

Samsung Yepp TP-T9 with Bluetooth

Samsung has received FCC approval for its newest Bluetooth-enabled MP3 portable, a direction the company sees iPod-busting potential in.

The YP-T9 comes in at under half-an-inch thick and weighs in at 1.7 ounces. It handles MP3/WMA/OGG files and possesses an FM tuner and voice recorder. The Samsung handles both photo and text viewing as well as video support, though at only 15 frames-per-second at 208 by 176 resolution. No price yet on the player.

Napster adds an MP3 player

Napster the music store is a distant second in the paid downloads market to iTunes (except in the UK where is second with 14% market share, nearly double Napster's 8%). Despite more digital audio portables offering PlaysForSure DRM, Napster probably felt that their own branded player will draw more customers, particularly if strong player incentives are offered to pull them in. Think what Ford and GM are doing to drive buyers to their auto lots and you get the idea.

The new Napster player comes in two flavors. The first is a 256MB model that is free if the user signed up for one year of the $15 Napster-to-go-service. The second model is a 1GB version for an added $50 with service. That's actually pretty good for a unit that plays MPEG-4 video as well as audio. The Napster player sports a color LCD screen, an FM tuner, and handles the usual MP3, WMA. JPEG format mix. All of this goes with a Napster software upgrade the company introduced with the player.

Napster MP3 player

Meizu M6 MiniPlayer

Meizu M6 MiniPlayer

To be perfectly frank, if we go by the specs alone the Meizu M6 MiniPlayer is the exact type of player Sony or RCA should be putting out if they are really serious about gaining market share on the iPod. The Meizu M6 MiniPlayer is a tight little player for a video-enabled unit. Its 79 x 48.2 x 10mm shell size competes directly with the iPod nano's 89mm x 41mm x 7mm, undercuts the nano in price, yet offers a feature set greater than the full-sized iPod.

The M6 weighs in at 55 grams and supports the MP3, MP2, WMA (PlaysForSure) and OGG audio formats. The unit sports a widescreen 2.4 inch display, a 260K color QVGA TFT LCD for playing avi-formatted video. The unit also includes the standard FM tuner and voice recorder, but also adds an FM transmitter for playing tunes off of the car radio sans wires, a feature we have found through experience as among the most useful. The Meizu is coming to the states and will retail for $139 for 1GB, $159 for 2GB and $219 for the 4GB.

Venzero Mini One

Released to compliment the company's first digital audio player the Venzero One, the Venzero Mini One also offers the MusicMarker recognition service that will identify the songs you record off of the radio.

The Venzero Mini One utilizes flash memory over the microdrive adopted by its big brother and comes in both 1GB and 2GB of capacity. With flash memory tight thanks to big orders from Apple, it waits to be seen of a 4GB version is also in the works. The Venzero Mini One sports a 1.3 inch OLED display for low power usage, and plays the standard MP3/WMA codecs. It handles Microsoft's PlaysForSure (WMA 10) technology, but not its new WMA 11 format now used by MTV's Urge service. The Mini One plays video files too. The unit comes in at 2.9 x 1.7 x 0.35-inches and weighs just under an ounce. Venzero Minis will run $119 for 1GB and $169 for 2GB.

Venzero Mini One

RCA H100 Series

RCA H100 Series

In all the years that MP3 Newswire has covered digital audio players (way back in 1998) we have followed the RCA MP3 offerings since the first Lyra. Still, for a company that was behind the creation of the MP3 codec we havenever seen anything other than an average player come from the brand. Their portables are usually good, just never among the best. Still, considering RCA DAPs are sold in WalMart, Target, and Radio Shack you would think they would be a bit more visible on the street?

The RCA 4GB H100 and 6GB H106 are yet another example of the brand's plain vanilla offerings. At a time when 4GB and 6GB players are small flash units, RCA utilizes microdrive technology to hit these capacities. Others are using microdrives too, but to reach 8GB of storage. It may be new, but the H100 series seems so 2004, especially with its use of a B&W display. The units do support Microsoft's new WMA 11 format, one of the few that do today.

Logitec LAT-FM300U

Here is something to stick in that unused cigarette lighter socket. Logitec has released a new player that plugs into your car's power source and broadcasts MP3 and WMA tracks to the stereo system via a built-in FM transmitter. No display and the capacity is no more than half a gig, but for $69 it seems a convenient little buy.

The unit comes in six colors schemes including faux carbon fiber and burled walnut to match fancier auto interiors. The Logitec LAT-FM300U comes in at 146 x 40 x 25.5mm and weighs 75g. I know, lately I have been too lazy to convert from the metric. Forgive me America.

Logitec LAT-FM300U

Fusion Digital Media Player

Fusion Digital Media Player is Waterproof

Last year we reviewed the SwiMP3, the first MP3 portable for underwater use. We were quite impressed with that unit, which utilized bone conduction to transfer audio to the brain while submerged. Now comes the Fusion Digital Media Player, which likewise can be submerged up to 10 feet. The unit is offered in 256MB and 512MB flavors, both greater than the 128MB the SwiMP3 still offers.

The Fusion Digital Media Player uses special earbuds rather than bone conduction for underwater use. As our ears work more efficiently with air, Fusion owners might want to invest in a pair of Vibone bone conducting headphones for better sound delivery.

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