iPod Killers: 30 New Players for the Holidays

By Richard Menta 10/13/07

Since 2004 we have run our bi-annual iPod Killer Christmas/Summer series. During this period we have reported on 215 portable players and in all of that time NOT one single iPod Killer has emerged from the bunch. This doesn't mean there aren't any compelling portables out there, just that none have garnered enough mass market traction to unseat the iPod. The iPod touch, for all of its niggling flaws, has set that bar even higher and we are not even venturing into the iPhone and what it is doing in the mobile phone market. Times are tough for the competiton, but the good news is that they keep trying.

So here is the latest bunch of newcomers. They include those stuffed with impressive features (the iRiver W10), ventured into the rhelm of robotics (the Sony Rolly) and offer interesting solutions to battery time (Ecodigital Windup PMP). We also have the various oddities we like to include just for giggles.

Sony Rolly

The Sony Rolly is definitely a unique beast for a digital audio player and that alone should garner it quite a bit of attention for the holiday season. For those who haven't caught the YouTube video the egg-shaped Sony Rolly dances to the tunes you are playing on it. Well a sort of a dance/roll/flap series of motions that at times seem like absolute folly and at other times like creative fun. The way the Sony Rolly gyrates across the floor implies a certain degree of sophistication of what is essentially a music driven robotic. You have to give it points for that as not every robot has to vacume the floor while it slides across it.

The Rolly comes with 1GB of memory and has built-in Bluetooth (as wired speakers aren't exactly going to work while the Rolly is twisting about your kitchen floor). There are two external stereo speakers that also pump out the tunes. Battery life is rated at five hours. The cost for the Sony Rolly is a steep $350, though the Rolly has enough kitch culture appeal to be both a hot, though short-lived, christmas toy as well as a pop culture trivia question in the year 2019.


Sony Rolly MP3 Player


The Archos 705 Wi-Fi portable DVR is available on Amazon

Archos 705 Wi-Fi

For those who find that a 3" widescreen display is not enough here comes an updated monster from Archos that's that make's new top-of-the-line offering. Yep, that's a 7" touch-screen display with 800x480 resolution the Archos 705 is offering. The 705 handles MPEG-4 and WMV video, as well as the MP3, AAC and WMA codecs on the audio side. A French player, the 705 handles SECAM as well as NTSC and PAL broadcast standards.

WiFi, of course, it the other key feature of this unit allowing users to connect online or to a nearby PC. Users can also connect the 705 wirelessly to the ARCHOS Content Portal . The Archos 705 is available with 80GB of space for $399 and with a 169GB drive for $499.

Cowon L2 with TPEG

Archos is not the only manufacturer sporting a 7" display on a portable. Cowon, who last summer introduced the svelt D2, has followed it with this fall with the new L2 unit. Like the D2, the Cowon L2 is both Ogg and FLAC friendly and handles all of the common audio codecs, namely MP3, WMA and WAV. The TPEG in the name stands for the Transport Protocol Expert Group, which means it can tap into a real time traffic information service for you folk in congested urban regions. The L2 has a picture-in picture feature and an SD slot for extending the storage capacity. You'll need it, because strangely this MPEG-4 unit only comes with a modest 2GB of on board storage. The L2 will retail for about $380.



The Cowon L2


Cowon iAudio 7

Cowon iAudio 7

The Cowon iAudio 7 packs up to 8GB of memory, but it ain't exactly the thinnest player on the market with its 3.0' x 1.4" x 0.7" form factor. Still the small 1.3" 260K TFT LCD display is an improvement with regards to video playback than the the OLED screen of its predecessor the iAudio 6. like its L2 and D2 brethren the iAudio 7 supports the FLAC and OGG codecs for you folk out there who want better than MP3, while supporting open format alternatives.

The iAudio 7 has an FM tuner and voice record features and Cowon is claiming 60 hours worth of audio time off of the units Li-ion battery. This would account for the chunkiness of the unit and, as batteries tend to be heavy, any supposed added weight to the player. The iAudio 7 is available in 4GB for $182 and 8GB for $249. Cown says that a 16GB model is in the works, though the manufacturer did not disclose if this unit would be made available in time for the Christmas holidays. Cowon also did not offer a price on the 16GB iAudio 7, but it will probably run in the $300 range to keep it under the proce of the iPod touch.

Zune 2GB, 4GB and 80GB

Microsoft hopes to soon root "we're number two" for the Zune, introducing two new units. The first Zune unit is an 80GB model that looks almost the same as the original Zune, but is 27% smaller. Called the Zune 80GB, the new generation Zune can be recognized by the touchpad, which replaces a circle with a square with rounded edges. The Zune 80GB offers a 3.2" display.

The other new Zune is a flash-based portable, available in 4GB and 8GB and called - your way ahead of me - the Zune 4gb and Zune 8GB. Both Zune flash units are available in red, olive, pink and black. The new Zune players share features, including a wireless PC sync feature and an FM tuner Microsoft also stated that they have extended wireless sharing on the Zune. It will still limit users to only three plays of whatever file they share, but there is no longer a time limit before the files expire.


Zune 2GB, 4GB and 80GB.


Creative MuVo T100

Creative MuVo T100

Take the recently shipped Creative Zen Stone, stretch it out a little bit and give it up to 4GB of capacity and you have Creatives new MuVo T100. The MuVo T100 is going for that cross between the iPod Shuffle and the previous generation iPod nano - no screened basic unit that is thin, lean and fits easy in the pocket.

Creative's MuVo T100 is essentially a flash drive with music playing capability. The T100 weighs in at a little over half-an-ounce encased in a shell that is three inches long, one inch wide and a third of an inch thick. The T100 comes in four colors; black, white, blue and pink and gets 10 hours of play time on the charge. The T100 plays MP3, WMA and WAV files. The player ships the end of October and will retail for $59 for the 2GB player and $99 for the 4GB unit.

Creative Zen Stone Plus

Take the Creative Zen Stone, a unit we premiered in our Summer issue, add a screen and another GB of memory and you have the Zen Stone Plus. Selling for $69.99, the Zen Stone will handle MP3 and WMA files and come in multiple colors including black and pink.

Drag and drop file transfers are always welcomed over annoying transfer programs (yes, iTunes included). The unit also has an OLED screen, an FM tuner and a stopwatch. A tiny speaker system for the player dubbed the TravelSound Zen Stone shipped in July.


Creative Zen Stone Plus is available on Amazon

Barbie MP3 Player

Toshiba Gigabeat T401

Creative was the first to introduced a 16GB flash units to entice buyers away from the iPod legions and now Toshiba's turn. The Toshiba Gigabeat T401 offers Wi-Fi as its main draw. The unit sports a 2.4-inch standard aspect ratio TFT color display and handles WMA/MP3/WAV audio and WMV video. Dimensions are 3.37" x 2.12" x 0.38" and the T401 weighs in at 2.04 oz. That makes it slightly smaller and lighter than Creative's just introduces 16GB Zen PMP. The unit ships in October for $258. The T401S is the same unit without the Wi-Fi and retailing for $213

Creative Zen V 16GB

Creative's updated Zen V is the first 16GB flash player to make it to market and they priced it pretty reasonably. Unfortunately for them, Apple followed it up with a 16GB unit, though on the feature heavy and more expensive iPod touch. Otherwise, the unit has the same feature set as all the other flavors of the Zen V Plus including a built-in FM tuner and voice recorder

The new 16GB player will retail for $249 US. The 8GB unit retails for $169, the 4GB for $109 and the 2GB for $89, just $10 more than the ultra-spartan 1GB iPod shuffle.



Creative Zen V Plus


Creative 16GB Zen

Creative 16GB Zen PMP

The new Creative Zen PMP is available 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB capacities. The unit offers a 2.5" 16.7 million TFT color screen in standard 4:3 aspect ratio on a 2.16" x 3.26" faceplate. The player, meanwhile, is a slim 0.44" wide and weighs in at 2.3oz. The Zen supports a nice array of formats including DivX and Xvid to complement MJPEG (Tivo-to-go) and MV9 on the video side and MP3, and Microsoft's near abandoned PlaysForSure technology on the audio side. ACC is also there. An FM tuner, voice recording and SD slot round out the feature set. Prices run $149 for the 4GB, $199 for the 8GB, and $299 for the 16GB.

SwiMP3 v2

What disappoints me most about B&O's lastest digital audio portable is that from the initial specs it looks like something I would have expected them to release in 2004. For $625 - or slightly above the price of a 4GB iPhone - I expect the Bang and Olufsen BeoSound 6 to be the first 16GB flash unit to hit the market. Instead, we get a simple 4GB unit that Beoworld.org thinks is a rebranded Samsung YP-Z5, an iPod nano competitor that sells right now on Amazon for $159.

Now B&O has always been about style, but even here the unit falls flat. It's not unattractive, just common. At least the company's first portable, the BeoSound 2, had a unique shape to it. The BeoSound 2 is still available from B&O and while that 128MB portable is woefully outdated by today's standards, when it was introduced in 2001 (yes, that's how old it is) it was at least on the high end of digital portable flash capacity. In terms of simplicity, the BeoSound 6 is similar to the iPod nano. No FM tuner or line-in record. No Wi-Fi. No touch-screen interface. Just a straight audio player with a 1.8" 64K LCD display in a 3.5" x 1.7" x 0.5" shell.


Bang and Olufsen Beosound 6


Yamaha BODiBEAT

Yamaha BODiBEAT

The Yamaha Body Beat - I'm sorry BODiBEAT (how 20th century am I) looks to challenge the Apple's Nike + iPod pairing for the hearts of runners. The BODiBEAT has a built in accelerometer that measures the runners speed and distance as well as a pulse monitor to make sure that heart rate stays within range. The BODiBEAT also collects this information so it can be analyzed on your home PC. The most interesting aspect of this Yamaha DAP is the fact that it can be set to autmatically select tunes whose beat matches the pace of the user's run. The price of this unit is a healthy $300, which makes it more costly than a 2GB nano with the $30 Nike option added. Yamaha also only puts 512MB in this unit, which is skimpy memory for a portable these days.

Coby MPC-582

Coby sets its sites on the iPod Shuffle with this little portable, a 1GB belt-clip unit with a melifluous moniker, namely MPC-582. Ok, imagination is not Coby's strong suit, but for those looking for a simple inexpensive unit this 1.84" x 2.76" x 0.55" unit may do. The MPC-582 plays MP3 and WMA files and has a rechargeable battery. Coby does not list a price for the unit on its site, but figure it will be less than the $40 Creative is charging for its 1GB Zen Stone. I mean, it better be less.


Coby MPC-C582


San Disk Sansa Clip

SanDisk Sansa Clip

San Disk is the latest announcing an clip-on unit called the Sansa Clip, a not-so-basic unit that throws in an OLED display and an FM tuner for a dollar figure that still undercuts the spartan shuffle's $79 price point. The Sansa Clip will offer a 1GB unit for only $40, comparable to Creative's screenless Zen Stone. A 2GB unit is also offered for $60. The units will ship in September in pink, blue red, and black.

Ecodigital Windup PMP

For those who are fed up with the short battery times on some digital portables or who learned the hard way that the lithium-ion battery in your iPod has a half-life of two years this player may be for you - assuming you don't mind using a little muscle.

Windup radio inventor Trevor Baylis has joined forces with Ecodigital to release a windup portable media player. According to Baylis - who placed his John Hancock on the unit mind you - the Ecodigital PMP offers 40 minutes of playtime per minute of cranking with a maximum capacity of 20 hours. Not bad for the tree huggers among you. The 2 GB unit had an SD slot, FM tuner a 1.8" color screen and a healthy $344 price tag.


Ecodigital PMP


Panasonic SV-SD950N

Panasonic Bluetooth MP3 Player

In the past Panasonic's idea of an MP3 player is about as interesting as the monikers they attach to their portables. So what should we expect from the Panasonic SV-SD950N? Well, first off the bat is that this unit has bluetooth capability, a compelling feature that will allow users to ditch the earbuds in the photo for a pair of wireless headphones, particularly those you use for your mobile phone (hence the tiny phone icon in the photo). Otherwise, it is the same bland unit as its bluetooth deficient predecessor. 1GB of memory in the SD card slot, AAC, MP3 and WMA capability, four line OLED display and two color choices, black or white. In its favor the unit does claim a healthy 60-hour battery life, though that is probably with the bluetooth off, and it comes with noise-cancelling headphones as part of the package, another plus. But is it competitive at the $219 list price? Maybe, but that is still pricey for a 1GB audio-only player, bluetooth or not.

Sony NWZ-A810 and NWZ-S610 Series

Back in1999 Sony introduced its first DAP, the Sony Music Clip. Yes Virginia, Sony beat Apple to this space by a couple of years - and they failed, even without the iPod as a competitior. That's because Sony's players did not play the MP3 format, only Sony's proprietary ATRAC format.

ATRAC was a more modern and thus superior codec than MP3, but those digitally plugged in before the new millenium already assembled their budding collections with MP3. Those who bought the Music Clip found out the hard way that they would have to transcode all those MP3s to ATRAC to play them. Users instead returned the $300 player and bought something else. Sales were so bad Sony dropped out of the DAP market for a couple of years. When they returned after the success of the iPod, the company again sold ATRAC players, but they now played the MP3 format too. Owners used MP3.

That's why Sony's latest portables, the NWZ-A810 and NWZ-S610 series players, have dropped ATRAC altogether. The new players will use WMA as their DRM-capable codec, ironically jumping to the PlaysForSure codec that format's creator Microsoft dumped for Zune. The AAC codec is also supported.


Sony NWZ-S610

Samsung P2 and T10 Bluetooth

The Samsung YP-P2 starts it off with a 3' Widescreen QVGA display with touchscreen capability. The unit offers a healthy 35 hours of music on a battery charge, which drops to 5 hours of straight video time. The P2 offers an FM Tuner, voice record and JPEG photo support, pretty common stuff as is the MP3/WMA audio support. Both the WMV9 and MPEG-4 video codecs are supported. The P2 weighs in at 3 ounces encased in a 3.9” x 2.1” x 0.4” shell. The Samsung P2 is available in 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB capacities.

The smaller YP-T10 carries the same feature set as the YP-P2 except for the display, which is a 2" standard aspect ratio screen without touchscreen capability. The YP-T10 weighs half of the P2 at 1.5 ounces and posesses a 3.8” x 1.6” x 0.3” form. The unit comes with 4GB of memory. Prices have not yet been announced for either unit.


iRiver Siren DP250

iRiver Siren DP250

Several months back iRiver acquired Siren, a DAP maker founded by former Rio and Creative execs who managed to get a player or two onto Walmart shelves. Keeping the Siren brand, iRiver just released the new DP250, a popsicle stick portable with a built-in FM tuner and transmitter.

Available with 1GB and 2GB capacities in a choice of a black or white case the unit offers voice-record and an external speaker to go with the tuner. Battery life is 18 hours on the charge. A 1GB unit will hit you for a $86, while $120 will put you in a 2GB version. Plain players, Creative has already undercut these usits in price.


SanDisk Sansa View 16GB flash player is available on Amazon.

SanDisk Sansa View 16GB Flash

It was only the beginning of this year that SanDisk introduced the original Sansa View, but very quickly it has updated that unit, slimming its dimensions and upping capacity from 8GB to into a 16GB of internal flash memory. Wrapped in a tighter 4.3 x 2 x 0.4 inch shell the new Sansa View sports a 2.4" 320x240 color TFT screen. On the visual side the new SanDisk unit handles H.264, WMV and MPEG4 encoded video and jpg-encoded photos.On the audio side the Sansa View offers AAC compatibility, which means users can play non-DRM tunes purchased from Apple, as well as MP3, the dying PlaysForSure WMA codec, and WAV files.

The Sansa View has a microSDHC slot for expansion, as well as an FM tuner. The battery life is pretty good with SanDisk claiming 35 hours for audio playback and up to 7 hours for video playback. The price starts at a very competitive $200 for the 16GB player, $200 less than what Apple wants for the 16GB version of its iPod Touch. An 8GB version of the Sansa View available for $150.

Archos 605 Wi-Fi

Archos continues its trend towards the high end of the portable market, but after the impressive intro of the iPod touch, the chasm that once existed between Archos and Apple with regards to the feature set they endow on their players has closed considerably. One key advantage to the Archos line is that they portable DVRs that allows you to record instead of buy the television programming you view while on the go.

The 605 sports a nice 4.3" touch-screen 800 x 480 TFT LCD display which trumps the 480 x 320 resolution of the iPod touch's 3.5" screen. The 160GB Archos sells for $399. 80GB and 30GB units are also available for $329 and $279 respectively.


The Archos 605 Wi-Fi portable DVR is available on Amazon


The Archos 405 Wi-Fi portable DVR is available on Amazon

Archos 405

Like all the 5G Archos units the 405 offers full DVR capabilities if you purchase the optional dock to record your TV programs on it. The 405 comes 2GB of flash storage plus an added SD slot for expansion. The display offers a 3.5'' TFT LCD that maxes out with a 320 x 240 resolution, under the 640 x 480 resolution offered by the iPod Touch.

Weighing in at 4.2 oz in a 3.9" x 3.07" x 0.5" shell, the Archos 405 handles MPEG-4 and WMV video, as well as the MP3, AAC and WMA on the audio side. On the photo side the 405 nicely adds BMP and PNG capability to the standard JPEG offering. ecause this is a French player it works with SECAM as well as NTSC and PAL broadcast standards. Archos claims the 405 will get 16 hours of audio time per charge and 5 hours video. Price is about $160

Archos 105

Rounding out the impressive Archos 5th generation portables we have the Archos' starter unit the Archos 105, which offers iPod nano features for an iPod shuffle price. $89.99 buys you a unit that plays video - something the nano didn't even have until last month - a 1.8" OLED display, 2GB of memory and 18 hours of charge on the unit's li-ion batteries.

The Archos 105 sports a slim 1.8" x 3.3" x 0.3" shell and weighs in at 1.8oz. It handles MP3 and WMA audio files. Curiously, the unit handles WMV encoded video, but according to Archos' tech specs straight MPEG-4 is not on the menu for this portable. Still, the unit gives far more flexibility that the shuffle and Archos players have always been among the best we tested.


Archos 105 is available at Amazon


The Pimple MP3 Player

Pimple MP3 Player

Everytime we run our iPod Killers for Summer/Christmas series we include one or two oddity players, but this one... Well, here is an MP3 player where after you jam to a few tunes you apply the body of the portable to your face to remove those - unsightly blemishes.

The Pimple Player (yes, that's its name) turns out to be a a pretty spartan unit as an MP3 player with a pathetically tiny 128MB of capacity. That was OK in 2004, but not with 2008 just around the corner. Oh, and do you really think rubbing this thing along your jaw is going to make your pimples go away? The Pimple MP3 Player retails for a very expensive $181.

iRiver W10 with Wi-Fi, GPS

Going after the Archos strategy of high end offerings, the iRiver W10 sports a 3" 480 x 272 touchscreen display and that is just the start for a unit with a lot more interesting little goodies. It offers Wi-Fi with Skyhook's GPS positioning and NAVTEQ maps. The unit also supports AOL XM radio streaming. Throw in an FM tuner and VoIP capabilities and you have a pretty busy little player.

The iRiver W10 supports MP3, Ogg, WMA on the audio side and MPEG-4 and WMV9 for video use. This flash unit will come in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB of storage and has a miniSD slot for expansion.

 


iRiver W10

Venzero LinQ

The Venzero LinQ is that make's flagship digital portable and it is a decent unit when you look at the details. First off the LinQ offers WiFi, just like the iPod touch, but unlike the touch it allows you to stream media direct from your PC to your player. It also supports wireless Net radio access a cool feature when you are sipping espresson at the local coffee shop and don't care for the tunes softly broadcast from their speakers.

The Venzero LinQ offers a relatively light 4GB of memory, though there is an SD expansion slot. The LinQ has a decent sized 2.4" TFT LCD, but resolution at 240 x 320 pixel is below the 640 x 480 res of the iPod touch. The LinQ comes with an FM tuner and voice recording and handles audio files in the MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC and OGG formats. Video files can be played in the WMV and MPEG4 formats. The Venzero sells for $199, pretty good for a WiFi unit.


Venzero LinQ


The Crucifix MP3 Player

Crucifix MP3 Player

Here is something for that young American christian to wear around his or her neck as they walk to services on Sunday. If a crucifix is cool then a crucifix MP3 player has to be even cooler. I mean, if you have to wear something around your neck 24/7 why not something that can pump a few tunes out? And I foolishly believed Steve Jobs when he told me even God had an iPod.

The Crucifix MP3 player plays MP3 and WMA files, has an FM tuner with voice recording and gets 10 hours of playback on a single AAA battery.

No word yet on a Star of David MP3 player, but word is the company scratched a player molded in the image of Muhammad due to a threatened jihad.

Sharp SP700

We don't get to hear much from Sharp digital media portables, but this thick device has quite a bit in it. On the audio side you have Ogg support to go with the MP3/WMA/WAV codecs and then there is DivX, Xvid, MPEG-1/2/4, WMV and H.264 support as well.

The SP700 has an SD/MMC expansion slot and a 30GB drive, which seems puny now when squared against the 100+ GB drives proliferating the market. A 4.3" touch screen rounds out the features, which include a T-DMB television receiver - great if you travel with it overseas, but not all that useful here in the states. The unit retails for $521.


The Sharp SP700


Bratz Lipstick MP3

Bratz Lipstick MP3

Yeah, we know, this is convergence taken to a bit of extreme, but who are we to judge? The Bratz Lipstick MP3 player offers a backlit LCD display and comes with 512MB of flash storage. The unit comes with a voice recorder, but the company doesn't say how you replace the lipstick when it runs out. For tech oriented girlie girls and transvestites.

Nickelodeon SpongeBob Media Player

More digital portables targeted to the tween market Disney and other have successfully tapped the past year or two. This time Nickelodeon offers the SpongeBob personal media player.

The SpongBob portable (aka the Fusion Digital Media Player by nPower) offers 1GB of memory with SD expansion, MPEG-4 capability and a QVGA screen. The unit ships in October for $99.88


Nickelodeon SpongeBob Media Player

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