iPod Killers for Summer 2007

By Richard Menta 5/12/07

Some people don't realize that when we use the term iPod Killer it is with tongue firmly planted in cheek. How can we not? In last year's Christmas roundup we noticed that since we began our semi-annual Christmas/Summer iPod Killer series back in 2004 we reported on "149 portable players and NOT one iPod Killer from the bunch" Despite some compelling looking portables this past holiday the updated tally is now Players: 177, iPod Killers: 0. Will any of the 38 new portables described below change that? As compelling as some are, by the time the players for this Christmas' sales season are announced the score will be Players: 215, iPod Killers: 0.

And that's OK. If Apple has shown anything these past few years is that the trick is not to steal market share from other manufacturers, but to expand the market. Last quarter Apple set a new iPod sales record for a non-holiday quarter of over 10 million units. The goal of today's competitors is to focus their efforts on ways they can further this market expansion and capitalize.

This is the heart of the latest trend in the market, which is to market digital portables to small children. Disney has already proved this is a solid strategic direction with the success of its Mix Max player. We have to admit, though, as more manufacturers enter this niche it makes you wonder why a toddler needs an MP3 player?

So here are this summer's offerings. Who cares if they are iPod killers or not? As a consumer our personal goal is simply is to make an informed purchase and get a player that best fits our needs, be it iPod or Archos. Yes, even if that player is the next-gen Zune, which has not been announced as of this writing.

SanDisk Sansa Connect

The SanDisk Sansa Connect is a 4GB WiFi unit that allows the player to connect to and download from music services directly from the Web without the need of a PC. Like last year's MusicGremlin the Sansa Connect can search the Net and connect to a service via any wireless hot spot. “The Sansa Connect is a new music experience focused on convenience, instant gratification and social connections,” said Eric Bone, product marketing director for SanDisk. “It’s about accessing music of your choice wherever you are.

The SanDisk Connect's 2.05"x 3.58"x 0.63" shell includes an SD slot for expansion, has an internal speaker and a 2.2” TFT color display. The Connect will be available this March for $250.


The Sansa Connect is available on Amazon



The Sony NW-A800

Sony NW-A800

Sony may be frustrated by its inability so far to catch the iPod, but that doesn't mean it will ever give up. 1.75 inches wide and less than half-an-inch thick, the NW-A800 is a PMP that handles AAC files, which means that this model will be able to play the DRM-free tracks from record label EMI that iTunes will start offering this summer. The unit also handles MP3, ATRAC for you Sony devoted, WMA, MPEG4 and H.264/AVC.

The Sony's 2-inch QVGA display is a step up from the iPod nano's screen. The batteries will get you 5 hours of video and 22 hours of audio (if you use the ATRAC format, a stat which doesn't help in the least). Like the Zune the display can be viewed in portrait or landscape mode. Overall, this player looks like it can help Sony get into double-digit market share - though past Sony units also made that promise.

Cowon D2

Let's start by saying the new Cowon D2 is both Ogg and FLAC friendly. The D2 sports a 2.5 inch 16 million color 24bit TFT-LCD touch-screen display as well as a number of audio enhancing elements including 3D surround. Frankly, I like the fact that they were able to fit a reasonably-sized screen into such a small portable. Of course, since the D2 plays video what constitutes "reasonably-sized" is a personal matter between you and your retinas. The Cowon D2 does offer video out, unlike some players we know, so we guess you can always hook it up to a TV if you find yourself squinting too much. The D2 offers an FM radio, SD and MMC slot, and a choice of 2GB or 4GB capacity within the unit's 3.07 X 2.18 X 0.65 inch profile and 3.21 oz weight.



The Cowon D2 is available on Amazon


LG FM37

LG FM37

Touch-screen interface - good. Stylish metallic case - good. Slick navigation and Ogg playback to boot makes this a very compelling unit for the digitally savvy. But, the FM37 only comes with 2GB of flash memory, which these days is modest for a player that handles MPEG-4 video, especially with predictions of a 12GB flash unit coming from SanDisk and Apple by fall. A specialty VW version (described below) offers 4GB of capacity. Both versions of the FM37 offer 20 battery life, which is decent

iRiver Clix 2

Will the iRiver Clix 2 be the player that breaks the company out of the pack? Maybe, but even with glowing reviews it's such a tall order. The Clix 2 posesses a 2.2-inch touch-screen active-matrix OLED display, which makes the screen quite a power miser and leads to claims of 24 hour battery life on this unit. The display also handles 30fps now, playing vids in the MPEG-4 and WMV formats. The iRiver Clix 2 sports a 2.7 x 1.8 x 0.6 inches shell, thinner than the Clix 1, but room enough for an FM tuner with broadcast record, a voice recorder and FlashLite 1.1 gaming. Audio codecs include MP3, WMA, ASF, Ogg. The unit is available in 2GB, 4GB and 8GB capacities.


iRiver Clix 2 is available on Amazon


Archos 704 WiFi is available on Amazon

Archos 704 WiFi

The flagship of what Archos refers to as its Generation 5 player line the 704 WiFi is aimed straight at the early adopter who has no patience for simple iPods. It's a big portable, weighing in at a hefty 22 oz, and it sports a 7-inch, 800x480 pixel touch screen display. An 80GB hard drive handles storage and battery life runs about 5 hours of straight video. MPEG-4, AVI, and WMV video is supported, while audio can be played back on the MP3, WMA and AAC formats. Of course, this is WiFi and 802.11g to boot. The 704 WiFi comes with an integrated pdf reader and Opera browser for tapping into the Net at the local Starbucks. Built-in speakers round out the features and as with Archos' other high-end players the 704 WiFi works with the brand's optional DVR station dock for recording your TV shows.

Creative Zen Stone

The finish on Creative's Zen Stone reminds one of the polished black rocks they sell kids at various museums and tourist traps. This screenless little wonder is just a little larger than the iPod Shuffle, but Creative will offer the 1GB player for about half the price. Selling for $39.99, the Zen Stone will handle MP3 and WMA files and come in six colors: black, white, red, blue, pink and green. Drag and drop file transfers and 10 hr battery life round out the feature set. A tiny speaker system for the player dubbed the TravelSound Zen Stone will appear in July.


Creative Zen Stone is available on Amazon

Barbie MP3 Player

Barbie MP3 Player

Adults may like their MP3 portables in white with matching earbuds, but as Disney has found out kids prefer players branded with Mickey Mouse ears. This has set off several manufacturers including SanDisk and Tomy to go after the under ten sect as an end around to the iPod's continued dominance. The latest entry is Mattel who is offering a Barbie branded MP3 player. The 512MB device will ship in July for $60 and offer an SD expansion slot and rechargeable batteries as part of the package.

Accessory packs are also offered for the players, kits that offer fashion add-ons (Barbie is known for her fashion sense) and exclusive online content. The latter is supported by a new site called BarbieGirls.com, which allows your little girl and her new portable to enjoy a virtual world with virtual money to be earned and spent. I guess long gone are the days when you pull the string in your Barbie doll's back to hear why she has difficulty with math.

Creative Zen Vision M and Zen Vision W slimmed

Creative announced on their Japan site a modest refresh to their Zen Vision line of personal media players that trim a bit of girth from them. Both the Zen Vision M and the Zen Vision W will become thinner, but otherwise keep their other dimensions. The Creative Zen Vision W shrinks from 5.27" x 2.95" x 1.04" to a leaner 5.27" x 2.95" x 0.86". The Zen Vision W also drops from 10.5 oz to 9.9 oz while holding 60GB of capacity.

The Zen Vision M also keeps its original length and width, dropping its girth from 0.87" to 0.74". The bigger news here is the more dramatic weight drop from 8.43 oz to 6 ounces, while also running a 60GB drive. Abarring further announcements of newer features, these players are still essentially the same as the previous versions



New Creative Zen W


LG VW Beetle MP3 portable

LG VW Beetle MP3 portable

For you Volkswagon fans Korean make LG has released a specialty version of their new FM37 player targeted to your fascination with German engineering. The New Beetle FM37 comes in a bright, bright red case that can probably sub as a reflector when your car is broken down by the side of the road. It also has a neat little Beetle logo on the back for those who insist on neat little logos.

Like the standard FM37 the player offers a touch-screen display and adds Ogg audio playback to the standard MP3/WMA abilities. Claiming 20 hours of battery life the unit comes in 2GB and 4GB capacities. The player also has MPEG-4 video capability. There is no mention of when the player will become available or a price point, but expect it to be sold at your local VW dealership at least. If they include one free with the purchase of a new car that would be fun. More likely it will sell with the typical dealer markup, but hey everything at the dealership is negotiable, so who knows.

SwiMP3 v2

Nearly three years later Finis has come up with an update to their original water portable, the SwiMP3. The SwiMP3 V2 works the same as V1, but streamlines things a bit by incorporating the player's electronics within the cheek-phones themselves. Finis has bumped up the memory, but oddly only to 256MB from the original's 128MB. To be honest, we thought 256MB was light back in 2004 when we reviewed the first model. With flash memory prices significantly down since then it is a little surprising the memory was only boosted to one quarter of a gig. Still, the price has dropped to $199, making this player a must have for any kid on the high school swim team.


SwiMP3 v2


Sony B100 Series

Sony B100 Series

Sony's latest, the B100 series, deserves particular notice as rumore has it this player will be shipped sans SonicStage, Sony's file transfer application that is the bane of all previous Sony players. The B100 will handle MP3, WMA and AAC, the latter which iTunes will begin selling soon without DRM. The B100s will carry capacities from 1GB to 4GB and offer FM tuners that can record from broadcast on some models.

Harmon Kardon Guide + Play

This latest portable comes from that well known make for audiophiles Harmon Kardon, whose new personal media player aims for the higher end of the market with the addition of GPS capabilities in a 2.9" x 4.6" x 0.78" body. Dubbed the Harmon Kardon Guide + Play, the player sports a modest 2GB of flash memory with an SD slot for expansion (with a 4GB top end). The 4" screen sports touch-screen control and 480 x 272 resolution. The player handles the MP3 and WMA codecs as well as the AAC format, which means it will be able to play those DRM-free EMI tracks that iTunes will soon offer. The Guide + Play also handles both MPEG-4 and WMV9 video files. On the GPS side the Harmon Kardon Guide + Play sports both 2D and 3D high res maps with the complete Western and Northern and Southern European maps pre-installed. The unit weighs in at a healthy 7.1 ounces and ships now for $399.


Harmon Kardon Guide + Play is available on Amazon


12GB Trekstor Vibez is available on Amazon

Trekstor Vibez 12GB

Everytime I look at the Trekstor Vibez I can't help but think of the subliminal liquor ads of the 1970's. You know, the type that went to extended, even silly, lengths to implant suggestions of sex subtley within every graphic. Maybe, it is just my perverted libido, but I suspect Vibez is supposed to make you think "vibrator" and when you place the Trekstor Vibez horizontally...OK, enough.

Anyway, the Vibez just missed our Christmas issue so we added it here primarily for the digitally savvy who want a portable that will play their OGG and FLAC files. The Vibez is available in 8GB and now 12GB, but be aware this is not a flash base portable at those capacities, but a hard drive based unit. The satinless steel case on the Vibez also offers another strong plus, it is removable allowing the user to change the player's Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. For those who don't know, fruit flys have a longer life expectancy than a Li-ion battery

SanDisk Sansa Shaker

Give SanDisk kudos for not resting on their laurels. They succeeded in being the number two digital portable manufacturer mostly by catering to the upscale MP3 market. SanDisk is now turning its attention to the kids market with a new model the SanDisk Sansa Shaker. The Shaker has two headphone jacks, as we are always encouraging our little ones to share, and if there are more than two tiny ones around a built-in speaker can entertain the crowd with Raffi singles.Do you know how you change tracks? Why, you shake the device you little devil. The Shaker comes in two colors, blue for boys and pink for girls so we can cement in those little gender attitudes right away. A single AAA battery will run the Sansa Shaker for 15 hours and the unit comes with a 512MB SD flash card. Like all SanDisk players, the Shaker has a flash slot to fill with the flash memory that is SanDisk's bread and butter. The SanDisk Sansa Shaker sells for $39.99, a new price point for a SanDisk unit.


SanDisk Sansa Shaker is available on Amazon


iRiver D25

iRiver D25 - MP3 Player/Dictionary

No, as far as I know iRiver has not released a laptop, nor did the company say the new iRiver D25 is a PMP unit. The D25 is just an MP3 player, an audio only device with a dictionary and a QWERTY keyboard so you can look up the spelling of your favorite band before you do a search for them.

The unit's clamshell design includes a large 4.3" LCD display, suspiciously big for an audio-only unit. The D25 sports a 5.3 x 3.7 x 0.8 inch waistline and it comes with a 1.3GB flash card tucked inside the D25's SD slot. The D25 also has a text-photo viewer, an FM tuner with broadcast record, and text-to-speech capabilities. The player sells for a healthy $400.

iRiver B20

A close cousin to the new Clix 2, the iRiver B20 expands the screen to a 2.4" TFT-LCD. What also sets the B20 apart from the Clix is that it also can receive digital broadcast television via the Terrestrial Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (T-DMB) standard.

The B20 handles the MP3/OGG/WMA formats as well as the MPEG-4/WMV video, plus Flash lite support for simple games. The B20 ships with 2GB ($214) or 4GB ($268) of memory plus an SD slot for expansion. A built-in speaker rounds out the feature set.


iRiver B20


iRiver T50 is available on Amazon

iRiver T50

Apart from reminding me of rigatoni, the biggest feature in this otherwise simple portable is the fact that the 50 in the T50 model number stands for 50 hours of battery life. For those of us spending too much time loading or recharging batteries on our devices that has a welcome ring to it.

AAA batteries power the iRiver T50 and if they run half as long as claimed you won't miss rechargeables. The spartan T50 comes in either a black or white case, has joystick enabled navigation, FM tuner, a 65K color LCD, and comes with 1GB of memory. It also plays Ogg files, all for about $85.


MPMan Blade

MPMan Blade

For those unfamilar with the history of digital music portables the first MP3 player was the MPMan F10. Introduced in 1998, a few months before the Diamond Rio. The unit was built by Korean manufacturer SaeHan Information Systems and imported to the US by Eiger Labs. The MPMan brand still exists and they just released their latest unit the Blade.

The MPMan Blade is another line of thin iPod nano competitors with a 1.5" color display to show photos and videos. The unit will be available with either 1GB or 2GB of storage and battery life is listed as 12 hours for audio. The unit handles the MP3 / WMA /OGG audio codecs as well as Microsoft's dying PlaysForSure format.

An FM tuner is listed as optional on the MPMan site, suggesting that the tuner is integrated in an optional set of headphones. Otherwise, the MPMan Blade is a pretty Spartan unit, very much like the ground breaking F10, which preceeded it. As always, the MPMan brand has marginal exposure here in the states and much more visible in Europe these days.


Wing Inter N007PEN

Wing Inter N007PEN

When I caught this little MP3 player shaped like a pen it reminded me of Sony's first digital music portable, the Sony Vaio Music Clip. I called that player a Parker pen on steroids when it was first released in 1999, though that unit didn't actually write. Eight years later Korean-based Wing Inter is introducing it's version, which does have an actual ball point pen inside of it. Dubbed the N007PEN, a sterile moniker if there ever was one, the unit rolls in a pen, voice recorder and audio player in one. Those particular featurs should prove most pragmatic for the office worker the unit targets. Pulling the cap off unveils a USB connector for hooking to your PC. The N007PEN will be offered with memory ranging from 128MB to 2GB with prices running $104 to $209 respectively.

Samsung 9B and T9B

Samsung's new offering, the YP-T9B, is another Bluetooth-enabled portable. It might be noted that here it is the T that stands for Bluetooth not the B. That's important because Samsung also announced a non-bluetooth version the player called the YP-9B. Naturally, the company is hyping bluetooth as their answer to the iPod.

The Samsung 9B series is available in 2GB and 4GB capacities, below the 8GB top end available from the iPod nano and the San Disk e280. Considering that Samsung is a manufacturer of flash memory this seems an odd ommission for a new high-end portable. The 9B has a 1.8 inch QCIF+ LCD screen and offers photo as well as MPEG4 playback. The YP-T9B and 9B come with an FM tuner that also allows you to record broadcast content over the air. The unit also has a built-in mic, part of an interface system that allows users to take calls from a bluetooth-enabled phone without switching devices.


Walletex Wallet MP3 player

Walletex Wallet

The Walletex Wallet, named we guess so no one misses the obvious point, will be offered in capacities ranging from 128MB to 2GB of memory. Otherwise it is a basic portable sans display. Walletex says that the unit can be produced with a custom graphic on the faceplate, strongly suggesting that the company is aiming this player mostly at the promotional item market. In other words your player can have Tony the Tiger on it for only 5 box tops + S&H. The Walletex won't be released until June of 2007, plenty of time for the corporate sales department to order a few for conferences with the company logo on it.

SanDisk Sansa View

SanDisk's top of the line portable is a 8GB flash-based unit, as is fitting for a maker of flash memory, and it includes an SDHC slot for adding more memory from SanDisk's own flash cards to Disney Max Clips for you owners of a Mix Max portable. Flash not only gives the Sansa View a svelt figure, but allows it to use a smaller battery to offer up 4 hour video and 10 hour audio times on a 4-inch color widescreen display.

The view has a 3 x 4.8 x 0.66-inch form factor, which includes integrated speakers and a TV out support that with an optional docking station will deliver up to up to 1080i resolution. The Sansa View handles MPEG-4 Video as well as the MP3 and WMA audio formats, the latter including the fading Windows Media 10 and 11 DRM support. The Sansa View sells for $299.00.


SanDisk View is available on Amazon


Cowon Q5

Cowon Q5

Do you want to talk about wireless capability? Here's one from our friends at Cowon. The new Q5 is a WiFi player, has Bluetooth and High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA). Love (or is it compulsive?) is never having to say you are not connected.

The Cowon Q5 sports a 5 inch 16 million color TFT-LCD display with a touchscreen interface encased in a 5.5 x 3.5 x 0.8 inch body. The unit is relatively heavy at 13.4 ounces so this unit is more for the road warrior than the exercise-minded. The Q5 has built-in speakers for shared access, an FM tuner, a voice recorder, and subs as a DVR. The Q5 supports MPEG-4, AVI (DivX and XviD), and ASF video as well as MP3, WMA, WAV, AC3, ACC, Ogg Vorbis, and FLAC audio codecs.

You want more? Ok, GPS from Tele Atlas is available as an option. Cowon claims battery life gives 13 hours of audio and 7 hours of video time. The Q5 is available with a 40GB drive for $499 and a 60GB drive for $549. For those who think the Cowon D2's tiny size is for wimps.

iRiver X20

For those who feel more comfortable with a nice tactile scroll wheel as opposed to the touchscreen slickness of the iRiver Clix 2, the X20 offers another option for you iRiver fans.

The X20 sports a 2.2" widescreen display with MPEG-4 and WMV video support. Audio support covers the MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WAV codecs. The unit offers 2GB, 4GB and 8GB of memory, which can be expanded through the player's microSD slot. One of the best features of the unit is that it has a removable Li-ion battery, a must for that battery technology as the chemical composition of it's insides deteriorates with time whether used or not. The X20 claims 22 hours playback per charge. Other features found in the 3.8" x 1.9" x 0.6" shell include an FM Tuner, a voice recorder, and integrated speakers.


iRiver X20

Toshiba Gigabeat U

The FM tuner in the Toshiba Gigabeat U not only records from broadcast, it also is a built-in FM transmitter, eliminating the need to purchase one as an add-on to play in the car. It also means users can share their tunes with other "U" owners who can record such transmissions on the fly, albeit in lo-fi FM. Call it the poor man's Wi-Fi.

The Gigabeat U has a 1.1-inch OLED screen, a technology that has gained a considerable foothold among this round of summer portables, and comes in three colors. The unit comes with 1GB for $118 and 2G B for $142.


The Toshiba Gigabeat U


MobiBlu A3 and A5

MobiBlu A3 and A5

The difference between these two MobiBlu players is that the A3 sports a 1.5" LCD display, while the A5 offers a 1.8" screen. Otherwise, the player offer the same feature set with FM radio and recorder, built-in microphone for voice record.

The units handle photos as well as MP3 and WMA files and both offer a microSD slot for expansion. Pricing and player capacity are still to be announced.

Slacker Intros 12GB Flash

Formed by three former CEOs of MusicMatch, iRiver, and Rio, Slacker is a Net radio station designed from the start to integrate its own portable player. The pitch: personalized portable radio where $7.50 a month gives you a recommendation-driven Net radio destination, ala Pandora, and turns it mobile. Yes, Virginia, you can select your favorite tracks to store on the player. But, won't that stir the ire of the RIAA? Slacker already has big music's blessing (they paid them). The player starts with 2GB ($140) to what will be the industry's first 12GB flash unit at $400.

Slacker Music site and Slacker portable


RCA Jet and Jet Stream

RCA Jet and Jet Stream

Aimed towards the jogging set, the rugged neoprene encased Jet comes with a 1.5 OLED display, a stopwatch, and a body mass index calculator. This otherwise simple portable is available with 1GB of memory for $69 and 2GB for $89, but not everything has to be that basic. The most interesting player of the whole RCA Gem line is the Jet Stream, which will be released late spring . It uses Kleer Wireless technology to deliver sound to a tiny pair of wireless earphones that come with the unit. The Jet Stream will initially be shipped in just the 1GB memory configuration for $149. The units handle the MP3 and WMA codecs.

RCA Opal

With RCA messing about with some pretty compelling wireless technology for its upcoming RCA Jet Stream portable, their other players are mostly simple straightforwad affairs. Of course, the king of simple and straightforward is the iPod so you can't knock RCA's logic. The RCA Opal is the PMP unit of the Gem series. It comes with a 1.5" OLED display and handles MPEG-4 video along with the MP3/WMA codecs like the other players in the RCA lineup. For those who want a photo reader the Opal will display JPEG, bitmap, TIF, GIF and PNG. The Opal lists for a very reasonable $79 for 2GB of memory. RCA claims 15 hours on a single charge. We assume that means audio only.


RCA Opal


RCA Jet and Jet Stream

RCA Pearl

If you are thinking of the iPod Shuffle, but really want a display with your minimalist portable the RCA Pearl offers an inexpensive option. The unit will ships with 1GB of memory for $49. That's $10 more than Creative's recently released Zen Stone, but the Stone is also screen-less. The Pearl is also expandable, unlike the Zen Stone and the Shuffle, with an microSD card slot that can boost total capacity another couple of GBs.

The RCA Pearl handles MP3 and WMA just like all of the other RCA portables, which have yet to get on the AAC bandwagon. A bandwagon that should take off this summer as iTunes offers DRM-free tracks in that format. The Pearl uses a backlit LCD screen that can display itself in one of seven colors. RCA claims a battery life of 15 hours on a single AAA.

 

Insignia Video MP3 Player

Best Buy could have thought of a more creative name for its latest house brand PMP than Video MP3 Player. Fortunately, the player is a little more interesting than its name with Bluetooth capability built into a $139.00 unit. For that price the Insignia Video MP3 Player also comes with 4GB of memory, a 2.2” LCD color screen and an FM tuner. The unit handles WMA 10 so it can tap into Best Buy's own digital music store. With a microSD expansion slot and 20 hr claimed battery life thrown in for the price this unit sounds almost...compelling. But dudes, you gotta do something with that name.


Insignia Video MP3 Player


Transcend T.sonic 820 Series

Transcend T.sonic 820 Series

The faceplate looks more like a quilt than an MP3 player, but hey beauty is in the...how does that go again?

The 820 series sport a 1.5" OLED display that can read .txt files for those who still feel the eBook is the wave of the future. The unit comes with either 2GB or 4GB of memory and has an FM tuner that can record from broadcast. The 820 also has a variable speed mode for those who feel that Ludacris is simply not spouting those lyrics fast enough for their taste. Oh, and the 820 can display rolling lyrics for you karaoke lovers. A Li-ion battery give 15 hours of play time. The 820 also features voice record with an internal microphone.

Archos 204

While the early adopters are drooling over the Archos 704, the company targets the 204 towards that broader base of users just looking for a good digital audio portable, but are not automatically married to the iPod.

The Archos 204 comes with a 1.8-inch 262k color OLED display and can hold 20GB of music and JPEG photos. The unit handles the usual MP3 and WMA formats. The 204 weighs in at 4.2 ounces in a 2.9" x 2.3" x 0.75" shell. Archos claims battery life is about 20 hours. Otherwise it is a simple unit, albeit on the sells for $235.


Archos 204


Aska Tripper V

Aska Tripper V

Epson's PMP has turned out to be quite popular within the high-end digital camera community as a way to show off one's photo's without having to lug a camera around. It is a small, very targeted, niche, but it is a profitable one. Needless to say this has drawn the attention of competitors like Wolverine and now Aska, who offer players with huge hard drive capacity and a CompactFlash slot, a card format now only seen in this genre of PMP.

The Aska is available in 40, 80, 120, and 160GB capacities and sports a 4.3-inch 800 x 480 LCD. The unit handles MPEG-4 video and the MP3 and AAC audio codecs on the audio side. Sorry, no WMA, which may be the wisest choice now that MS has gone to a new codec for the Zune Player. Depending on drive size the price ranges from $200 to $500.

Samsung Yepp K3

The very iPod nano-like K3 comes with a very slim 0.27" profile. The touch-controls on the sleek faceplate light up as you activate them, a nice touch.

The K3 sports a 1.8-inch OLED display - this year's DAP fashion statement - handles just MP3 and WMA, and is available starting at $129 for the 2GB version with a 4GB and 8GB units available.


The Samsung YP-K3 is available on Amazon


Peapod MP3

Peapod MP3 Player for Kids

Calgary-based Peapod decided to go the Disney route and aim its new digital audio portable at kids. But hey, is that a teething ring we see topping the Peapod MP3? Yes it is, which clearly suggests how young an audience this player is aiming for. Peapod markets this little baby...er... as "The world’s first mp3 player designed for infants and toddlers".

The chewable Peapod does not use headphones, choosing to go the all speaker route with parental controled volume to protect little precious' ears. The unit runs on a single AA battery, which Peapod claims will get 40 hours of playtime on. Rubber encases the unit in case junior decides to tinkle on it, but what is most curious is Peapod's claim that its controls are designed in a way that infants can use. Funny, they just look like standard play/rewind keys to me.

Samsung YP-U3

The Samsung YP-U3 is the successor to the company's YP-U2, their 1GB flash unit. Like the YP-U2 the YP-U3 offers a 1" OLED display, but capacity has increased. The unit is available with 1GB, 2GB and 4GB of storage, handles Ogg tracks as well as MP3, WMA and ASF and comes with a voice recorder and an FM tuner that is Radio Data System (RDS) capable. RDS is a standard that some US and many European radio stations use to deliver track and station information to the displays of enabled radios. Samsung claims the battery gets 15 hours to the charge.


Samsung YP-U3

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