The Electric Wand

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Choosing a new MP3 player - dilemmas, dilemmas...

Choosing a new MP3 player - dilemmas, dilemmas...

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It's time for a new music player. I got a Creative Zen Micro a couple of years ago, and it's been a good little player but the headphone socket has now developed a loose connection and it's getting a bit annoying. It's time to start choosing a successor.

Things I liked about the Zen Micro, which help to shape the criteria I'm using:

  • 5Gb is a decent amount of storage; I've got about 1200 tracks and 1% free space. I tend to put a few whole albums on it, and just sync playlists from Windows Media Player for the rest. That can sometimes be a bit frustrating, when I'd listen to one song in the playlist then think "oh, haven't heard him for a while", go to play the whole album, only to find that's the only song I've synced from that album... so maybe more space would be useful, but is it worth the tradeoff in battery life and physical size that might bring?
  • It's small enough. I certainly don't want anything smaller than the Zen, and although thinner would be cool, it's not a big deal - I guess I'm thinking I don't want to go for anything much bigger if I'm going to use the device a lot. It would be cool to have a nice big screen, but if it means the device doesn't live in my bag that I carry everywhere because it's too big, then it means I won't use it.
  • It's got a mini-USB plug on the bottom. Say no more - when I'm travelling or on holiday (which is when the device is getting more prolonged use), I have a single charger or sync cable for the music player as for the mobile phone. OK, you could argue that's the thin end of the inevitable convergence, but I've covered some of that ground already...
  • I don't use the radio much, but every year when we troop down to Le Mans to see the 24h race, it's really useful... so if I could get a new device with an occasional radio use, that'd be cool.

All my music is in WMA format and I can't really be bothered with the idea of re-ripping it all or converting to MP3 (a process which would inevitably degrade the sound quality quite some), and I've bought some stuff from MSN Music so would like to be able to carry that forward.

Point 1 (WMA) rules out anything in the iPod range (why won't Apple just get over it and put WMA support on the iPods??), and point 2 (DRM) rules out the Zune for the moment since (almost unbelieveably) it's not compatible with Plays4Sure.

I suppose at some point I'll get a Zune: maybe even when I'm Seattle early next month... but for the moment, I'm leaning towards the Sandisk Sansa range... I did love their "iDont.com" viral advertising on the tube last year, and these devices seem to be getting decent write ups though there are some minor niggles (like no mini-USB, for example).

Buying the right technology and not ending up with an expensive dud or a short-lived manufacturer's folly... it's not easy, is it?

//Ewan

Comments
  • Years ago (it seems anyway) I bought a Creative Zen Xtra as I got a good deal on it. The thing I liked about it was that it had 60 GB hard disk and could do WMA as well as MP3. The advantage of having 60 GB is that all my music is on it. In the past when I was away travelling I would have to decide what cassettes to take or later what CDs. Now I just pick up my Zen and take everything. I do tend to rely on playlists as finding stuff on it is not always that good. You can browse and search but only on bits of information. The one BIG thing that is missing is to view by Album Artist as well as artist as I have a lot of compilation CDs so my artist list is quite long. The recent Media Player 11 does have a view like this although confusingly the call it Artist and do not have an artist view any more.

    As for the size and weight it is bigger than all these nano players but does have 60 GB and is a few years old (still has a mono screen). If I am travelling for work I have my laptop so carrying the Zen as well is not that big a jump (plus I have Sennheiser noise cancelling headphones which are reasonably big as well even though they fold. I can’t stand the bud earphones and noise cancelling is a boon on trains and planes). And when I am on holiday I have other stuff as well so it does not add much. If I take the protective cover off it is a bit smaller but in any case it will sit inside my trouser pocket so I can take it most places. I am willing to trade off the size for the convenience of having everything on one player and not having to keep on deleting and adding stuff depending on what I want to listen to.

  • Good points, Ian - there's definitely something to be said for having all your music with you all the time (like I used to do on my original walkman-sized Creative Nomad Zen jukebox), though a counter argument could be that we each probably have loads of music we don't really like but bought anyway... on my Zen Micro, I used to just hit "Play All" in shuffle mode, and I'd know I'd never get a *bad* track...

  • After my post last month about getting a new MP3 player, I went ahead and bought a Sansa e280 8Gb device

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