Clearly there's massive competition in this space. I was about to ask you what devices you think come close or even exceed the coolness of the classic iPod. I have a friend(Tony Krijnen) sat next to me who's watching me type this post - as a result of the last couple of lines he handed me his Samsung Portable Media Center(PMC) - WOW!!!!!
I'm still really interested to get your feedback to the original question.
The Samsung (unlike some other PMCs) is small and lightweight AND has a decent size screen. What I REALLY REALLY REALLY like is that it supports VIDEO too. This is nothing new in the Windows devices but the size and weight of the other devices I've seen have ruled them out.
The other nice thing is that PMCs can handle my WMA (Windows Media Audio) music - my entire collection is encoded in WMA. To use an ipod I'd have to convert it to another format - it's a pretty straight forward process but still a hassle as I end up with two copies. I gather(correct me if I'm wrong as I'm hardly an iPod expert) iTunes likes to change the directory structure/filenames to make it easier for the device to search content.
Gimme some feedback - what works for you and why
My solution is a bit pricey, but I like it - Windows PocketPC with 2 512Mb cf cards reserved for special use. 1 for music (wma, mp3) and 1 for audible. Have a mpeg1 player and the 1gb drive for movies/tv shows i remaster down to the device for longer train rides. ipod only does one thing, pocket pc does all things (i tell people its the only tech i own that doesn't annoy the spit out of me on a regular basis)
iTunes moving files around and renaming them is an optional feature and can be set under Edit -> Preferences -> Advanced tab -> "Keep iTunes Music folder organized" and "Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library"
As for your question, the iPod *is* the cool alternative :P
i was thinking bout buying the iRiver H320. Its
20 gigs...which is pretty decent. there are also FM transmitters for it, so you can listen to the music stored on it, on your car stereo. that was an important feature for me.
plus it has a color screen...and if you flash the firmware, i think it supports video. im still gonna wait few months before i buy it.
check out iriveramerica.com, the specs are there.
I think my Rio Carbon is pretty cool. Also the Zen Micro looks excellent.
I like my iPod because it works, not because it's cool. It's elegant, it plays music. It doesn't try to be anything else.
I only say: Archos (http://www.archos.com/ )
They have some pretty snazzy products.
Either the AV400 (up to 80 GB, Video encoding and playing, MP3, Photo viewer, CF Slot,.......) here: http://www.archos.com/products/overview/av400_series.html
Or it's smaller brother the Gmini
Or the *really* groovy:
That's all of the above, but also has PDA functionality... and all that
with a 30 GB HD
I could do with some good suggestions myself =I can't tell you how much I dislike the look of iPods. In fact apart from thier Powerbooks I think most of Apple's current products look overstyled.
Get and iPod!
I have a Creative Muvo2 1.5GB which has served me well, but have been eyeing the 5GB and Zen Micro models.
But I'm really interested in convergent devices - I don't want to need a separate player - so I'm getting more storage for my Imate SP3i for the time being...
If you want video, iPod is wrong choice. Creative Zen or Archos would be much better choice. PMC's 20GB disk is small unless your music is heavily compressed. Zen is slightly bigger and heavier than iPod. If you store music in WMA compressed, stick with WM players since conversion from one lossy format into another really screws sound quality.
On the other hand, if you want just music player with large disk, iPod 60GB has an edge. There also a few dedicated car adapters for iPod (Alpine, Pioneer, Clarion) that allow you to control iPod using head unit controls. iTunes does not change directory structure. It also stores library information in plain XML file.
I bought an ipod and was dissapointed when I found out that it doesn't let you have your songs sorted into folders and subfolders. It only lets you sort by playlist, album, genre, or artist. I've got approx. 3000 mp3's of all types of genres, but because of all the one hit wonders, if I try to locate a song by artist, there are over 1000 and this is a pain in the ass. If I try to locate by album, same shit. And that's assuming that all the ID3 tags are correctly filled out etc.. which they rarely are. Because of this critical shortcoming of the ipod, I started searching for a new mp3 player, selling the ipod on ebay.
The one that I found that I like is the archos gmini 400. It has the same dimensions as the ipod (nice and small) but it also has a color screen, stores photos, and play movies!! 20 gig. Before I buy it I'm going to find out if it lets you have folders and subfolders, but since most mp3 players do, it is likely that it will too.