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Jan. 26, 2006

The era of the mp3

by Payal Patnaik, Online Editor-in-Chief
For the past few years, new innovations go hand-in-hand with storing a digital music collection. In our lifetime we have seen the Walkman, Discman, the first mp3 player and finally the iPod. We have watched consumers going crazy trying to get their hands on the newest Apple fad. We have seen the trademarked white, sleek media players surrounding us in class, on the Metro and on the sidewalk with storage capacities larger than we could have ever dreamed of five years ago.

Oh yes, the mp3 player fever is starting to infect everyone, and those who watch and wait without jumping on the iPod bandwagon find other products that offer what they want for a lesser price than what Apple Computers offers. But as with any new innovation, competitors will rise, bringing a more cost-effective plan, with a product fashioned to compete against its own archetype (with a few alterations). And so, the product that defines a fad will start falling out of the social norm. The birth of these new products may very well make iPod become simply a precursor to a new generation of music. The iPod has risen to power, and with the birth of so many newer products, it has finally begun to see the beginning of the end.

iAudio: $299.95 for a 20-GB iAudio x5

iAudio is created by Cowon, a Korean multi-media brand. This hot new commodity beats the iPod out in many respects, from its lower price to a new stylish design and innovative features. In addition, the iAudio has a sleep timer and a USB 2.0 connector that is more convenient than that of the iPod.

The sleek new body immediately steals an iPod gazer's eye, and the iAudio X5 comes with exchangeable wallpapers, text storage, FM radio tuner and viewing ability, as well as a built in high quality voice recorder. Like the iPod, iAudios can also be used as hard drives for a computer.

The interface is much simpler, too. It allows you to drag and drop files onto the device, as opposed to downloading them through iTunes. The X5 also boasts longer continuous playback time, 14 hours on a lithium rechargeable battery, than the iPod and much less time required to recharge. With a simpler interface, extra features, and increased practicality, the iAudio promises a good buy.

A few drawbacks for the iAudio are its 1.8-inch color screen size (the new fifth generation iPod's screen size is 2.5 inches), its small control panel and its pixilated screen.

Toshiba gigabeat F20 20 GB Mobile Audio Player: $198.99 for 20 GB

The Toshiba gigabeat plays music in a good quality and has a colorful bright LCD screen, a user-friendly yet unique touch manual and picture backup. Toshiba's 20-gig device masters all of this and more, including a USB cable, a 20 GB storage that holds about 5000 songs in mp3 format and more software for music. It costs less than most 20 gig devices (the average is around $219) but has limited capabilities when compared to the iAudio. However, it does allow you to rip cds onto it with the mere press of a button and even download the respective album covers.

Creative Zen Sleek 20 GB: $237.49

In a line of recently released devices, Creative has rivaled the best in the business. The Zen comes in many models, each one promising endless hours of music and all of the features necessary in using your mp3 player to its fullest.

The Zen Sleek has a simple design with a nice style and slim form that is unique to the iPod. Of all of the 20 gig devices, the Sleek has the most battery life, with 18 hours of continuous playback. Unlike the 20 gig iPod, which only holds 5,000 songs, the Sleek can store up to 10,000 tracks of WAV, WMA and mp3 type. Pioneering the touch-scroll bar, Zen packs the most value into an affordable device with a simple yet avant-garde style.

iRiver: $227.99 for 20GB H10

More than just the grey and white schema we see with the iPod and Zen Sleek, the iRiver provides a color screen and a modified façade, all for a few extra bucks. However, it sacrifices some of its practical value because it lacks the ability to track search and provides no means to control the devices actions through a remote. One redeeming feature is its battery life, which can sustain up to 16 hours of continuous music - more than the iPod and the iAudio.

The iRiver comes with no entirely unique features, but a little extra flare that may be worth the buck if you want to outclass your friends. All together, the iRiver Jukebox is a simple and neat little device, good for the lax customer.

Dell Digital Jukebox: $194.04
New mp3 players released to rival iPods.
New mp3 players released to rival iPods.

This media player is a lucrative buy. This 20-gig media has a capacity of 9,900 songs, nearly five times the storage capacity of the iPod mini, for a few bucks less than the iPod mini. The batteries can last for 12 hours of music, about the same as the 20GB iPod, and plays the standard WMA, WAV and mp3 formats.

Little else about the Jukebox is unique. Like the other devices, it has a USB interface and the standard functions (play, pause, etc.). With a less than spectacular appearance, the Dell Jukebox may have the storage space and the right price, but may not be the one to impress your friends with.

iPod: $334.99, 20-GB; $299 for 30-GB fifth generation

On Oct. 23, 2001, Apple originally released the iPod as a Mac-compatible product, putting out a second-generation product on the market the next year. This year, the fifth generation of iPods has been released. The fourth generation iPods and models before are what people are the most familiar with, overpriced monochromer screens and the typical model in everybody's pocket. But the new generation of iPods plays video, is slimmer and sleeker and has a larger color screen of 2.5 inches. Currently, the fifth generation iPods come in color and with a 30-GB and 60-GB storage capacity. Fifth-generation 30-GB iPods even cost less than the previous fourth-generation 20-GB iPods.

Always, in reviews of iPod, there's this line without fail, "If price isn't an issue, then this iPod is perfect for you." The iPods have been updated recently to rival against their main competitor, Creative's, updates as well as the other products being released. Although reviewers call the iAudio unrivaled in its features, the new generation of iPods comes close to the quality of iAudios with its new color screen and additional accessories.

The name iPod resonates a familiarity with certain buyers and they like the guarantees that come with an iPod. To some, iPods are like cars: you go with the ones that are the most well-known, the sleekest and the most popular.

With so many new innovations in music technology, iPod constantly releases new products to keep up with the growing market. These new commodities are starting to draw more attention from other buyers, but iPods still have a stronghold on the music industry. But with this new technology, iPod is starting to lose its breath trying to catch up with the rest of the competition.

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  • . on January 26, 2006 at 4:45 PM
    According to this article, the iaudio has a lower price than the ipod, but $299 for 20 gigs seems higher than $299 for 30 gigs.

    How can the 20 gig sleek can hold twice the songs as the 20 gig ipod? It just depends on how compressed the music is.
  • Rio lover on January 26, 2006 at 4:47 PM
    My RIO is great! Yall didnt mention it, but its still great! Bye!
  • Beware the Green Banana on January 26, 2006 at 6:42 PM
    a few issues:

    "The interface is much simpler, too. It allows you to drag and drop files onto the device, as opposed to downloading them through iTunes."
    I dont know if you’ve tried to use drag-and-drop with 20 gigs of music, but it is an absolute nightmare; individually transferring thousands of songs can take hours. The iTunes interface, which categorically organizes your music and can transfer an entire library at once, is much simpler.

    “It costs less than most 20 gig devices (the average is around $219) but has limited capabilities when compared to the iAudio.”
    What limited capabilities? Give examples.

    “However, it does allow you to rip cds onto it with the mere press of a button and even download the respective album covers.”
    How does it do that without the use of a computer? Do you need to record from a separate CD player through a line-in port?

    "Unlike the 20 gig iPod, which only holds 5,000 songs, the Sleek can store up to 10,000 tracks of WAV, WMA and mp3 type."
    The number of songs an mp3 player can hold is based on its storage capacity. Theoretically, the iPod and Sleek should be able to hold the exact same number of songs. The only way the sleek would be able to carry more songs is if it somehow compressed the music to a proprietary format before transferring it to the device (like the Sony ATRAC format), which is a long and tedious process.

    “This media player is a lucrative buy”
    A cheap commodity is not lucrative, unless you plan on selling it for a tidy profit. Perhaps you meant frugal?

    Finally, I take issue with your iPod pricing. The random $334 price tag is very confusing. As of this comment, the iPod is $299 for a 30gig model, and $399 for a 60gig model. Perhaps the price was modified after the time of your writing, but in any case, it ruins your argument that the iPod is overpriced media player, at least compared to those of other brands. All the Mp3 players you reviewed were in the $200 range, yet offered 10 gigs of storage capacity less than the iPods. Besides, when people pay for an iPod, they’re buying more than a music player, they’re buying a brand.

    Im by no means an iPod fanboy, I don’t even own the device. For athletics (working out, jogging, etc) I prefer flash Mp3 players, which offer substantially less storage but skip or break as easily (Hint, hint, SCO. Maybe a flash player roundup next?). Still, if you’re going to review the iPod and its competitors, try to be more objective. I must hand it to Apple, even if you don’t use the video features, their current-gen iPod is a standout winner.
  • Kevin on January 26, 2006 at 7:05 PM
    My iAudio X5 works quite well, and I got the 30 gig version for a bit under $300 when it debuted several months ago... No problems so far! Highly recommended.
  • khc on January 26, 2006 at 7:14 PM
    my archos g-mini 120 is pimp, and weighs about 5 pounds.
  • er on January 26, 2006 at 8:26 PM
    hasn't this article been done in print?
  • Will Shepherdson (View Email) on January 26, 2006 at 8:55 PM
    Also there is a fact problem. It costs $334.99 for a 60-GB ipod not a 20-GB one. ppleStore.woa/71406/wo/Q933nYqAsUIM3AYFEmkLnozLu71/0.SLID?nclm=iPod&mco=E2DBC1A0
  • someone (View Email) on January 26, 2006 at 9:41 PM
    out of these 6 mp3 players, which one would you recommend the best and why? thanks
  • =>) on January 26, 2006 at 11:39 PM
    ahhh i wish i had this before i bought my mp3... oh well at least i got a zen, which seems like what i'd get after reading this anyway. ipods would only be worth it for the name, but since it's kinda getting old now, i don't see why anyone would buy it.
  • Payal Patnaik on January 26, 2006 at 11:55 PM
    I used all of my prices from for your 20 GB iPod prices.

    And yes, the price tag is confusing, but in general, iAudio gives you more for less money. iPod usually charges a lot, but their new model is a stunner with a lower price only because Apple Computers is in competition with Creative and other brands now. iPod is generally overpriced, but I mentioned in the story that finally the fifth generation iPods are more reasonable.

    For "someone", if you check out any reviews online, many of them will recommend iAudios because they have more for a reasonable price. But like I said, the new iPods are a looker and mp3 players are like cars...sometimes you'd rather go with the flashy one with the name. It really depends on what you're looking for.
  • jc on January 28, 2006 at 4:27 AM
    This is just another article trying to determine which is best and etc. But in reality, it doesn't matter. just grab the one that you like the most and go with it. it's about time people realize that everyone has different opinions.
  • blabla on January 28, 2006 at 6:25 PM
    i don't have a mp3-player and i am happy with my cd's. i-pods are way too expensive and the other ones aren't reliable in many cases.
  • Re: prices on January 28, 2006 at 7:00 PM
    Why would you put the price of an old generation iPod, especially if its more than a current gen iPod and has less space? The new iPod represents an upgrade in price-storage ratio, and its low price should be a part of the review, not the more expensive price of an old product, especially from a third party store.
  • . on January 28, 2006 at 8:32 PM
    if you noticed, the author was comparing 20 gb mp3's so there was some kind of consistency.
  • Re; prices on January 29, 2006 at 1:18 PM
    But choosing an obsolecent item with a higher price tag only skews the data. The fact that the 20 gig iPod is no longer in production changes the price.
  • :: on January 29, 2006 at 1:57 PM
    well, the author also put in pictures of the 5th generation ipod, which doesn't come in 20 gb
  • i have on January 30, 2006 at 8:16 AM
    i have a creative zen microphoto. its a version newer than the one in the article bc it has a color screen and can hold photos. I like it so far, and i got it b/c it was 8G for $250- twice the capacity of the same priced iPod Nano. also iPods break a LOT!
  • iPod fan on January 30, 2006 at 7:01 PM
    ipod is the best, i dont care how it works, plays, etc it is crazy cool and it is THE mp3 player. its trendy. thats all you need
  • Jeff on January 30, 2006 at 8:31 PM
    Payal-your iPod pricing is wrong. Check it and see, you're wrong. 60GB is $399, 30GB is $299.

    "The iPods have been updated recently to rival against their main competitor, Creative's, updates as well as the other products being released."
    That sentence just doesn't make sense.

    "...iPod constantly releases new products to keep up with the growing market."

    "iPod" does not release new products. Apple releases new products.

    Many times when you say "iPod" there should be the word "the" before it. At least you aren't on of those people who spell it "IPOD."
  • dsfdsf on January 31, 2006 at 10:13 AM
    that comment about dell 20 gig being able to hold more songs than the ipod's 20 gig is not possible. 20 gigs is 20 gigs...the song lmits are actually just estimates based on how big an "average" song might be. actually, it would be possible to fill uop and ipod/jukebox with only one song, if it were a really really long song. number of songs has nothing to do with it. 20 gigs is 20 gigs.
  • Cool Statistic on January 31, 2006 at 8:23 PM
    CHECK IT OUT -- iPod holds 82% of the market share for mp3 players. Thats insane. That means whats getting sold in the mp3 market is 82% iPods, and 18% everything else. Pretty off the hook!
  • iaudio on February 1, 2006 at 7:28 PM
    the iaudio shell is virtually scratch and dent proof!

    the built in functions (radio, recording) work quite well and dont require bulky add-ons like the ipod does
  • confused on February 2, 2006 at 11:56 PM
    wait then why do some websites say that the ipod can only hold 5000 of mp3 format, but things like the dell can hold 10000?

    and how can the pricing be wrong if the author already wrote that the 30 gb was 299, the same price that you wrote?
  • David on February 7, 2006 at 5:30 PM
    do these other mp3 players work with itunes?
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