Jon Borland writes that Microsoft’s guide to buying an MP3 player seems to hint against buying some from Apple. While I certainly agree that avoiding Apple’s products would be a good thing (they tend to be form over function), I also find it laughable that, for instance, anyone would think that it’s important for a player to handle Microsoft’s WMA (“Plays For Sure“). Vorbis, MP3, MP4 (even Apple’s shitty AAC codec), FLAC, WAV: all viable compressions. But who in their right mind would choose WMA?

Far be it from me to criticize people for wanting the truly polished product that is an iPod. If it was simply a matter of paying extra money for Apple’s unique (in my opinion superfluous) æsthetic, I would tell people to go ahead and swipe their card. But as it is, I actively campaign against the purchase of an iPod, and there are several reasons.

Price. A quick search on Amazon.com shows a 20GB iPod to be $310. an iRiver of comparable size is $284.

For an extra $25, maybe it’s worth it to have an iPod. It is, after all, the quintessential MP3 player, right? Maybe, but the allure of the iRiver (and other players) over the iPod don’t stop at price. Let’s take a look.

Comparison of popular digital audio players
Model Cost Capacity Battery Life Screen Type Supported Formats FM Tuner Photo Viewer
Apple iPod $310 20GB 12 hours Grayscale AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless, WAV No No
iRiver H320 $284 20GB 16 hours Color LCD MP3, OGG, WAV, WMA Yes Yes
Rio Karma $210 20GB 15 hours Grayscale FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV No No
Creative Zen Touch $235 20GB 24 hours Bluescale MP3, WMA, WAV No No

Manufacturers have so many versions nowadays that it’s hard to keep track of which players are which price and what features they support. Still and all, the general trend is for Apple to provide less features for more money. Not only that, but Apple seems to be consistently dogged by quality issues: in iPod’s case, the issue is faulty batteries.

Long story short: don’t listen to Microsoft’s advice about anything, and don’t buy any of Apple’s products. Do the research, see the reviews, compare the features. Don’t buy it because Bono has one.

§541 · March 22, 2005 · Tags: , , ·

5 Comments to “On digital audio players”

  1. Charlie says:

    While I agree that Apples products quite often highlight form over function, I’m going to have to disagree with you over the iPod.

    Have you actually used an iPod? I actually thought this same thing until I held one in my hands and used it. In my experience, the iPod is hands down the easiest MP3 player to use. It is no small feat to make a device designed to handle thousands of songs easy to use, and I think the iPod is a head and shoulders above the rest.

    Granted, I haven’t used every single MP3 player out there (heck, I haven’t even used most of them). But I have used several generations of Creative players, a couple of Rios (though not the one you listed) and a handful of others not in your list. I have not used the iRiver. But of the ones I have used, the iPod is the clear winner.

  2. Ben says:

    Easiest? Possibly. I haven’t had an extensive contact with an iPod, no, but I won’t dispute that the click-wheel is a nice ergnomic touch, &c. What I base my comments upon (largely) is the technical aspects, including codec support (as someone who encodes everything in Vorbis and FLAC, this is very important).

    While the iPod has certain mass-market appeal, any true audiophile (as opposed to an ordinary consumer) will pick otherwise.

  3. Charlie says:

    I can see your point. I’ve just started to encode in FLAC myself, and I can see how that would get to be an important issue. Right now, my mp3 player is a portable CD player with burned CDs, so it isn’t something I’ve considered very much.

  4. Spike says:

    I’ve used the Ipods briefly (who hasn’t?) and the Zen series extensively, The Ipod is technichally superior when it comes to user interface, but I kid you not when I say the difference is negligible, especially when considering other much more important factors, like battery life. I was looking at upgrading from my 20GB Zen to the Ipod Photo 60GB (simply cos it was the largest), or more likely to the Zen 40GB. Funny thing is after some significant research I seem to have settled on the Zen Mirco 5GB as is has oddly enough, A REPLACEABLE BATTERY. It doesn’t matter how much said battery is now, it will either be cheaper or available third party by the time I need it. I’m working it out so that this should hopefully fill the void between my 20GB and when the companies decide to get of their respecitve arses and DO SOMETHING about battery life in higher capacity models.. That said one more thing I need to check out Rio’s stuff. Seems comparable to sone of the Zen models, but I don’t know very much about them other than that.

    And before you ask, I-Rivers are exhorbiantly (sp?) expensive here in Australia, moreso than another other make of player. :/

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