bargain basement ipods.
August 3, 2005 1:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm ready to be assimilated, and am considering purchasing an Ipod. I read in a Cringely column, recently, that b/w ipods are being offered "everywhere" at $150 discounts to make room for the new models. Where might I find these magical discounts?

And, is there a better mp3 player to be had for $200 other than the discounted mini?
posted by craniac to Computers & Internet (22 answers total)
You can often get good deals direct from Apple, if you go to their store and click on the red price tag in the right column. You can also watch DealMac for good deals on Mac stuff in general.

Welcome to the machine!
posted by spilon at 1:56 PM on August 3, 2005

Thanks. So, is the "click wheel" worth an extra 50 bucks? Cuz they've got non-click wheel ipods for $189.
posted by craniac at 2:27 PM on August 3, 2005

It's not, IMO. I have a 15-GB with non-click wheel (it has the buttons on top- it's hard to find cases to fit it, you might not like that- I just keep mine in a sock) and it plays music, so I'm happy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:30 PM on August 3, 2005 [1 favorite]

is there a better mp3 player...?

People get SO opinionated about this, but they rarely ask "what are you going to do with the mp3 player?" The answer could make quite a difference.

I have a 40gig iPod, and I really can't find ANY other player that will work for me. I'm not 100% happy with the iPod, but I'm stuck with it, based on my needs. Which are...

a) large storage capacity. (I've already filled 80% of it, and yes I DO listen to most of the stuff on it repeatedly. I have it running pretty much continually, for many hours of the day, and it helps me get through my insomnia at night.)

b) the ability to play files.

I've found no other players that allow me to BOTH of these things. There ARE other players (see that play audible files (and keep your place in them), but they don't give you 40 or 60 gigs of storage space. There are other players that give you large storage space (i.e. Archos), but they don't play audible files. (This was true as of about a year ago. If this has changed, please let me know!)

I REALLY don't want to carry around two players, so the iPod is the only choice for me. And it does what I want pretty well.

Here's what I DON'T like about the iPod: the whole battery thing is really annoying. After a year of constant use, my battery died and I had to replace it manually. This wasn't a HUGE problem, but there's on official way to do it, so I had to break open the machine.

I like to operate it with a remote control. The remote that comes with (or used to come with) the iPod sucks. I went through about 10 of them, at $40 a piece. I've started buying 3rd party versions, but they are all imperfect. (My big gripe with them is that they all cover the lock switch on the top of the ipod. In order to change the album you're playing, you have to have the ipod unlocked, because you can't change the album from the remote. The remote can only start, stop, rewind, fast-forward and change volume. But I want to keep the unit locked while it's playing, because it it's unlocked, it's constantly doing things I don't want it to do, because I accidentally push a button. So I lock it, put the remote control on, and then -- when I want to change albums -- I have to remove the remote, unlock it, change the album, lock it again, and replace the remote. UGH! The apple remotes are the only ones I've found that don't cover the lock switch -- but, as I've said, they break all the time.)

I wish the iPod kept a navigation list, like a web browser. It will keep my place in the song I'm currently playing, but that's it. So if I'm listening to an audiobook, and it's one looong file (which it usually is), it will keep my place so that I can turn off the unit and then turn it back on and resume where I left off. Audible files even have their own internal bookmarks, so I can be halfway through a chapter, switch to a Beatles song, and then switch back to the book without losing my place. All great. But it's SO easy to accidently lose my place WHILE listening to a book. If I'm say three hours into a ten hour book and I accidently press fast-forward, I'm screwed. A history would solve this.

My iPod crashes a lot. This annoying at best (you can reboot it) and scary at worst (it's pretty expensive to replace!)

Some of these problems could be solved with better hardware. But many of them require better software. I wish the OS was more configurable. IPod users want to use their machines in very personal ways. I would like to make my machine more usable for ME. I wish it came with some kind of scripting language so that I could add some personalized functionality. (Apple's idea of upgrades is to add more and more bells and whistles -- photos, video, etc. I just want the current features to be more robust and configurable. But some people DO want photos. We should ALL get what we want).

I know I'm asking a lot from a little music player, but it has become the MAJOR device of my life. It's the one machine that is almost a PART of me. And for the price I paid, I expect more out of it.
posted by grumblebee at 2:35 PM on August 3, 2005

It wasn't just the click-wheel that's different on those two models. Wasn't there software and battery life differences?
posted by FlamingBore at 2:38 PM on August 3, 2005

Just a thought. There are some things you buy - get a good deal, not top of the line - and that's it, you don't think about it again. Then there are things you buy and then wish that you'd spent a bit more, got those extra features. By that time, of course, it's too late. The iPod is firmly in the latter category for me. I've never had such an intimate relationship with a "thing". It has become part of me. I'm terribly glad I got the best one, and will probably upgrade the minute I can, and damn the expense. You see what I'm getting at.

On preview, grumblebee and I agree perfectly.
posted by grahamwell at 2:40 PM on August 3, 2005

Get something with a replaceable battery, unless you want to pay $99 every year or so.
posted by delmoi at 3:27 PM on August 3, 2005

new 3rd-party iPod batteries run around $30 - at least mine did.
posted by lbergstr at 3:40 PM on August 3, 2005

It's really not that hard to replace iPod batteries yourself for $30 or less.
posted by trevyn at 3:41 PM on August 3, 2005

I have a non-click wheel 20, and it suits me just fine. The click-wheel ones might be a bit smaller and have better battery life though. I can't say for sure, but that's usually been the main things they've upgraded in each version.

In my three-iPod household, we've never had to replace any batteries at all yet. Of course, YMMV.
posted by spilon at 4:04 PM on August 3, 2005

Get something with a replaceable battery, unless you want to pay $99 every year or so.

Consider ignoring misinformation like this. On preview, what trevyn said.
posted by Rothko at 4:18 PM on August 3, 2005

Thank you for the excellent answers, all!
posted by craniac at 4:31 PM on August 3, 2005

I personally have a 3G ipod with 15 GB of space. I've had a interesting challenge with my models, but apple has come through each time by replacing my ipod. The first time the IPOD just flat out died (The HD made a small grinding noise). The second time the battery life just drained extremely quickly. The third and last time the battery died as well. I went through Apple's service website and they sent me a box to send the ipod back to them. I got a new refurbished IPOD each time. Excellent service.

Overall, get the Ipod and get as much as you an afford. I've filled up my ipod with podcasts and new music every week. As for purchasing an IPOD for cheap, ebay is excellent for new refurbs. They usually run 120-200 depending on the model. If you're into searching forums, check out and go to the "hot deals" section under the forums.

Also, check out and also . They are both great websites. These websites usually have email alerts if you sign up for accounts. Do a IPOD search and they will send you an email whenever someone posts a new thread or comments about where they found cheap IPODs.

I myself found my ipod on for 236 dollars about a year ago. They were just introducing the 4G models at the time.

Hope I can help!
posted by huy_le at 5:42 PM on August 3, 2005

Links didn't work for some reason:
posted by huy_le at 5:43 PM on August 3, 2005

the link button on metafilter generates a regular html tag, requiring you to fill in something between the tag opening (the a href part) and the tag closing (the slash a part). Alternatively, you can just highlight a word before you click the "link" button and the tag will surround that word.
posted by fishfucker at 6:46 PM on August 3, 2005

If you prefer handling music management yourself, like to copy audio tracks both to and from your player, like FM radio and the ability to record it... in short, a feature-filled, no-frills, no-additional $ervice$, no take-over-your-computer software to install MP3 player, you might consider the Creative Labs ZEN Micro ($180) or the crazy-awesome battery-life Motorola 2-Tone ($145).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:52 PM on August 3, 2005

I'd just like to add a positive note about the Dell DJ. I am on my 2nd (the first was replaced by Dell with little to no hassle after a hard drive failure), and it has taken some fairly decent abuse with no ill effects. It is (or was, when I bought it) around $100 cheaper than a comparable iPod, and I am very happy with my choice.

That said, I'd like to echo what has been said above about figuring out what features you need and looking for a player that has them. For instance, a firmware update to the DJ that came out just before I bought mine added the ability to shuffle play the entire library. I would NEVER have bought an MP3 player without that feature -- it is about the only way I listen to my music. Do some research to make sure the player you are getting does what you want it to. No sense in saving $50 to get a device you hate.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:19 PM on August 3, 2005

I can't vouch for the whole thing, but they offer $100 discounts on iPods with a year-long subscription.
posted by kmel at 8:22 PM on August 3, 2005

I like my iAudio M3L quite a bit. I chose it primarily for OGG support, extended battery life, decent voice recording, driverlessness (viz., it's a mass storage device, so no proprietary software needed to transfer and retrieve files, meaning good linux support), and because it has a good remote (viz., I don't have to pull the main unit out of my bag in order to switch albums). Basically, I like it because of all the digital audio players, it filled the highest number of my requirements for such a device. Whether there's a better player out there for you depends largely on what you want to use it for.

I will recommend that if you do get an ipod, you replace the earbuds, especially if you ride public transit. The white earbuds seem to be an invitation to potential muggers (i've seen two people just within the past few weeks filing out police reports at el stops due to having their ipods stolen).
posted by aiko at 8:34 PM on August 3, 2005

A couple of points about the iPod:
1) Since Hewlett Packard just announced they're discontinuing sales of "their" iPod, check their website or stores stocking it for closeout specials.
2) If you decide to buy an older model iPod, I'd go with the reconditioned units on Apple's site -- the company covers them with full warranties.
posted by rob511 at 10:26 PM on August 3, 2005

I have an iRiver H320 and I'm very happy with it. In retrospect, perhaps the H340 would have been better, because I've easily filled the 20GB disk.

When I was examining my options as to which player to buy, I specifically rejected the iPod early on, since it didn't do everything I wanted.
posted by salmacis at 4:21 AM on August 4, 2005

A vote of non-confidence in the Dell DJ here. I bought a first-gen DJ20 about two years ago, and it worked great—except for the hard drive, which failed in two units after four months. Dell was great about replacing the first unit, but much slower in replacing the second. Personally, two RMAs is two too many, and the additional customer service fiasco trying to get my second unit replaced sealed the deal.

Now I own a 4G iPod. It's gone almost a year with no problems. The first-gen DJs had far better batteries (easily lasting twice as long as the 3G iPods), but the new DJ generation is smaller than the first, and has lost the battery charge advantage. Nowadays, I'd perhaps take a good look at iRiver (who've apparently come down in price since the last time I looked) and Creative (though the DJ was essentially a Creative player, so again watch for bad hard drives). But an iPod mini is very close to perfection to many—just the right size, just the right capacity, just the right look, just the right everything. Hard to beat if you don't care about FM radio, voice recordings or listening to WMAs.
posted by chrominance at 2:07 PM on August 4, 2005

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