Choose my new gadget.
June 28, 2006 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Help me buy a new MP3 player.

I've had an iPod for about 3 years and it is finally starting to die. So I am now in the market for a new portable music gadget, and what with video out there now I am completely lost. I want to know what is out there besides the iPod that meets my features wish-list.

I have looked through a few previous topical questions here, but I think a new question on the subject is warranted for my situation.

I'm a Mac user, so I want something that will talk to my Mac. Preferably without a 3rd party software suite (like MusicMatch Jukebox?). Ideally something that just mounts as an external storage device and lets me manipulate the files on it myself.

My digital music collection is ~60 GB, so I am looking for something that is hard drive based. Doesn't have to be 60 GB, 20 GB is fine with me, but no flash based players.

Should I get one of these gadgets that does video? I am a big cartoon watcher and have many episodes of cartoons on DVD and also ripped to my hard drive as smaller avis (for, um, backup purposes in case I lose my DVDs). So a video gadget that will let me watch a video on a TV without any externuous hardware is good. I think it would be pretty neat to be able to dump a bunch of cartoons on it, so I could bring them to a friends house and watch them there.

I like the idea of a hard drive based mp3 player with a cheap low quality camera in it. I don't have a camera phone, and this would seem to be a good way to replicate the always-have-a-camera experience. I looked at the Archos Gmini 402cc (featured on the main page of Archos) but nobody in Canada sells it; I don't want to buy one without holding it in my hands first. Are there any other gadgets that do this?

Has anyone had such a good experience with the Gmini 402cc that I shouldn't even worry about trying one in a store first? Reviews on this gadget are scarce and I'd like to hear from anyone here who has one, or knows someone who does.

Is a video iPod my best bet? It looks like Archos has some comparable products, but I've never used one of their gadgets, so I have no ideas. Any opinions from people who've tried Mac-compatible manufacturers besides Apple?
posted by The Wig to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have you purchased much music from the iTunes store? Those files will only play on an iPod.
posted by teg at 2:39 PM on June 28, 2006

I had epic hardware problems with my Archos Gmini xs200. It would continually shut down during playback, as often as three or four times an hour, and I ran into frequent skipping problems as well. I returned it twice and the third one still didn't work right! I would strongly recommend going with a company with a better reputation for reliable hardware. Note the reviews for their 402cc here. Not exactly glowing praise.

As for comparable gadgets that meet your feature list, I like the Creative Zen Vision M, but I don't think it has Mac support yet. They're supposed to be working on it, and the Creative units are much more reliable than Archos, so I'd recommend that you wait for the Zen Vision M or give in to the video iPod.
posted by vorfeed at 2:42 PM on June 28, 2006

Preface: I currently own a 3rd gen 10GB iPod and a Treo. I plan on getting rid of the Treo and getting a video iPod soon.

I'd say a Video iPod would be the way to go. I'm a Mac user as well, and I tried to use my Treo as my mp3 player for a while. I guess I was spoiled by the iPod/iTunes integration, because when I went to do everything manually, it felt like a HUGE pain. I even went so far as to write a series of AppleScripts that provided rudimentary sync functionality, but it wasn't the same.

Also, the video capability of the iPod seems to be fairly good, from what I understand. My little brother has a video iPod, and he says that managing video is as easy as music, which must be nice. I have a large video collection that I'd like to be able to carry around as well. I recently purchased a program whose name I can't remember because I'm on my work PC, but it will do 1-click conversion to iPod video format. (I'm sure there are free utilities to do this as well.) What I plan to do is keep the full-quality originals on burned DVDs and leave the iPod-formatted files on the hard drive and in iTunes. Most of the time, when I want to watch Family Guy, I have it in a small window anyway, so the resolution isn't that big of a deal to me. And it's nice to save some space on the hard drive as well, since the iPod files are much smaller than the giant 640x480 DivX files I have.

Long story short, if you like the iPod/iTunes interface, you'll love a videoPod. And even if you think you don't like the interface, give a different player a try for a while and see if you still feel the same way. There's a reason it's #1 by a long shot...
posted by cebailey at 3:00 PM on June 28, 2006

I've been using the Zen Vision (full-size, not the M) for a few months and it's been great. The Zen is quite different to the iPod though and you should probably try one before purchasing. I guess a lot depends on your primary use: if you're mainly going to use it as a music player, then there's little advantage over the iPod Video. If, however, you're looking for a portable video solution (and one that will play your DivX videos natively without arsing around with conversion) and you don't mind the extra size then go with the Zen. The large screen (3.7", 640x480) really makes a lot of difference.

No idea about Mac compatibility.
posted by blag at 3:08 PM on June 28, 2006

iRivers tend to be of great quality, and they have a 20GB video player with a nice large screen and a fairly good battery life.
Personally, i'd go with the iPod video, but those come in 30GB and 60GB models, so if you're looking for something smaller, the iRivers are great.
posted by alon at 3:30 PM on June 28, 2006

My friend has a iAUDIO which is comparable to the iPod in size and hard drive space, plays video, works as an external hard drive (you just drag and drop files and navigate through folders to play music), plays FM radio and has an incredibly long battery life. If my iPod dies I will definitely considering buying one of these. (I wish I wasn't so attached to Smart Playlists, though. Sigh.)
posted by puffin at 3:30 PM on June 28, 2006

I find the iAUDIO linked to above extremely tempting. It has a wired remote with a screen so you can see what you are listening to without pulling the whole unit out of your pocket or bag, and much more importantly it has support for codecs like FLAC and OGG that Apple has refused to support. It comes in a 60gig size as well. Take a good look at it -- I know I will when my iPod dies.
posted by The Bellman at 3:49 PM on June 28, 2006

I've read that the iAUDIO screen does not compare to the Creation Vision M. Also, that the playback on the X5 is 15 frames/second. I am not sure if this applies to the X5L that is linked.
posted by utsutsu at 4:02 PM on June 28, 2006

I would stay with the iPod just because of the software. I use iSquint for my conversions and until now, it has just been working like a mac-app should be :-)
posted by KimG at 4:19 PM on June 28, 2006

I have a Creative Zen Nomad:M and I like it a lot, but frankly, if you already have a Mac, you should just get the video iPod. Both are available in 60gb versions, if I remember correctly.

The two models are essentially the same (Nomad's got FM radio and microphone built-in, as well as a better screen... but the controls aren't as nice), but I'm guessing that from a software perspective you'll save yourself a lot of hassle by sticking with Apple products.
posted by Hildago at 5:46 PM on June 28, 2006

There are definite advantages to abandoning iPod for another brand like Creative or iRiver. Top of the list is more options for online music services and greater flexibility of use. I've got a Zen Micro 6GB that I adore, but if I had the extra scratch I'd be going for a larger iRiver.

I'm one of the few who really doesn't get the point of watching video on a tiny, tiny screen. I really don't see the advantage to paying more (if indeed you do) for video functionality.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:00 PM on June 28, 2006

I have an Archos Gmini400 and I love it. A month after I got it, a friend unplugged it (from the PC) while it was uploading songs and after that it wouldn't work, but I returned it with no problem and have it had it for a year since then with no problems. Great battery life, really neat and easy to use. I use it much more as external HD (no 3rd party software, works just like a flash drive) and video player than MP3. I don't have a DVD player at home, so I convert all my DVDs/download movies and shows and put it on the player and then connect it to the TV.
The MP3 functions are nice but pretty basic. Biggest flaw is the lack of a fast scroll function. Be prepared to hold the down arrow for a long time if you have something in the middle of your list that you want to listen to. Nice on-the-go playlist creation and usual random/shuffle features. Also can show album covers if you care about that (which I don't).
You can check out this page for information, reviews, and even a mod that lets you play Genesis games on the Gmini (!)
posted by shokod at 10:23 PM on June 28, 2006

I have an iPod Video 60GB and couldn't be happier with it. The video quality is excellent despite the small screen. I use Windows, and have ripped DVDs for use on the iPod, which I understand is even easier on the Mac than it is on the PC. Obviously it works well as a storage device for both Mac and PC as well as a music/video player. This is my second iPod (I gave my 15GB 3G. to my son when I got the 5G).
posted by lhauser at 11:03 PM on June 28, 2006

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