Thursday, April 27, 2006

Picking a new player

After a few months of my nearly 3 year old 3G iPod suffering all sorts of battery issues (full charges lasting between 1 and 5 hours seemingly totally at random and the battery completely draining from full in just a few days, even with no use) I decided to pick up a new player. Initially I considered the top end large hard drive audio/video players but at the end of the day their main selling point, video support, appeared inferior to both my PSP and HTC phone in terms of screen size, supported formats and resolution. Taking video out of the equation and being realistic with myself I know I don’t have any need for a 30GB+ player as my music collection is about 3GB plus however many podcasts I happen to have and I very rarely used by iPod as a USB drive.

Thus I started to look into smaller 4-8GB players and it quickly became evident there were three challengers here, the 4GB Nano, the Zen Micro series and the Sony MP3 Walkman, specifically the NW-A1000. After a quick look around the Sony was the first to be cut as I simply didn’t like the interface. The device looks great but it seems to have sacrificed usability and I found the small 6GB version near impossible to use due to the tiny control wheel. Not to mention the included software for syncing has got virtually universal negative reviews.

The Zen Micro line presented two options, both the standard grey scale 6GB version or the £20 (~US$35) more costly, 8GB, colour, Zen Micro Photo version. After a quick play I found both to be very easy to use, with a great powerful, customisable interface including the ability to delete songs directly from the player which is one of my pet hates on the iPod. Overall I preferred the Photo due to the extra disk space and colour screen for very little extra cost, so that remained on the list.

Finally the nano is of course a great product, I’m already used to the interface, love iTunes and think the design is brilliant. The only downside was the slightly limiting 4GB of space.

At the end of the day it came down to price, the Micro Photo retails for around £140 (~US$250) while the Nano runs about £180 (~US$320), any yes I know we get hammered on prices here but do note these include 17.5% tax. Given that is has double the capacity, an FM tuner and is £40 cheaper the Micro Photo was an easy choice and thus far I have not regretted this in the slightest. Expect a full review soon.

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