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Another iPod Competitor 413

Posted by timothy
from the looks-worthy dept.
rael9real writes "NOMAD has intoduced a new player. It has USB 2 and FireWire (finally), and supports WMA and MP3. It has a 20GB drive like the high-end iPod, and supposedly holds more music because it supports WMA (though why someone would want to use WMA is beyond me). It *is* cheaper than the iPod, though. Looks like a definite competitor. Maybe it'll drive iPod pricing down." Update: 10/14 21:21 GMT by T : Note that the listed specs for the player mention only "USB," not USB 2.
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Another iPod Competitor

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  • Gotta say it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drunken Coward (574991) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:47PM (#4447856)
    Will it support Ogg Vorbis?
    • Re:Gotta say it... (Score:5, Informative)

      by sweetooth (21075) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:56PM (#4447966) Homepage
      Go read the specifications, it's not listed. Only mp3 and wma are listed.
      specs [nomadworld.com]
    • It doesn't appear so, but if you look at the bottom of their spec sheet page:

      ** Operating System/Firmware support & update will be available via www.NOMADWorld.com
      (http://www.nomadworld.com/pro ducts/Jukebox_Zen/sp ecs.asp)

      It looks at though it could possibly be added if demand was great enough. This is just speculation though.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 14, 2002 @04:23PM (#4448762)
      People are complaining about features? The Nomad does have features over and above the iPod. Most notably recording. Many people in the live & location recording circles are exploring the Nomads as a replacement for DAT and Mini Disc recording. Creative engineers have been quite active with end users on some of the message boards I frequent with refining the firmware of the Nomad III to enable bit accurate recording and data transfer, so they will listen to a relatively small customer base to improve their product. That said I think I remember reading an article that discussed why so few portable devices support OGG and other codecs. It basically comes down to CPU power. Most of the embedded chips do not have enough processing power to support OGG decoding. Any device this small makes a tradeoff between battery and processing power. Finally 10-12 hours of nonstop music is a lot, maybe I can't listen to EVERY song on a player in that time, but do you always know what songs you listen to before you leave the house? I don't, so it's nice to have a large selection to choose from. And the ability to recharge from a USB port or an AC adapter sounds pretty nice to me. Competition in this market will drive innovation and lower prices. The iPod and Nomad are both prime examples of that, so let's hope for our sake the battle continues.
      • It basically comes down to CPU power. Most of the embedded chips do not have enough processing power to support OGG decoding.

        This is quite false. In fact, many of the required decoding operations (IDCT being the primary one) are so close to identical it hardly matters. Moreover, decoding of Vorbis is nearly as efficient as MP3 decoding (give it the same kind of optimization time MP3 has had, and we can revisit the statement.) Since WMA is closed, I haven't seen any good papers on WMA decoder efficiency, but I think there's little reason to think it behaves much different to MP3 or Vorbis.

        And there's one key point that makes the CPU power argument fall flat on its face: Encoding into either MP3 or WMA, requires massive (at least to an embedded system) resources; espescially when compared to the amount of processing power needed to decode the same piece. The difference is several orders of magnitude.

        If the thing can record and encode to MP3, (espescially in real-time), Vorbis decoding is a no-brainer. Espescially with a fully-integerized decoder freely available.

        Frankly, I think the thing should have the following decoders (in order of 'significance')

        MP3 -- The de facto standard.
        AAC -- The 'new' MPEG standard (MPEG4), which not only encompasses MPEG4, but also RealAudio8+

        WMA -- Pandering to Microsoft hasn't been bad for Creative in the past, and since there are millions who just use WMA because it's built-in to Windows, it makes sense to support it.

        Vorbis -- The hacker favorite, but also lacks the licencing fees required for MP3, AAC, or WMA.
        MP3Pro -- Less popular than Vorbis, but it has the blessing of Thompson and Frauhaufer.

        Ideally, it should be able to have decoder 'plugins' that you download, and are stored on the disk with the music (ie. not in firmware).

  • by guacamolefoo (577448) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:48PM (#4447867) Homepage Journal
    ...part of the fun is doing other stuff with it and the community/culture of hacking it to do other stuff besides just play MP3 files. How much fun will the Nomad provide, and will it be able to generate the same sort of interest?

    And oh yeah...what about ogg? (sheesh)

    guac-foo
    • by sweetooth (21075) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:59PM (#4448007) Homepage
      I don't see why you couldn't do the same things with the Nomad. What's differant is that Apple supported additional features out of the starting gate while Creative doesn't appear to. Also, Apple has great software support for the iPod. iTunes is a very nice piece of software, and frankly Creative Play Center is crap IMO. The interface is clunky and overcomplicated. As far as Ogg goes I don't think we'll see it on any of the Nomads right now. Then again, it's not on the iPod either.
  • 20 GB hard drive? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gpinzone (531794) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:49PM (#4447876) Homepage Journal
    One of the nice things about the iPod was the fact that it is essentially a firewire hard drive. You can put anything on it. It also has a very weak system to prevent music from being copied from the iPod back to the computer. How about this player? Will I be able to jockey files back and forth between my friend's computer and my own?
  • OGG! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c0wh (445032) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:49PM (#4447882)
    I would buy this as soon as possible if it played OGG. I suppose we need to make it clear to the manufacturers that OGG support would be beneficial to sales.

    Perhaps we just need to give OGG time to become more pervasive.
    • Isn't that a chicken and egg problem? How does Ogg Vorbis become more pervasive if all consumer appliances and software like this support mp3 but not Ogg Vorbis out of the box? If this supported Ogg Vorbis out of the box you might see more people ripping cd's to Ogg Vorbis or at least visiting the website to find out what the hell this Ogg Vorbis thingy is.
      • Before there were MP3 appliances, people were trading MP3 files. If you only trade Ogg files, then manufacturers will do what they always do: supply the demand.
    • Re:OGG! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stungod (137601) <scott AT globalspynetwork DOT com> on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:41PM (#4448408) Homepage Journal
      Damn straight! That and BeOS support too. You might as well make the whole leap to technically superior and obscure. Then you can feel totally oppressed.

      Honestly, I totally agree that .ogg support on all audio devices would be a good thing. But you also have to take into account the extra time cramming .ogg support on the embedded decoder vs. the typical consumer's wishes. It's hard to admit from the geek's standpoint, but there still isn't a real compelling reason on the vendors' parts to support .ogg. You probably won't see the shitty bundled software for Linux or even Mac for the same reason.
  • Shock absorbtion? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ccano (22282) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:50PM (#4447891) Homepage
    I wonder how shock absorbent this guy is -- if I take it running and shake it around a lot, how long is this thing going to last before I mess up the hard drive or something?
    • Re:Shock absorbtion? (Score:3, Informative)

      by MImeKillEr (445828)
      Well, its essentially a slimline harddrive. I have no idea what the buffer is on it, so heavy shaking's going to make it skip and possibly damage the platter and/or head.

      They've got 512MB solid-state USB memory keys (think: DiskOnKey) that you can play audio/video from on your PC. I imagine it won't be too long before they've got a decent 1GB+ storage chip that someone could put into a portable audio device like this. I'd hope it would be cheaper too.

      I've got an el-cheapo JaMP3 simply because it cost me $20. The 64MB MMC disk cost me another $80, so I've got a whopping 80MB of MP3 storage. Sure, I can shrink the bitrates down using DietMP3 and the quality's going to suck, but I'm not about to shell out $300 for an MP3 player..

    • Shock absorption is loosely related to how much buffer cache you have. This player has 16MB, the iPod, if I recall, has 32MB. So, in theory, the iPod should last a little while better. I've heard of people jogging with the iPod, though, and screwing up the drive - just depends on how you handle it, I guess.

      I also heard that Apple took those units back and replaced 'em with no hassle ... ?!?
    • Re:Shock absorbtion? (Score:3, Informative)

      by BWJones (18351)
      I wonder how shock absorbent this guy is

      I can't speak about the Nomad, but the I have taken the iPod jogging, mountain biking, bicycle commuting etc... and have never had a skip. Essentially the iPod has a huge RAM buffer (can't remember how big, but something like 32 or 64 MB). The hard drive spins up briefly and loads music into RAM before spinning down again. This saves battery life, limits the damage to the hard drive, and keeps music from skipping. I looked at a number of MP3 players before deciding on the iPod and I must say I am truly happy with the iPod. The other bonus is that I can take the iPod and almost half of our collection of music with me with the 20GB model after synching it to our home stereo system (iTunes powered). Thats about 13 days of music folks and you can have road trip mixes, exercise mixes etc.... that can easily be updated before walking out of the house.

      See scientia et macintosh [applelust.com] for more iPod commentary.

  • you confuse me (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stratjakt (596332)
    > ... holds more music because it supports WMA (though why someone would want to use WMA is beyond me).

    Uhm, because it holds more music?

    geesh.
  • Will it support DRM-only transfers/songs?
  • by ColGraff (454761) <maron1&mindspring,com> on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:50PM (#4447903) Homepage Journal
    It's worth pointing out that, if you're just ripping your own CDs, WMA isn't a *terrible* format. It's reasonable size, reasonable quality. It can't compare to a quality ten ogg vorbis file, but then again I don't believe it's meant to. For portable devices, it almost makes sense - except, of course, for the lack of linux support. And if you want to do anything involving sharing music and putting it on your player, than of course the WMA DRM features can be - but aren't always - a problem.
    • I use WMA for very tight voice audio encoding.

      I like old time radio, for example, and there are newsgroups where people post the audio files. With WMA you can crunch a half hour show small enough to fit on a floppy. The fidelity isn't great, but it's good enough for this content.

      I've never had a problem with DRM when I make my own files.

      I don't think there's a one size fits all solution for everyone. WMA is good at some things, MP3 is very portable, is a great free system that gives you tight compression and great sound, etc.
    • For portable devices, it almost makes sense - except, of course, for the lack of linux support.

      There's plenty of (unofficial) Linux support for WMA. Both MPlayer [mplayerhq.hu] and avifile [sourceforge.net] support most WMA formats. Plus, Crossover [codeweavers.com] provides a plugin for WMA8 that works just fine (granted it costs $25, but it's the best quality/buck ratio in the business).

      DZM
  • by millia (35740)
    They didn't have any more info than the press release did, though. They had 1-2 week availability listed.
    So it's $100 cheaper than the same size ipod, with USB connectivity and WMA capability.
  • Copy Apple... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by djcatnip (551428) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:53PM (#4447929) Homepage Journal
    that's all anyone ever does. Gateway with their commercial of their computer jumping over imacs, ms copying apple's switcher ads, everyone comparing their MP3 players to an ipod... if nothing else, apple innovates ...
    • Apple innovates? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by unicorn (8060) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:59PM (#4448013)
      At least with regard to the iPOD, Apple was late to the game. Archos had products on the market LONG before Apple released the iPod.

      Keep clinging to the fantasy, that everyone wants to be as innovative as Steve tho.
      • by Jobe_br (27348)
        What product did I miss from Archos that had the capacity of the initial iPod (5GB), the form-factor (1.8" drive), the battery time (10hrs+), the interface speed (Firewire) and the software interface (iTunes) and the very slick looking design?

        Sure, 5GB+ players existed when the iPod was released. But, the iPod is much more than that. I'm not privy to Archos' sales figures, but I imagine they'd love to have sold as many of their players as Apple has sold iPods. Just a guess ..
      • by Pengo (28814) on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:51PM (#4448503) Journal

        Archose didn't innovate anything. They put a bigger storage medium onto mp3 players.

        Apple brought functionality and un-matched system integration with a first class application (iTunes). They have managed to turn the device into a personal organizer as well. The only thing out there that I have seen that comes close to this is the PocketPC devices, but the storage and battery is dismal on those devices.

        I would say that Apple delivered the full widget where other manufacturers have failed. I consider that strongly innovative and even more progressive.

  • USB power?? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by psycht (233176) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:55PM (#4447952) Homepage Journal
    "You can charge the NOMAD Jukebox Zen via the USB port too!"

    hmm. is this a wise thing?
    Aside from that, if it IS cheaper than iPOD, then i'm game.
  • Umm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Umm - did anyone notice that it does not have USB 2.0? So really how useful is it to the hoards of people who don't have firewire? Not very is the right answer. Transferring music over USB 1.1 would take like a day to fill the player.
  • Confusing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dachshund (300733) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:56PM (#4447972)
    I don't want an FM tuner and I don't want recording capability. Apple got it just right on that score.

    I can't figure out whether this unit features those features, because they're both listed, but "require an optional remote control". Does that mean that the features are built in (and therefore I'm paying for them in terms of extra hardware costs and weight), but can only get to them by buying a stupid remote? Or is the actual functionality built into the remote?

    • So... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NetJunkie (56134)
      Don't use them. I *DO* want an FM Tuner. I can't figure out why no one else adds one. I use my MP3 player at the gym a lot. When doing cardio I'd like to watch the news or the game on the TV, but to hear it I need an FM tuner. That's another device to bother with.
  • by SoCalChris (573049) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:56PM (#4447974) Journal
    I have a first generation Nomad Jukebox. There are several newsgroups & websites devoted to hacking these, so I'm assuming that the newer ones will be hackable also.

    I love my Nomad, with the exception of it's size (Portable CD player size), slow transfer (USB only) and battery life (About 2 hours), but this new player seems to fix all of those. As soon as it has been out a while and prices drop, I would definately love to have one of these.
  • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:56PM (#4447978)
    I recently bought a ipod (windows 20gb version) after years of using minidiscs. All i can say is they rule. 1 hour charge time to 80%, firewire connectivity, ability to jsut use it as a external harddisk, the interface rocks. And above all they look sweet as well.

    Any competitor is going to have to do a lot to beat Apples domination of the market.

    If they do bring the ipods price down, it wont be a bad thing. Yes ill probably feel resentful cause i paid more, but what the hell. The morepeople that have iPods the better.

    Oh and if you have a Windows Ipod, dont use the enclosed software, use Ephpod [ephpod.com], a fantastic bit of free software which is so much better than Apples bundled Music Match Jukebox.
    • I bought my iPod on Saturday. It's the best designed device I've ever seen I was a little anxious about putting down 500 bucks for an mp3 player, especially after putting down over 200 a few months ago (RCA Lyra2, I bought it because I wanted something that would use compact flash cards which I have many of - unfortunately it doesn't really use the MP3 format, and if your source MP3 isn't 128 kbps the sound quality is miserable)

      I'll second your opinion of Ephpod as well, I haven't used it under Windows, but it runs excellently under WINE.
  • by Kaypro (35263) on Monday October 14, 2002 @02:58PM (#4447993)
    The reason iPod is such a great product is because it integrates perfectly with iTunes. Not only does the hardware interface become a pleasure to use but the software-hardware interface is seamless as well. The real question here is how well thought out is Creative PlayCenter 3. Assuming that Creative made the hardware intuitive AND made organizing/transfering your music to it just as good, then they may have something here, at least for PC users. God knows that the iPod for Windows and MusicMatch Jukebox is just embarassing to use.
    • I've used Play Center 3 a good bit because it came with my Sound Blaster Audigy, and I can't stand it. Version 3 is better than the older versions, but it's still clunky and over complicated. That's just my opinion of course and others may have had better experiences. Having used both Play Center 3 and iTunes though, I would say that iTunes is much better than Play Center. iTunes just has a ton of thought put into makeing the user interaction with the software as simple as possible.
  • A bit about the Zen (Score:5, Informative)

    by fremen (33537) on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:00PM (#4448018)
    I've been lurking in various Creative boards, largely because I just bought the Nomad Jukebox 3. Anyway, the general belief is that the Zen is a somewhat stripped down Nomad Jukebox 3. When you think about it, this makes sense.

    The Jukebox 3 is a hard drive based MP3 player, just like the iPod. That said, they occupy slightly different niches. The iPod is small and very portable. The Jukebox 3 is bigger, but it has much more battery space, recording capabilities, a wired remote, more disk for the price, etc. There are two different markets here, and Creative wants a piece of the iPod's pie. The Zen appears to be a Jukebox 3 without the extra battery space, without the recording features (expect through its external wired remote), without the docking station port, etc. It's smaller, more portable, and easier to carry than the Jukebox 3. It also does less than the Jukebox 3.

    Truthfully, it's a wonderful time to be thinking about an MP3 player (especially hd based). Every possible configuration is out there. On the cheap side, you have Archos with it's video player. Creative has a richly featured (and fairly inexpensive) Jukebox and a less featured, more portable Zen. Apple has a very portable and light iPod that's also more expensive. There's a toy for every price range and feature set!
  • by wherley (42799) on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:00PM (#4448020)
    iPod specs here [ipod.com]

    Jukebox Zen [nomadworld.com]
    specs here

    Height: iPod =101.6 mm vs. Zen=112.6

    Width: iPod =60.96 mm vs. Zen=75.9

    Depth: iPod =21.34 mm vs. Zen=24.5

    Weight: iPod =7.2 oz vs. Zen=9.5 oz

    Display: iPod=160x128 pix vs. Zen=132x64 pix

    Output Power: iPod=60mW vs. Zen=100mW

    Playing Time: iPod=10hours vs. Zen=12hours

    • by GlobalEcho (26240) on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:05PM (#4448087)
      Plus you can get the Zen with a multi-button mouse!

      (/me ducks, runs)
    • by The Evil Twin (217345) on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:34PM (#4448350) Homepage
      Seems no one has noticed that the Toshiba Mobilphile (what used to be known as the gigabeat in Japan) is now available.

      http://www.toshiba.com/tacp/portable/current/MEG 50 AS.html

      It's SMALLER than the Zen but bigger than the iPod.
      Has an ejectable card instead of haveing to HACK your unit when you want to upgrade.
      Though in only comes with a 5gb drive as standard so after selling it on ebay and buying the 20GB drive would run you more.

      RUNS LINUX!!! :)

      Suposedly lasts 18 hours!

      Does not have as good of a S/N ratio as the Zen.

      Does not have Firewire (USB 2.0).

      Cheaper than either of them (but only 5gb).

      This is the player I'll probably get. Longer battery life and the chance to try to hack the Linux OS on the thing! :)
    • Multiply the figures, and you will see that the iPod is only 63% the size of the Zen.

      Again, just like with laptops, size matters and weight matters, or else we would all be dragging around an Osborne-1.
    • Nice objectivity... (Score:3, Informative)

      by autopr0n (534291)
      There are a lot more specs then that on those page: recording capablity:
      zen: yes, ipod no

      radio
      zen: yes, ipod no

      S/N ratio:
      zen: 98db, ipod: dosn't say

  • It costs $349.00 US [creative.com], and there is a $50 rebate, bringing the price down to $299.00 once you wait for that rebate check to come.

    Of course, it's Windows-only. You'd think they would include an iTunes plug-in to try and get some of the Apple users.
  • iPod and NOMAD both use a hard disk as its storage medium. Normally, I would imagine that it's therefore not safe to go jogging with one of these. However, are these two MP3 players ruggedized in some way? Does anybody have an horror stories about scratched platters from running with one of these players?
    • This new player is 'ruggedized' with a 16MB cache which *should* cache ~12-15 minutes of hard-disk-access-free audio, depending on encoding quality. The iPod is similarly equipped with 32MB of cache, if I recall, giving it roughly twice that. I could be way off on those times, by the way - its quite dependent on the encoding quality.

      I have heard on forums that disk-based MP3 players are susceptible to scratching and such - but, from what I've heard, Apple's 1yr warranty handles that quite nicely. I would be somewhat leary of the Nomad's 90-day warranty.

      Cheers.
  • Are they available? Atleast these specs [nomadworld.com] tell very little. Anyway, I was thinking whether it would have the HW to run a real OS. I guess it must. If so, someone could throw in a small footprint Linux and make it support ogg. And ofcourse, it would not be just a jukebox anymore.
    • I found some info on the HW of Nomad II which might very similar to this new product, from this creative.products.nomad thread [google.com]:

      This looks to be the case. Inside the unit is a Cirrus Logic CPU (model: EP7212-CV-D EP AWAFED0007 ARM) which seems to be the heart of the unit. The chip is a processor that even has support for Windows CE. It handles audio decompression and even the LCD display. On Cirrus Logic's site you can find sample binaries for the processor that are "C and ARM assembly". They look nothing like the Nomad II firmware in the exe. Also inside the unit is one flash memory chip and one static memory chip. (Intel Flash TE28F800 B3BA90 U0160740A, and an ISSI IS62LV12816LL-70T CA894500P 0002)

      ...so it might be possible to make it run something else, or atleast mod the functionality - but it would be a huge task to make it actually do something useful. Not worth the trouble, I guess.

  • to iPod competitors that aren't bigger, uglier, with a less functional interface, less capabilities, a lesser computer/player interface, shorter battery life and not worth even considering? It would save us all alot of time.
    • Please don't limit these. Unlike Burgx3 I don't have $500 to spend on a HD-based mp3 player. If these iPod competitors are cheaper, and only a little bit bigger, not much uglier (which is subjective anyway), ...how are you judging the interface? Have you used it or read any reviews, or are you just assuming it must suck because the screen is smaller? You must be troll or an idiot because if you RTFA you'd know the battery life is 12 hours vs. 10 for the iPod. STFU, thanks.
  • by shrikel (535309) <hlagfarj AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:12PM (#4448160)
    holds more music because it supports WMA (though why someone would want to use WMA is beyond me)

    I'm waiting for them to come out with one that supports .mid, so I can fit MILLIONS of hours on the drive. My dream is to listen to music constantly for the rest of my life without repeating a song once.

    And those horrible video game music loops don't count. ;)

  • Zen 58% larger (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bobdotorg (598873) on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:15PM (#4448178)
    Comparing the volume of the 20GB offering from each company gives:
    iPod: 132 cc
    Zen: 209 cc

    The Zen is 58% larger.

    Given the overall dimensions, I suspect that the Zen is using a 2.5" HD vs. the iPod's 1.8"

    On another note, after almost a year of heavy use / abuse, my 5GB iPod's battery life sucked - only about 3-4 hours, and it would be dead if left unplugged for a few days. I brought it to my local (Schaumburg, IL) Apple store and they swapped it out for a new (?) unit which has a kickass 11 hours of playtime. I have no experience with Creative Labs, but I wonder what level of warranty, and in my case out of warranty, support they give.
  • The first one to market with an interface that can easily be hacked will be the winner in my book. The Tivo benefits from being easily modifiable, why not a MP3 player? CMIIW, If the Terrapin Mine (linux, right?) played oggs I think we'd have something.
  • Since USB and Firewire were brought up... I have to ask... do they have any competition?

    I was looking at webcams, but they are all USB, meaning they can't be hooked up through a cable longer than 5 feet. Firewire would allow 35 feet, but that would mean FINDING a firewire webcam.

    Besides, the BSDs seem to be SOL when it comes to firewire support.

    Bluetooth might be a nice solution when some devices (webcams, printers) start supporting it. At less than 1MBps, it wouldn't fare too well for something like a wireless external hard drive.

    So... Is there anything out there to challenge USB? Firewire isn't anywhere but in digital camcorders (and a few hard drives), and we all know that 'there can be only one' in the end. Any challengers? Please...
  • One of the best things that Apple has going for it (IMHO) is the look of its products, aside from the God-awful new iMac (a.k.a. iLamp). The iPod is very, very, very good looking and sleek. This thing just looks cheap by comparison. Now, it's certainly cool that it's cheaper and people are going to be more able to afford it, but I think that it is cheaper at the expense of looking cheaper and losing a lot of the "cool" factor that the iPod has.
  • Hard Drive (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LostSinner (546906)
    it may just be me, but does this thing look like they just slapped a screen and some hookups onto an old hard drive casing? part of the attractiveness of the ipod is, well... it's attractiveness.
  • SB1394? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sierran (155611) on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:29PM (#4448316)
    Although it appears to be the same spec, 'SB1394 FireWire' is really just a fairly weak attempt to hijack recognition of the spec and attach it to the 'SoundBlaster' line. From Creative's website:

    --What is the purpose of the SB1394 Certification Program?
    There are differences among IEEE-1394 connectivity relative to performance and overall ease of use. Creative engineers developed the SB1394 Certification Program to ensure optimal performance and usability of SB1394 connectivity for digital entertainment consumers.

    --How does SB1394 Certification Program benefit my product?
    A SB1394-certified device is eligible for joint promotional opportunities, such as in-box cross-promotion, joint soft bundle channel opportunities, e-mail campaigns, on-line exposure, joint presence at selected trade shows, and much more. That is, an SB1394-cetified device has the opportunity to tap into the huge Sound Blaster installed base, leverage the strength of the powerful Sound Blaster brand, and expand market reach in the PC marketplace.

    --cut-- ...in other words, they think it'd be neat if the sheep associate FireWire with them, and they claim that the oh-so-powerful brand recognition of the Creative and SoundBlaster brands will serve as an advantage.

    Sigh.

    On a more technical note, while it may be handy to have both USB and 1394 on the box, it does involve additional hardware and (most important) additional plugs. I have found through my history of players (Original Nomad Jukebox, 64MB flash player, iPod 5GB) that the common point of failure during daily use has been with the plug integrity itself as well as with the entry of dirt, lint, etc. into the plugs. One of the attractions of the iPod is that it only has two ports - one headphone and one FireWire - and both (along with the only edge-mounted control, the lock switch) share the top edge of the unit. this means that only that one side need be carefully protected from FOD and etc.

    The primary advantage of this unit seems to be the ability to create and edit playlists on the machine itself. While this is a nice feature, I can say from my two years with the Nomad Jukebox that the art of UI design is SEVERELY LACKING in Creative's hardware dept. Although one could edit and manupulate lists on that player, it would usually take around 4 or 5 menus to add a single track...
  • by Xunker (6905) on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:31PM (#4448333) Homepage Journal
    While you may understandably think that a cheaper feature-for-feature iPod competitor would cause apple to drop the price on the iPod to match, there is reason this won't happen.

    It's a common misconception that Apple in the business of selling hardware and software, much like people think that Nike sells shoes.

    But Nike does not sell shoes and Apple does not sell computers. They are first and foremost Image companies, selling themselves -- they are their product. This is not a commant on quality, speed or anything of the sort, but it is on price. When you buy and iPod, you are first anf foremost paying for the the fact that is not simply a hard drive, decoder and DAC, but that it's a work of art put together by skilled Apple designers.

    This is why Apple won't bother to match prices, because they don't need to. Though brand names may be little more than stories we tell each other, they are more than enough to justify a higher cost on an equal product. If the iPod does the same but looks better and has a better backstory, people will have little trouble justifying the extra cost.

  • "It aint worth a dog
    If it won't play my ogg."

    doo-wop doo-wop doo-wop

    I'm won't buy any digital audio hardware without Ogg Vorbis support!
  • Battery life.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by z_gringo (452163) <z_gringo@hotmCUR ... minus physicist> on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:52PM (#4448515)
    It says:

    Bring over 8,000 songs (WMA/80kbps) or 5,000 songs (MP3/128kbps) everywhere you go with this cutting-edge compact 20GB player. ,

    But then it also says:
    "The Zen offers up to 12 hours of continuous playback using the quick-charge battery, and the sleek aluminum body makes carrying your music even more fun."

    Forget about how a "sleek aluminum body makes carrying your music even more fun", but 20 GB would offer around 400 hours or so of music. Obviously the batteries cant keep up with that, but enough battery life to listen to more than a tiny fraction of your music would be nice.. I guess this goes back to the whole batteries arent progressing fast enough argument....

  • features (Score:3, Informative)

    by asv108 (141455) <<gro.oiduatahp> <ta> <xela>> on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:52PM (#4448517) Homepage Journal
    I have the 1st gen 5GB ipod and would be glad to replace it with this player if:
    • It doesn't require a ridiculous amount of drivers in order to work. Anything I've bought from creative recently has had the most bloated drivers I've ever seen. The default install of the Audigy installs 100 megs of crap but the worst part is you can't download the new drivers without having the fscking CD!!
    • Is there any reason why this cannot have OGG support? Instead if just trying to mimic the competition why not try to differentiate yourself with additional features? No a crappy FM tuner is not going to cut it..
    • Will this work with other software or will I be locked in to using playcenter?
    • How is creative as far as returns and warranty? When my ipod died after 8-months of use, I got a brand new one 3 days later and apple even sent me a box to ship out the old one.
  • by Chicane-UK (455253) <chicane-uk@ntlworld. c o m> on Monday October 14, 2002 @03:56PM (#4448545) Homepage
    ..though why someone would want to use WMA is beyond me.

    Well.. without even needing to think about it, I can tell you one huge great reason why this player supports WMA over say OGG.. think of all the new users of Windows XP (of which there must be millions) all discovering the new features, which includes the ability to rip music from a CD and store it locally on their machine. What format does Windows Media Player encode in by default unless you buy an 'Addon' pack from people like Cyberlink? Bingo.. WMA.. and as most people use their system 'as is' without changing settings, chances are there are a fair few users with a harddrive full of WMA encoded tunes.
  • by sielwolf (246764) on Monday October 14, 2002 @04:00PM (#4448578) Homepage Journal
    Not to be an ass, but Apple has a bad habit of giving up on a market they have early dominance in (lot of topics on it recently... Newton for one. I guess you could say the same about the GUI based PC).

    So my question is this the end of their lead in portable electronic music? Sure, the iPod seems to be right up there now but how long before someone makes a product that is "almost good enough" but that is a) hell of a lot cheaper b) supporting the latest whims of the market (Ogg support for example).

    Apple seems to have a bad habit of being a Dad: "Oh no, silly user! You don't need that! haha! Trust my judgement!" Then everybody goes off to more friendly shores. Any evidence they won't do it this time?
  • by FattMattP (86246) on Monday October 14, 2002 @04:18PM (#4448716) Homepage
    Let's not forget that the company that makes this, Creative Labs, hopped on the DRM bandwagon [slashdot.org].
  • by Ryan Amos (16972) on Monday October 14, 2002 @05:05PM (#4449096)
    I've actually just recently gotten hooked on MiniDiscs. Yes, I know, the DRM sucks, but it's easy enough to get around (besides, I usually rip straight from CD anyway so it's not a big deal.) The NetMDs are way cool, the MDLP4 format can hold about 4 full length CDs on one MD (albeit at a reduced bitrate, but with the headphones most people use with light portables, you'd never be able to tell the difference.) The thing is impossible to skip, the battery life is insane (60+ hrs on a single AA,) plus it's small and the media's cheap.

    I really do wish Sony would get over the stupid DRM bullshit though, as that's really the only major flaw the NetMDs have. Well, that and lack of cross-platform drivers, but that seems to be a problem for a lot of portables. You can pick them up at Best Buy for around $150, but I'm sure with some online searching you could find them for a bit less. The discs are about a buck a pop, but when compared to flash media or a cratered hard drive, it's a steal.

    Yeah, I know, a lot of people are going to bitch about how the format is closed and very much proprietary, but personally I don't care so long as it works. If you're just looking for a solid portable, take a look at the NetMDs. Yeah, 10 gigs of MP3s on a hard drive player sounds nice, but I'm not sure I wanna plunk down that kind of cash on something with as many sensitive, breakable parts as are in a hard drive. Aw well, any other MD fans out there?
  • by Baguerra (616947) on Monday October 14, 2002 @05:25PM (#4449231)

    ... that one of the most appealing aspects of the iPod is the hardware design? Looking at the Zen reminds me a lot of the Nomad MG [nomadworld.com] (which I own). A great player, but the fact that there are buttons on BOTH sides of the unit makes it a huge hassle to hold onto (always pushing buttons by accident). At least the MG has different button layouts on each side -- the Zen has identical button layouts on each side, making the situation even worse. The iPod's wheel and push button method of interacting with the UI is much more intuitive than having to remember two sets of buttons located on the side of the unit, which you can not see while looking at the screen.

    I don't own a Macintosh, or any Apple product for that matter, but THIS is the reason why Apple is still around. You can talk about things like Ogg support and the ability to hack a device with custom apps until you are blue in the face. At the end of the day, those things don't sell product, but making thoughtfully and intelligently designed products will.

    That said, I do think the Nomad MuVo [nomadworld.com] looks interesting for active MP3 listening (running, snowboarding, etc).
  • by Steve Cowan (525271) on Tuesday October 15, 2002 @08:17AM (#4452780) Journal
    When people on MP3.COM talk about MP3 players on /. why must they always cite the least important spects? Everybody talks about gigabytes, physical size, hackability, file formats, connectivity, and price, but fail to mention the most important specs - the stuff we all used to look at when buying expensive audio gear.

    That's right, nobody seems to care about frequency response, distortion, output power, all those other specs that actually determine how likely you are to actually enjoy listening to the damn thing. Nomad vs. iPod, fine, whatever... does anybody have a clue which one actually sounds better? Or does that matter any more?

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