iPod alternative myth: products that can replace my iPod
Even if I’m not an Apple fanboy I must admit that I like their MP3 players. They sound good, look good and work well but there’s one thing that I really hate about iPods (see what’s for sale here): they’re expensive and rely upon iTunes. That’s why I think there’s a question that needs to be answered: “are there true iPod alternatives on the market?”.
I think there are quite a few cheaper and fully featured MP3 players that can take upon the all mighty iPod, even if they’re not so popular. This post will try to answer the above question by making a short list of MP3 players that sell well and offer a good bang for the buck.
Samsung P3 is all about style, as if features a very clean design, helped by a brushed aluminum case. Controlling the Samsung P4 is done through the all touchscreen interface with haptic feedback, so that you won’t miss any menu option you press. The P3 features a 3 inch 480 x 272 pixels screen, FM tuner and recorder, built in speakers if you want to share tunes with friends, Bluetooth and audio recording features.
All is hosted in the aforementioned aluminium case which is only 1 cm deep. Storage capacity is a little low the these times, at only 8 GB, but that should be enough for most users. The Samsung P3 knows a lot of audio and video codecs, not only MP3, but also WMA, OGG, WAV, AAC, FLAC, JPEG, Bitmap, PNG, SWF, WMV, H.264, MPEG. One interesting additional feature is the JPEG photo playback and a few built in games which should be great during commuting. P3′s internal batter can support up to 30 hours music playback and 5 hours of video.
The SanDisk Sansa Fuze is three times cheaper than the Samsung P3, but it does music very well: 24 hours continuous playback, almost enough to listen to the 2000 tracks that can fit inside the 8GB internal memory (there are also 2 and 4 GB versions), which can be extended through a microSD card slot (that’s a very nice feature).
If you’re radio fan, there is FM tuner function with 40 channels presets plus voice recording via a built in microphone, if you like the karaoke style or you’re a journalist like me and don’t carry around a paper notebook with you. The 1.9 inch screen of the Sansa Fuze is a little too small, but you can use it to watch occasional video clips if you’re in the mood for that, as the Fuze knows the following formats: MP3, OGG, FLAC, WMA, secure WMA, WAV, Audible, MPEG4.
Creative is one of the oldest names in the music for PC industy, but lately come to a halt in growth, but this doesn’t means it doesn’t know how to make MP3/PMP players. Zen is one of the best MP3 players Creative has to offer and is advertised like a Portable Media Player, and looking at specs I can see why.
The Creative Labs Zen feature 32 GB of internal memory (expandable with an SD card slot), a big 2.5 inch QVGA screen (320 x 240 pixels), 30 hours continuous audio playback, FM tuner and multiple file format compatibility: MP3, WMA, non-protected AAC, WAV and Audible 2,3 and 4, JPEG and (with transcoding–GIF, TIFF, PNG and BMP), MJPEG, WMV9 and (with transcoding–MPEG1 and 2, MPEG4-SP, DivX 4 and 5 and XviD), which is impressive when you add functions like Album art, voice recorder, clock and alarm, 8 EQ settings.
This is the third iteration of Zune, Microsoft’s MP3 player which is getting better and better every time, and plans to beat Apple’s iPod someday (that remains to be seen). If offers a gigantic 32 GB of internal memory, enough to store 8000 songs, 48 hours of standard defition video or 10 hour of high definition video.
The HD in the name comes from the 3.3 inch 480 x 272 pixels screen which Microsoft says it’s almost HD compared to other MP3/PMP players, but the truth is that the Zune HD is far from HD standards, but unlike other MP3 players knows how to handle WMV and MPEG-4 files. That doesn’t mean that we’re told lies, as HD is supported as output on a HDTV via a Zune HD AV Dock dock, sold separately.
Sony still does good MP3 players, but that’s pretty much it: no really serious PMP, high screen size or capacity, as this 8 GB Walkman shows us. It’s still capable of 45 hours of music playback and 8 hours of video on a single charge, and that’s I think a record (at least that’s what Sony states).
The 2 inch screen is medium size and resolution (320 x 240) but it’s LED backlit. The Sony Walkman supports the following audio/video formats: MP3, WMA, AAC-LC, and Linear PCM; supported video formats: AVC(H.264/AVC), MPEG-4, Windows Media Video 9 and can store up to 1850 songs or 30 hours of video, before you need a bigger player.
This is the best newcomer, as Cowon is not a big name in the audio PC industy, but after I’ve seen the S9 at work I’m pretty sure they mean business. The S9 is by far the only MP3 player that gets close to Apple in terms of design, all comming from the flush 3.3 AMOLED touchscreen that’s on the same level with the external case.
The AMOLED screen with a 480 x 272 pixel count is responible for the lower power consumption that helps achieve an astonishing 55 hours of continuous music playback and 11 hours video playback. Cowon S9 both supports audio/video/still images formats: MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC, WAV, and APE audio formats; AVI and WMV video formats; JPEG image formats. The 32 GB internal memory can store up to 8000 songs, almost double my current music colection, so keep this in mind.
Even if Archos says it’s an Internet Media Tablet, at root is an PMP player with very good MP3 playback capabilities: 145.000 songs can be stored (I don’t even know it there is so much music on this planet). Alternatively you could store 300 movies or 2.5 million photos on the Archos 5.
The screen is really impressive: 4.8-inch TFT LCD touchscreen, 800 x 480 pixel resolution and 16 million colors. Video support in this case is a must, and Archos took care of this, adding compatibility with MPEG-4, WMV, and M-JPEG plus audio support: MP3, WMA, Protected WMA, WMA pro 5.1, WAV formats.
One other thing that makes the Archos 5 special is the WiFi connection that allow the Media Tablet to connect to Internet using Opera Web browser with Adobe Flash 9 video support plus you can view files with a PDF viewer, and even check your messages with an Email client.
I think this concludes my list of iPod alternatives, but if you have another alternative in mind feel free to leave a comment at the end of the post and I’ll try and update this article.