Tuesday, January 11, 2005

iPod Shuffle versus iRiver 799

Apple announced today the iPod shuffle. It's a slick-looking, flash-based mp3 player that is smaller than a pack of gum. And the list price is only $149 for a shuffle with 1 GB of memory.

The other mp3 player I've considered getting is the iRiver 799. Its list price is $249, but you can find it for sale for under $200.

But the iPod shuffle has me thinking... would I rather go with an iPod?

As slick as the shuffle is, there are a couple of issues that concern me. The most obvious one is a lack of a display. I think I could get used to that in no time - because all you can do is play audio files, and I'll generally want to either play them in order or shuffle. The real issue is the internal battery. I know it is going to be good for several hundred recharge cycles, but then what? I have to replace the stupid thing? That is rather annoying - and it's the main thing that bothers me about the iPod in general. Especially if I don't use it for a month or two and the battery starts to go to hell.

Now the iRiver is a little bigger (well, 3 times as thick, but still tiny) - due in large part to the fact is uses a AA battery. I really like the idea of being able to swap in a new battery at will. Using a AA also gives this player 40 hours of playback time, as opposed to the shuffle's 12 hours. And I'd just use a researchable battery anyway. The iRiver also has a display - which I could do without in the case of the shuffle, but since the iRiver also has an FM tuner, you really need the display. I think the tuner might be real handy. The other features like voice recording, radio recording, and displaying of text files are less uninteresting, but could still be useful.

I also like the iRiver's firmware upgrade option - where you can get updates to the software that runs it to get fixes. The iRiver also supports the OGG file format which I find interesting (in principle at least - I don't have anything that plays them).

I expect Apple's introduction of a 1GB flash player at the price of only $149 to make some waves, and expect the other players to come down in price to match. In which case I'll happily gobble up an iRiver, well, assuming I find enough quarters in the couch cushions.

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