MP3 Player Update

About a month ago, I wrote about MP3 Players in an attempt to figure out which player was best for me. At the time, I was leaning towards the 20GB iPod Photo, but the Cowon iAudio X5 was giving me serious pause. As such, I sort of just spun my wheels until I heard that Apple was going to announce another change to their iPod line, which ended up being the new iPod Video. This upgrade to the iPod line made my decision a lot easier, and I bought one the night it was announced. It seems that procrastination actually paid off for me.

After 5 days of steady use, I’m quite pleased with the iPod. It’s easy to use, elegant, and it does everything I need it to do (and more). ArsTechnica has a thorough review, and I won’t bother repeating most of it. The one thing I’ll talk about is the “scratching” issue (as the Ars reviewer didn’t mention much about that), which seems to be so bad with the iPod nano that many are assuming that the new black iPods will suffer from the same issue. So far, I’ve yet to get any scratches on my shiny new black iPod, but I have to admit that I’m a careful guy and I generally keep it in the soft carrying case that came with it when I’m not using it. The black model does seem to make fingerprints and the like much more visable, but that’s not that big of a deal to me, as it cleans up easy.

The battery life seems excellent for playing music, but it may be a bit lacking when it comes to video. The 30GB model only has 2 hours of video playback, which would be enough for a short movie during a flight, but that’s a mixed blessing in my mind, as I wouldn’t then be able to listen to music for the remainder of a longer flight… I did download an episode of Lost, and the video itself does appear crisp and clear and surprisingly watchable (considering the relatively small size of the screen). It only plays .m4v files, which is mildly annoying, as most applications (by which I mean the ones I was able to find with 2 minutes research) that encode in .m4v are only for the Mac. Evan Kirchhoff did an interesting comparison on his blog: Video ITunes vs. Piracy. The ITunes version downloaded faster and took up less space, but was also lower quality (in terms of both video and audio) and the compression wasn’t as good either (and the pirated version was also widescreen). I think this is indicative of the fact that the new iPod isn’t really the Video iPod, it’s an iPod with video. Because of the small screen size, tiny CPU, and limited storage, I think the ITunes downloads make sense right now. As time goes on, I’m sure we’ll see more advanced offerings, including higher quality downloads (perhaps even multiple encodings). In any case, the video functionality wasn’t that important to me, but it is quite a nice perk (and it may come in useful at some point).

As for getting the iPod up and running in my car, I chose the Monster Cable iCarPlay Wireless FM Transmitter. I’ve had less time to evaluate this, but so far I’ve gotten a mediocre and uneven performance out of this. Sometimes it’s excellent, but sometimes there is a lot of static (and changing stations doesn’t seem to help). Part of the problem is that I’m in the Philadelphia area, so there aren’t very many available stations (so far, 105.9 seems to work best for me). I suspect this is about as good as a FM transmitter of any kind would get for me, and I like the Monster’s setup (3 preset stations) and when it’s working well, it works really well. Naturally, one of those hard-wired systems that ties the ipod into your stereo controls would be ideal, but they’re a bit too expensive ($200+) right now.

All in all, I’m quite happy with my new iPod…