Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Where is my progress? (Flash Mp3 Players)

I think most people who follow technology have operated under the assumption that solid-state flash drives (SSD) will eventually replace hard drives (HDD). SSDs have many benefits over HDDs. They're more energy efficient, they tend to be faster, and there are no moving parts, so they're much more forgiving of drops and kinetic energy in general. I've been waiting for years for flash drives to increase their capacities and drop in price so I could finally get a nice SSD-based 60GB-120GB mp3 player.

I have a 120GB Zune right now, using 87 GB of it, yet I'm willing to downgrade to 60 GB to get a flash-based player. I'll be honest, I want to change for many reasons not related to SSD vs HDD--the Zune doesn't play nice with other OSs, it's a pain to update, and I hate the interface including the fact that I have to browse by id3 tag. Since I will be changing mp3 players soon, and because flash drives are at the point they should be showing up in larger capacity mp3 players, I really want my next player to have an SSD.

There actually is a 64 GB flash-based player in the US. It's an iPod. What the fuck?

I'm not surprised that Apple came out with a 64GB flash mp3 player. I'm shocked that they got there first, and that their player is also, more or less, a video game system, web browser, a PDA, etc. Seems nice, but I don't want the extra features, and I don't want to pay $400 for it. Why hasn't Cowon, or Sandisk, or any other company that primarily makes flash mp3 players gotten there first?

Look here. I can buy a 64GB flash drive for $170. This is about 1"x3" (give or take), built to put in a eeePC 901 (netbook). I, as a consumer, can buy this for $170. What's the markup? What could a wholesaler get this for? And how much would it cost to build a mp3 player around this?

This SSD was actually built for My Digital Discount to cater to the current swarm of netbooks in the market today. If an online retailer has the ability to have SSDs made to order at this price, couldn't many current manufacturers of mp3 players do the same?

I won't be buying the iPod touch, and I'm sure the Zune HD will be coming in 64GB soon enough, and I won't be buying that, either. I don't want to have to jump through hoops to put mp3s on my player--meaning I don't want to be required to use your software, I don't want to be forced to browse by tag, I don't want to be limited by your poor range of codecs, etc.

Archos and Cowon have it as close to right as I've seen. Their players both act as a hard drive, you can just drag files over. You have the option of navigating by id3 tag or by directory structure. My Archos 504 was pretty cool. It had a few bugs and you had to pay extra for more certain codec support, but I liked it for the most part. After my Zune though, I don't think I could go for anything as large as what they're making now. Ironically, I would love a huge cell phone, larger screen, etc. Something that could almost completely replace my netbook. There were rumors Archos was going to make a large cell phone, but looks like it was a misunderstanding. Too bad, I would have loved it.

(For the record, take a Nokia n810, give it a better keyboard, increase the screen size until it is covering the whole front, and that's the perfect size for a cell phone for me. GIANT for some, but it still fits in a pocket and could shame all other phones in web surfing.)

My iAudio (Cowon) X5 is still the best mp3 player I've ever owned, with or without Rockbox, though Rockbox is preferred. I liked the d-pad functionality of the joystick--I had my directories mostly memorized, and I had precise control so I could select an album without looking. The Zune pad and iPod's wheel, while nice for some things, don't get close to that level of usability for me. Cowon also has amazing codec support--the S9 (which is gorgeous, like all their players) supports mp3, wma, ogg, flac, wav, and ape--and while that's above and beyond most players, it's par for the course at Cowon. It kills me that Cowon never replaced the X5 with a device of similar size but with more storage space. I haven't bought any of their newer players, so I can't speak to their current interface, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt until I hear otherwise. I'll be keeping my eye on them, hoping they release a 64GB flash player soon.

I'll also point out very quickly that Sony has a 64GB flash mp3 player, but it's not available in the US yet, and may never be. It's also priced at the equivalent of $439 US.

I still have to wonder, why is Apple the first? Why hasn't some generic company, or some primarily flash-based manufacturer done it first and cheaper? Why can't I find a giant cell phone? I'm sure in two years time I'll have a flash-based mp3 player I really like, as well as a phone that blows anything on the market now completely out of the water. It's just the waiting is the worst part.



  1. Insult me? You seem to forget that on this site, I AM GOD.

  2. How dare you! You are violatin' my 1st amendment rights!

  3. Awww, is the little baby gonna cry?