Zune vs. iPod Video vs. iRiver Clix
Due to a number of amazing events this last few weeks I somehow find myself back in the states with:
- An iPod 80gig Video
- A 2gig iRiver Clix
- A 2gig iPod Nano
- A 30gig Black Zune
- A Playstation Portable (PSP)
Now I certainly don't need 5 things that play music and show pictures (and some show video) so I need to do some analysis to see which is right for me, and which is right for the wife (and brother, and parents, etc).
The iPod is usually considered the device to beat, but since iTunes 7 was/is such a phenomenal POS (on both the Mac and PC, there is virtually no one who thinks it doesn't suck exponentially more than the very reasonable iTunes 6) it's possible that the iPod is losing its status as "de facto MP3 player" as in "just buy an iPod."
I saw a skater kid in the Amsterdam Airport last week with a Brown Zune and I asked him "why'd you buy a Zune" and he immediately answered "because it's not an iPod." Apparently Apple is starting to feel like Microsoft has for years. Sucks to be on top, eh?
Video: I'm using the Video feature way more than I thought I would. It made the 25 hours of flights (each way) tolerable. The screen is bright and clear.
Massive: The 80gig iPod is expansive to say the least. I've got my entire audio collection of over 6500 songs as well as 5 feature length movies and every digital photo I've ever taken on this thing, and I've still got 15 gigs free.
Easy: It's so incredibly easy to buy music off of iTunes and get it on the device. That's a +1 for the WAF. Buying movies and TV shows works great also.
Flexible: I bought a bunch of TV shows for pay-cable channels I don't have and took them with me to Tanzania this year. The iPod supports a standard Camcorder Video Cable (just swap the Yellow and Red RCA wires) and outputs PAL and NTSC. We used it as a one-way Tivo while we were there and had a blast. No less than three spontaneous dance parties broke out while using my iPod in Africa, and because I had my entire music collection with me, I was able to blow the minds of the folks who asked if I had Pitch Black Afro on my 'pod. I said, "please. Who are you talking to. Of course." and proceeded to party the night away.
DRM: The DRM can be confusing if you have more than one computer. I've personally gotten confused while "authorizing and deauthorizing" computers, especially during OS upgrades. There used to be a program to turn the songs you bought into MP3s, but it's not working anymore with iTunes 7.
Slow: It's pretty slow if you have 6000+ songs and you say "shuffle songs." It tends to lock up and scrolls slowly. iTunes is virtually unusable on Vista in the current version without disabling Vista indexing and a bunch of other crap I shouldn't have to sweat.
Battery Life: Video just sucks the life out of this thing. I have a "backpack" that has 4 AA batteries that at least quadruples the battery life. Still, a hassle.
Tiny: It's small. Not Shuffle small, but "wife's small purse; isn't that cute" small. I find myself using this device the most so far for around town, walking and such. It's just so a great size.
Storage: There's an 8gig version now, but most are 1, 2 or 4 gigs. I find the 2 gig one just a little cramped. Wife doesn't notice though.
No Video: A nit, and the screen is small, so it doesn't really matter. They included tiny photos though, why not video?
What a surprisingly fun little device! It's an odd size compared to the Nano, much thinker (like 3 times as thick) but comfortable. It feels familiar in its size, but I'm not sure what it reminds me of. It has a very interesting interface in that the whole front screen "click-tilts (my word)" in each direction to provide navigation. Right is "forward" and left is "back."
Tiny: It's small and pocket-sized. Not as easy to drop in as the Nano, and not something you'd want in your front shirt pocket, but still, small.
Video: It's the smallest video player I've seen, and it's got a great screen. The video is about 15fps by my reckoning, and it's kind of complex to get video on to the thing in the format it wants. I'm still struggling with some obscure messages from Windows Media Player 11 about converting some of my video.
Photos: It's also a nice little photo viewer. Both Music and Photos - using Windows Media Player - are downsized automatically in order to squeeze as much as possible on the 2 gig version. The screen is very clear and Album Art looks great.
Radio: There's a built-in FM Radio that supports recording of the stream. A surprising and very nice feature, I say.
Games: It includes an implementation of Flash and there's a number of downloadable Flash Games to check out. Most are lame, but Sudoku is nice.
Windows Media Player: The Clix is perfectly integrated with Windows Media Player and was the easiest device to sync of all these. I just say "fill it up as much as you can with a random 2gigs from my collection." And it was handled. That's all I ever wanted from iTunes.
Storage: There's a 4gig version, as the 2gig is a little cramped, but if you don't mind 64kbps audio (many don't - do be such an elitist!) then you can automatically get a LOT more on as the Windows Media Player 11 stuff gets one thing right - auto squishing of audio while copying works great. That's about it. It's a great little device.
Urge: Urge is the music marketplace for everything but Zune. It's aight.
The OOBE (Out of the Box Experience) on the Zune is very familiar. It's iPod-like, but it does have a different, more organic gestalt. I like it. It's the bizarro iPod from another parallel dimension. The interface is similar to Windows Media Center, but different, smoother, faster, cleaner. I was, and continue to be, impressed. It's more intuitive than the roll/scroll interface of the iPod, and it's faster and more responsive with thousands of songs loaded.
Decent Size: It's probably the same mass as an iPod, it's just a little less wide, and a smidge taller. The round directional button does beg to be rubbed like an iPod, but maybe that's me. The whole device has a nice texture that's very matte - not gloss like the iPod - so I suspect while the screen will likely scratch, the Zune itself doesn't show many fingerprints.
XBox 360: It plugs in and is charged by the Xbox360. Works great and the Xbox recognizes it as a Zune. Of course, the Xbox recognizes ALL the devices I've got here, but the Zune gets a cute little icon on the Xbox. :P
Screen: The screen is very nice, and is rotatable portrait/landscape. Album Art fills the screen and looks great. It comes with a clear sticker on the screen that I wanted to use as a screen protector, but they put text all over it, so that was a bummer.
Radio: The iPod requires an adapter for FM, the Zune has a tuner built in that includes RDS (Radio Descriptive Service) that gives you the name of the current song. The iPod also has RDS.
WiFi: The Zune will find other Zunes and you can send or receive music over them. While the music is shared, there's DRM added that lets the receiver only listen to the song THREE times, then it disables that song. They can later buy that song. Odd, but better than nothing. WiFi can be turned off to save batteries.
Zune Marketplace: Includes an all-you-can-eat feature where you get complete access to every song on the marketplace for a timed period. I'm doing the 14-day trial. A nice way to find new artists, like Rhapsody. iTunes should take notice to this.
WiFi: See above.
Software: The Zune software is Windows Media Player 11, but it's not. You do Zune stuff in Zune but you kind of know you're talking to your Windows Media Player Library. There's a whole separate Zune Sharing thing, but it's unclear if you're configuring standard Windows Media Sharing from an alternate interface. You can run both Windows Media and Zune thingie at the same time, but when I tried to sync the Clix in one and the Zune in the other at the same time, I had to reset them both with a paper clip. Not sure if that's USB or the software freaking out. Also odd, the Clix shows up in Vista in My Computer as well as in the "Sync Center" but the Zune is no where to be found in either. Note that you need an upgrade to the Zune software to work on Vista. The Zune desktop software has crashed twice for me in one day, so something will likely be fixed on Vista soon.
Screen: Seriously, drink in the screen. It's amazing. Glorious. Perfect.
Wireless/Browser: It includes 802.11 and a very capable Web Browser, as well as support for Podcasts (RSS with attachments).
UMDs: The industry hates UMDs as a proprietary media, but I love their size and relative cheapness. If you spend a lot of time on planes, grab a few movies (or rip and squish DVDs) and you're set from LA to New York (or PDX to JRO).
Games: Of course.
Oft-updated Firmware: You can update the Firmware over wireless and it's always adding new features. It includes Sony Location-Free TV now, as well as a features for connecting to PS3s.
Homebrew: This thing is forever being hacked into, and you can run Linux and all sorts of MAME Emulators and such.
(added from comments from Laust M. Ladefoged) AUTO-Podcast Downloading:
I think you left out the single most important feature of the PSP and what basically sets it apart from the other devices in your list (at least for now), namely its ability to wakeup from standby and automatically download all the podcasts you have subscribed to via WiFi.
This feature was added with the recent v3 firmware and has completely changed the way I have access to my prefered podcasts.
My PSP wakes up about 6 in the morning, automatically downloads the latest podcasts, ready for my listening when I put it in my pocket on my way out the door - no longer any need for syncing with my computer anymore, so nice.
Music and Storage: You can get a
2gig 4gig memory stick and there are 4-8gig hard drive add-ons, but it's not a very great music player. It IS a great movie machine though.
I'd say this:
- You want the ultimate media player? Get a Zune or iPod video and base your decision on a combination of your politics and the features. Both kick ass. The wireless social Zune stuff is slick, but I have only met one other person with one. That'll eventually change. Buying TV Shows and Movies on iTunes is fabulous and seamless. My Mom and Dad run around the country in their RV, and I think they could use an iPod Video as a "disconnected Tivo" very easily, connected to their little 13" TV. However, the screen on the Zune is larger and nicer than the iPod. Both a great. I'm still torn on this one.
- You want a little media player?
- You want video? Get an iRiver Clix. It's got a great screen, a smooth interface and long battery life. (I haven't run out yet).
- You don't care about video? You might still get a Clix, unless you want a really thin player, then get a Nano.
- You only care about the screen? You want games first, video second and music third? Get a PSP.
- The PSP has a fantastic screen, but it's max 2gig capacity (unless you get an external hard drive) and poor battery life make it a niche device for geeks. Of course, I am a geek, so I take it everywhere as well. The combination of Videora and a DVD Ripper makes it nice for up to 4 feature length films.
- You hate DRM and are concerned about using iTunes or Urge or Zune Marketplace? Don't use them. Buy CDs and Rip.