ipod Nano Part 2 of 2

So last week we discussed the iPod nano, and why I didn’t like it. (We also learned that some folks are VERY attached to their iPods, to the point of flying into hysterics at any criticism. This is either loyalty to a quality product, or the result of incredibly effective brainwash-style marketing. But we’ll set aside that debate for now.)

This week we’ll talk about three different flash-memory digital music players, all of them low-cost. Love or loathe the iPod, there’s no denying that it’s expensive. $399 for an MP3 player might be pocket change for some people, but for a broke college student, or a student-debt ridden young professional, that’s quite a bit of money (especially when the Click of Death lies in the future). So, without further ado, three cheap flash-memory players: <strong>1 Gigabyte Ilo</strong>

The Ilo comes in blue, pink, black, and an utterly appalling shade of orange. It’s shaped a bit like a miniature coaster, so it’s quite easy to get a good firm grip on it. Controls for volume and the menu are along the top, along with the mini USB port, and there’s a four-way switch in the lower left-hand corner for track control and play/pause

The player itself retails for about ninety dollars, and with memory expansion cards so cheap, it’s possible to get a two gigabyte player for about $140. It also comes with an FM player, a voice recorder, and a stopwatch. The Ilo can also function as a flash drive, and runs off a removable AAA battery. The LCD display is black-and-white with no frills, but contributes to a longer battery life.

Unfortunately, the firmware leaves something to be desired. The Ilo has some difficulty reading ID3 tags, and since it works as a flash-drive, it will sometimes read tracks based on the alphabetical order of the filenames, rather than track order. It also has this irritating tendency to play the first track twice, and then skipping to the third track, leaving the second one in the dust.

So if you’re on a very tight entertainment budget, or if you want a large flash drive with some extra functions, go for the Ilo. If you have the money to afford something better, you might want to save up for a different player.<strong>Samsung Yepp YP-MT6</strong>

Next we come to the 1-gigabyte Samsung Yepp YP-MT6. Alas, it lacks a catchy name; “Yepp YP-MT6” doesn’t carry the panache of “iPod”, or even “Ilo”, and “Yepp” itself looks like a typographical error. Despite Samsung’s deplorable dearth of style, the YP-MT6 is a solid MP3 player. It’s rather boxy, and heavy for its size, but it’s easy to keep a solid grip on the thing.

The heaviness comes from an unusual feature among flash-based players; the YP-MT6 uses an AA battery, instead of the usual AAA. While this makes for increased weight, it does mean substantially more battery life, approximately twice more than you’d get from an AAA. While miniaturization is the rule of thumb for most electronics, it’s a pity more MP3 players did not use AA batteries. The extra playing time is welcome.

As is customary in most flash-based players, the YP-MT6 comes with an FM tuner and a voice recorder. And like most MP3 voice recorders, the YP-MT6’s recorder is really nothing to write home about. A 4-way rocking switch serves as the main interface, and the player comes with a USB 2.0 connection for speedy transfer.

The YP-MT6 has a monochrome LCD display with a white backlight. Unfortunately, the LCD display is rather cluttered. Even the Ilo’s blocky monochrome display organized the information better. All told, the YP-MT6 is a solid player. It’s no longer in production, but it’s possible to obtain remanufactured units for about $50-$70. <strong>SanDisk Sansa c150</strong>

Now we come to the 2 gigabyte SanDisk Sansa c150. SanDisk recently came under some criticism for launching the “iDont” website and marketing campaign. If you haven’t heard of it, the iDont site challenges consumers to express their individualism by abandoning the iPod and switching to SanDisk’s new line of players. IDont also features postures of iPod users as “iSheep” and “iDonkeys”. (Of course, Apple likewise has a tradition of condescending marketing, which hasn’t seemed to hurt the iPod at all.) Amusingly, the website is less than effective; the white Flash animation looks as if a flock of pigeons relieved themselves all over the front page.

Obnoxious advertising aside, the Sansa c150 is quite a slick little player. It’s shaped like a tiny black caskets, and fits easily in the hand. Curiously, you turn it sideways to view the color display. The c150 has a four-way control switch on the top, a locking switch on the left side, and a volume control on the right. Unfortunately, the c150 uses a proprietary SanDisk USB connector, rather than the usual mini-USB, but it does run at 2.0 speeds. It runs off a removable AAA battery, and features the usual FM tuner and voice recording.

Unlike the previous two players, the c150 has a color display. It displays song information quite well. As a power saving feature, the entire display shuts off after a few seconds (rather than just the backlighting). This can prove irritating, but if you’re walking or running with the player in your pocket, you’re not looking at the display anyway, and it reappears right away at a touch of a button. The display can also show pictures, but not terribly well. Besides, unless you have young and healthy eyeballs, viewing pictures on an MP3 player-sized screen is a surefire route to a migraine. Of the three players, the c150 is the strongest. It’s also the most expensive at $140. It is, however, still about $60 cheaper than the equivalent iPod nano.

The iPod remains the dominant brand in the MP3 player market, with a devoted following. However, it’s also the most expensive. If you don’t want to pay that much money, or if (like me) you simply don’t like iPods, there are alternatives. It’s just a matter of doing a little research.’, ‘iPod Nano? No!