iPod? They plod.

Tom tomwhore@inetarena.com
Thu, 25 Oct 2001 11:12:55 -0700 (PDT)


With a 400$ price tag Apples entry into the portable MP3 player
market begs the question...why?

The Rio Volt, a unit that can now be had for as little as 90$, is a CD          
based unit which shows the reasons why the Ipod is probably going to be         
the Newton of MP3 Players.  iPod is more like iPlod, as Apple plods along
behind the curve.

First off its HD based, a 5g HD. This is nice but draws back the user to
the age old delemia of being tied to the computer for new music choices. 

The Rio volt reads CDs, CDRs and CD RWs. It can decode MP3 and WMA file
formats as well as Audio cds. Each cd hold about 700 mb of data. To get
new data in you simply put in another cd. To get new data onto a CD you
use your burner, any bunrer on any platfrom. This opens Rio Volt to Macs,
PCS, Linux and assorted other users as well as people without computers
who get these CDs from thier friends. 


The ipod requires Firewire. Well this leaves out a great big sector of the
market, so right from the get go, right fromthe point of getting music
into the unit, its locked out of a goodly share of the market.


Its got good Skip Protection, 20 mins.  The Rio Volt when its playing at
about 128kbs encoded mp3s has about a 2 min slip protection buffer, when
Im listening to Old Time radio and speken word down at 46 or 32 kbs its
more like 10 mins. In all my usage of the Volt I have never made the damn
thing skip even at 196kbs. 1 min is a lot of gap time to rebuffer a
flubbed read. The newer models of the Volt now have 8 min shock protection
at 128kbs

The ipod is smaller that the RioVolt. This is the same trade off as the
Rio SolidState players versus the Rio CDBasedPlayers.  I dont jog, whichi
seems to be the main argument for the SolidState side, and I have been
able to listen to my Cd Volt while gardening, walking, driving and in bed
to name but a few places. It doesnt fit in my shirt pocket but it does fit
on my belt loop and in my coat pocket.

Heres some other features and how each unit stacks up.

Firmware, they both have it. Im not sure about Apples upgrade policy but
the Riovolt has been upgraded almost monthly with tons more features being
added all the time. Rio added 

BatteryLife. iPod claims 10 hrs the Volt claims 15. I can say for sure
that at lower bit rate encode, around 56k and below, the unit is only
spinning the CD once every 7 mins or so and the battery life goes up to 20
hours or so.

Inluded software. iPod-iTunes (mac only). RioVolt-iTunes(mac) and Real
Jukebox(pc). Once again Apple locking itself out of the non Mac market.

OnWire Controler. iPod-None. Riovolt-full control of the unti from an
onwire controler. This is something that seems minor until you use it a
few times. For Volt users the idea of an onwire controler is a most now on
most portable devices. It lets you tuck the device away and still have
total control of it . There has been demand for this on the Rio Solid
states as well. 

Output. iPod-Headphone Out   RioVolt-Headphone Out and Line Out


      Height  Width   Depth   Weight   Price (msrp)
 iPod 4.02    2.43    0.78    6.5      399
 Volt 5.50    5.20    1.1     8.05     179 (sp 250) fm tuner
                                       149 (sp 100)
                                        99 (sp 90)  no onwire remote
                                                      (can buy seperate)
 

(I have seen the SP100's for as little as 110 bucks. The sp250 has a nicer
remote and the fm tuner.)


Bottom line here is the 400 price tag is way above the real and tangliable
mass market comfort level. Then again with the iPod locked out of most of
the mass market arena this may not be a probelm for it. It looks as if
Apple has niched themsleves out of being a contender once again as they
iPlod along on its march thru the land of the HasBeens.




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