Thursday, March 20, 2008

antiPOD

I've never been one to jump on a bandwagon. I find that in going along with the crowd a lot of good things get passed over unnoticed.

Take the iPOD bandwagon. Apple makes a great product here, to be sure, and they revolutionized portable music with an easy interface and attractive device.

However, while Apple's products are very good, if I was a grade school teacher I would put this note on Apple's report card: Does not play well with others.

If you're content to limit yourself
to Apple products, you'll be fine with an iPOD. But if you are like me, and don't want to become dependent on one company, there are many alternatives.

Recently, I thought it would be fun to get a portable music player. I'd been working hard and wanted a new toy. Doing chores to music makes the task much more enjoyable, like a spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. I've played with other people's iPODs, and found them interesting, but they have shortcomings.

One of my complaints was the device's reliance on iTUNES, which constantly wants you to download upgrades.

My other problem was with Apple's white trademark touch-sensitive dial which has an extremely high "cool factor" but is too sensitive at times to use accurately. Furthermore, the dial has different functions depending on where you are in the menu systems. One of these functions is volume, so you can't adjust the volume if you are scrolling through the menus. You can only adjust volume if you are on the now playing screen.

iPODs account for 75% of the portable music devices sold these days. But there are many other manufacturers out there and they do as much or more than an iPOD at a lower price.

Case in point: I bought a 4GB Sony NWZ-S616F from Target the other day. I settled on the Sony based on user reviews at Amazon and Circuit City websites which indicate that Sony's MP3 players are very reliable. Sony's controls are all buttons, which have a solid "click" and the volume control is completely separate from the menu controls, so you can adjust it any time. The interface is clean, colorful and intuitive. Sound quality is adjustable through various preset EQ (what they used to call tone controls) settings, plus two customizable settings. The device also shows video, pictures (it makes a great replacement for wallet photos), and has an FM radio tuner which works at least as well as our tabletop stereo receivers. iPODs don't do radio, and an otherwise comparable iPOD Nano costs a good $40 more.

If that's not enough, the Sony's run time on a full charge is 33 hours vs 24 hours for an iPOD!

Sony's MP3 player can be fed with tunes, pictures and videos by doing nothing more than dragging and dropping files in Windows Explorer. If you want cover art and to make playlists, it works with Windows Media Player as well as Sony's own software which you can download or not at your discretion.

So by not jumping on the iPOD bandwagon, I got more, spent less, and am not dependent on the manufacturer for anything further. That's why I'm calling my new Sony Walkman my antiPOD.

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