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Old 10-28-2004, 02:04 AM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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iPod Mini challengers - and how they fail again

Walter Moosberg of WSJ wrote an interesting article about the Rio Carbon ($249), which hit shelves a month ago, the Creative Zen Micro ($249) and the Dell Pocket DJ ($199), both which will be available in November, and he compared them how they compete against Apple's iPod Mini.

According to Moosberg, they certainly have their advantages over the iPod:
- 25% more storage capacity -- five gigabytes vs. four gigabytes, or about 1,200 songs at standard recording quality, vs. the 1,000 Apple claims for the Mini.
- longer battery life than the Mini, which runs up to only eight hours -- the Rio Carbon boasts up to 20 hours.
- work with the numerous online music stores that sell songs in Microsoft's copy-protected file format

Yet, the iPod Mini contenders have failed again, he follows, mainly because they "lag behind badly in simplicity and ease of use":
"[A]spects of the user interfaces were more awkward than Apple's[...]Worse, synchronizing the players with the music on a PC was a real challenge."

Each player has its own short-comings. The Rio Carbon looks like a makeup case, with a small display that is dimmer and has smaller type than the iPod Mini's. It's jog dial is clumsy, the menu structure confusing, and sound quality was disappointing. The Dell Pocket DJ has navigation buttons that make your fingers ache and a hard-to-reach hold switch. And finally the Zen Micro, which at least comes in different colors, but makes you deal with a scrolling device that is so sensitive that you will end up selecting the wrong songs to play.
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