Jul 2006

New mp3 player (actually, 'wma player')

A few weeks ago my trusty old mp3 player (in an era of inbuilt obsolescence, four years is considered “old” for electronic gadgetry) began making worrying clicking noises. The sort of noises that presage catastrophic hard-drive failure. Of course if I’m honest, the descent into decrepitude began some months ago when the screen started to fade. But despite the washed out screen and the inability to use the “next track” button without the machine locking up completely and requiring a hard-reset (involving poking a pin into a little hole on the back), I really liked my old player. It was one of the first of the hard-drive mp3 players… a shade bigger and a lot heavier than my old cd walkman, it was an unstylish brick. But it had 40GB of space and played non-DRM WMA files (my preferred portable audio format). Also, it wasn’t manufactured by Apple. A bonus.

I briefly toyed with the idea of buying a new hard-drive and replacing the knackered one (not really sure how easy a job that would be, but I’m sure there’s a tutorial online). But in truth, I’d be spending money to squeeze an extra few months of life out of the thing. If that. The screen would have given up the ghost before too long anyway, leaving me with a new hard-drive in a useless player.

So I bit the bullet as the saying goes, and spent 299 euro on an all-singing / all-dancing new piece of technology. And if you don’t mind, I’ll leave struggling with consumer guilt for another post.

I spent a long time reading reviews and comparing specifications before I made my decision. The criteria were as follows:

  • Must play non-DRM WMA audio files (no way in hell I’m redigitising my entire CD collection)
  • Must have a minimum of 30GB of space (I’ll be putting 22 or 23GB of music onto it right away, and obviously want to leave some room to grow)
  • Must not cost more than €300 (the maximum budget I decided upon)
  • Must have a battery life of at least 10 hours of music (to last the whole London-Holyhead coach journey)

Those were the minimum technical specs. Anything that met those would be considered. And surprisingly few did. In the end, the reviews all seemed to agree on one winner, and the fact that it’s made by the same people who made the last one I owned (and liked) is a bonus. So I’m now the proud owner of a spanking new Creative Zen Vision:M.

I went for the white model as the reviews said the black one, while initially the best looking, seems to scratch rather easily, while the other colours look a bit plasticky.

As several added bonuses, however, the new machine has a full colour screen, plays movies and displays photos, can synchronise with Outlook calendar and contacts, has a built in recorder and FM radio and can output audiovisual content through a stereo or onto a TV screen.

And it’s the same size as the video iPod. So no more wearing a jacket in warm weather just so I have a pocket big enough to put my walkman in!

There was a slightly cheaper and more svelte alternative that didn’t have the big colour screen. But in truth, while I can’t see myself watching much video on the thing (quite aside from anything else, the amount of music I have means there’s not much space left for video – even with 30GB), the idea of having a portable photo-album containing all my digital photos does appeal to me.

I’ll let you know how I get along with the thing after I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks.

Posted in: Opinion