Integrated Portable

I’m still a huge evangelist for the Rio Karma. At its price point, the Karma is, in my opinion, the best hard disk portable media player on the market. But that’s all it is, a media player. What makes me envious of the iPod is its status as a consumer electronic device platform. With the Karma, I might add a better set of headphones, but I’m never going to add any functionality unless Rio includes it in a firmware upgrade. The iPod is different. It offers both software and hardware functionality I can only dream of getting from another device.

Take the Digital Camera Link from Belkin for instance. With this device, iPod users simply connect their iPod to any digital camera and transfer photos from the flash card to the iPod’s hard drive. If the camera gets full while you are out in the field, this is a great solution for archiving pictures before taking more. Where is the camera link for my Karma? I can use the Karma as a mass storage device, so in theory, something like this should be possible. The list of cool software add-ons for the iPod is too long to review in its entirety: calendar info, tasks, contacts, and on and on…

The only other player family with this level of feature detail is the Archos line. Archos makes the mistake of building clunky add-ons in house, instead of letting the market innovate with an exposed development platform, but at least they are creating options for customers. When will the rest of the device market wake up and start making it easy to add functionality to portable devices? Sure Rio, Samsung, iRiver, and the rest of the portable manufacturers want us to upgrade to the next best thing, but even then we don’t get the equivalent of 3rd party iPod add-ons.

Popular tech media makes the iPod war out to be a Mac vs. Windows contest. Sure, the audio formats offered to consumers for the iPod are proprietary and won’t play outside of QuickTime integrated apps like iTunes, but as consumers, we don’t really care what the format of a file is as long as it works right? We want more useful features. We want to make it seamless to take a device from the car, to the house, to the gym, and if the device makes other aspects of life easier, then its more likely we will evangelize and tell our friends.

What portable media player do you use? What is one feature you wish it had?


  1. I have the iRiver iFP-190TC. Love it. Don’t need the radio and the recorder on it. I use it at the gym. It never misses a beat. As soon as possible, I’m getting a Rio Karma and with the iRock! fm transmitter connected to it, I will have ALL my CDs with me anytime I’m in my car.I’m hoping someone will solve the battery replacement problem before I need it. The iRiver is so easy to replace its battery. I’m spoiled.

  2. I have the Archos Multimedia 20 and love it. Archos makes great MP3 players and often get overlooked. This is my 2nd one I have purchased, for good reasoning: They are great, reliable, and seem to be cheaper than allthe others. I payed a little under $300 and got a 20gb HD player that can not only play music, but display phots and mpeg/avi videos on its full color screen. Beat that Apple

  3. I have the RCA Lyra 128mb with the iRock FM transmitter for the car. Doesn’t have the space, but does have the slot for SD/CF card. As it is, I can fit about 45 songs (wma) and it’s awesome in the car or gym. Oh, and it’s compact and light.

  4. I use a Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen USB 2.0. I switched to the Zen after being disatified with the iPod. The only feature I wish it had is the ability to play files in OGG format. It’s possible for Creative to add this feature via firmware upgrade but I guess that will only happen if enough users request it.

  5. I use an HP iPAQ 2215, and it suits my purposes while offering MANY more features than a mere media player.

  6. I am an unfortunate buyer of a Rio Karma. Within three weeks the hard drive failed. I RMA’d it back to mfgr. They told me it would be a two to three week wait for backordered replacements. I waited almost a month. Replacement finally arrived and the battery was junk. Back to mfgr and guess what. Another 2-3 or longer wait. I should have paid the extra money and got an IPod. I’m not an Apple fan but Rio is rapidly heading me in that direction.

  7. Sure — it’s called a Palm Zire 71.
    No, seriously: it doesn’t play music out-of-the-box — you’ll still need the portable headphones and at least a 128mb secure digital card (bigger if you want higher bitrate mp3s, and maybe a $16 JumpDrive Trio for faster transfers) — but it obviously has an awful lot of other features. People have complained about low volume, but software like Aeroplayer and the $15 Sony headphones with volume control that I own make it work perfectly.
    I owned my Zire 71 for half a year before I even thought of playing music on it; now I use it constantly for listening to music when I’m away from my computer. Oh, and checking my calendar, my contacts, writing notes, playing games, reading e-mail, taking pictures, storing photos, archiving documents, etc., all for about the price of a 4 gig iPod.

  8. I did my best to research the best MP3 player and I agree that the Rio Karma was the best combo for the price.
    I’m on the road a lot. With the cassette adapter I plug in my Rio and listen to my fav’s all day, not missing regular radio commmerical interuptions or some Clear Channel / Infinity programmer’s playlist.
    Also, I love the flexibility of d-loading all my favs, taking it to my friends and relatives, and quickly sharing music.
    Plus, the audio outputs are so cool. I just tap into my “old school” amp and run the songs through my system.
    A quick question? I’m looking to give the lesser memory Rio’s, Cali or Nitrus, as birthday gifts to younger relatives. I’m look for feedback, as far as price and quality. I see CNET has some reservations on the durability.
    Let me know.

  9. I use a Sony MD Walkman MZ-N505 and really love it, except for the horrible software Sony provides. The ease of changing MD’s and the amount of music that the MD’s can handle is really great. The check-in and out process is really lame not to mention time consuming. I have tried the various work arounds like Music Match and have ended up returning to the Sony software. Would like to see software that is easier to use and that will allow the capturing of data files.

  10. I have a Lyra 40GB Jukebox – a real bargin at $200. The only thing I wish it would do is play music folder by folder, without having to pick by title, artists, genre, etc.

  11. Any experience with iRiver, Jake?
    I’m about to buy an HDD player and the h120 (or iHP-120) seems like the ticket, especially with optical I/O for quality output and recording live shows…

  12. I used to have an iPod 3g 30Gb, but after my second replacement broke, I sent it back for good. Now I’m relly glad my iPod broke (three times no less), because I’ve found the player of my dreams – the iRiver HD player. I’m saving up for the 40 Gb edition, and even though it costs over 400$ there’s not a doubt in my mind. It’s hands down the best digital jukebox out there. Like Ryan commented above, it’s got some great features that none of the other players I’ve seen can offer. It might sound like I’m getting paid for plugging this, but I’m honestly just a consumer. No iRiver strings attached whatsoever. Anyhow, these are the factors that made me ditch the iPod for good:
    – Over twice the batterylife of f.ex the Pod; 16 hours after a full recharge.
    – Built in high-quality microphone, works as a magnificent digital dictaphone, as well as optical line I/O for top notch audio quality. Concert recording anyone?
    – Better sound quality than the competition
    – Support for winamp playlists and open source audio OGG format
    – Remote with display and FM radio
    – Continuous firmware updates…

  13. I use the Creative Zen Nx 30Gb and I love it! I too wish they would upgrade the firmware to use more media formats such as OGG and other lossless formats. I’ve had it over 6 months and not one probelem with it what so ever. Of course I keep the firmware updated and all my computer software too. Other than that,it does VERY well whet I bought it for. As for the Ipod, I don’t go for proprietary formatted music. If I choose mp3’s, wma’s , or what ever I want to be able to tranfer and play it!

  14. I use the Creative Zen Nx 30Gb and I love it! I too wish they would upgrade the firmware to use more media formats such as OGG and other lossless formats. I’ve had it over 6 months and not one probelem with it what so ever. Of course I keep the firmware updated and all my computer software too. Other than that,it does VERY well whet I bought it for. As for the Ipod, I don’t go for proprietary formatted music. If I choose mp3’s, wma’s , or what ever I want to be able to tranfer and play it!

  15. I purchased the MuVo2 from Creative and it is on its way I have been very pleased with my entry level NomadIIc And the staff at Creative are VERY helpful; you actually talk to people who use and know the player you are calling about. I do not need an Ipod/River?Rio mega storage a 4g is just fine for me.

  16. I have a Compaq Ipaq 3850 with a dual pc-card slot adapter and a IBM 1G micro drive. It holds just the right amount of music for a days listening. I carry one device that has multi uses. Mind you I wouldn’t take it to the gym, but it works great in the office.
    I plan on purchasing an Ipod type device in the next year. But until then my Ipaq does just fine.

  17. I also have the Archos Jukebox FM Recorder, 20 GB. Although I got it for a great price ($180 close-out at Best Buy), I thought the software running it was lacking. However, Rockboxx provides an open-source software specifically for Archos, and it is shweet!!!
    Its one limitation is that it only accepts mp3, and not wma.
    Also, contrary to many reports, I found their Customer Service quite helpful.

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