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Damn You, Macintosh

I've been edging around the market for a hard-disk based MP3 player. Indeed, I've been thinking about one for about six months, just waiting until I found something that justified plunking down a couple of hundred bucks instead of waiting until summer. But I'm finding myself caught in a dilemma: I can't find a device with all the features I want.

I could live like a sheep and go for the new Second Generation IPod Mini, with 6GB of space, or the IPod Photo with 60GB. The first is nicely portable, the second would function as a spare hard drive. But neither will play DRM-protected WMA files, so all the Musicmatch songs I've downloaded would have to be burned to CD and then re-ripped into ITunes, which has to be the most annoying music-playing software I've ever encountered. If Apple weren't so insistent I use their blasted software, they'd have me sold.

So I've had to look at alternatives, mostly in the "mini" market. (I briefly considered the IRiver 340, but it seems to have some build-quality and battery issues.) I really like the look of the IRiver H10, it would play my music, and supposedly functions easily as a portable hard drive. But if I wait a month or two, they might have a much nicer 20GB model.

Finally, there's the Creative Zen Micro: DRM-WMA compatible, reasonable functionality, syncs with Microsoft Outlook. Still, the interface doesn't look so friendly to me, and Creative's offerings in larger sizes aren't as feature-rich.

Any advice in this arena would be welcome. I know so little about these silly devices.

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Comments

I have had an Iriver H120 since the summer, and while I like it, I agree that it has some quality issues.
Get the iPod. The interface on the device itself is miles ahead of the competition.
If you go to www.ipodlounge.com, I think there are independent players free for download. The only super annoying thing about the iPod is that you can't download songs *off* of it. However, again, there are freeware ways around that little problem. My vote is iPod. While I dislike Macs, the Apple "form before function" ethos worked beautifully with the iPod. The click wheel is one of the best thought out interfaces ever.
I just recently purchased an 40GB Nomad Zen mp3 player (described w/links to vendor provided here: http://samplesconnection.blogspot.com/2005/02/40gband-im-not-talking-about-my.html). I love and highly recommend it!
If you do end up reconsidering the iPod please read the experience with them I've posted here: http://the15minutehipster.blogspot.com/2005/03/ipod-public-service-announcement.html (I am now on iPod #5 under my extended warranty!!) I've been looking at the 60GB Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra which is also from Creative, for my next player... seems pretty nifty...
My husband has a Creative—it's a big one, too, 40G—and he really likes it. It's too big for my tastes, so I have an iPod. But if you're not planning on running with it, it might not cause problems. Really, all players have that damn proprietary nature to them, though. iPods prefer iTunes and AAC; most of the other playeres prefer WMA; the Sony players only play Sony's format. None of them will play everything, and that's why I still BUY CDs and rip them.
i have an ipod mini and a few of my friends have the ipod photo... it's fabulous. they love it and haven't had any problems. it's ridiculously easy to use, convenient and never malfunctions... go for it
Go for an/the iPod. I was surprised to read that you hate iTunes, because I thought it was universally loved, simple to use, feature-rich. And the iTunes store is decent, too.

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