I own a 60 GB Creative Nomad Zen Xtra which has over 10,000 music tracks. The navigation is ok once you get used to it. Screen can be a bit difficult to read in different light situations. There have been numerous problems reported in the Creative forums about defective earphone jacks on some models (apparently the jack is cold soldered to the circuit board and breaks off easily with use, but fortunately it has not happened to me.. yet!) It is somewhat bulky and heavy, but overall, I am very happy with this player.
I also own a small Sony Network Walkman NW-HD1, which I use mostly for listening to audiobooks. I love this unit, despite the fact that Sony is using it own proprietary compression algorithm. Transferring tracks to it can be time consuming because of the conversion, however, it does accept standard mp3 files as well. There is also a small navigaton learning curve for this model as well.
And finally, I have another little Sony, the E407, the one that looks like a Bic lighter. This is a flash unit, with no HD, hence the storage is small.. about 1 or 2 Gigs. So, I can only put a few of my favourite tracks on it. The big advantage with this unit is the long battery life. It uses the new OLED (Organic LED) display, which is great in dark or low light situations, but absolutely useless in bright daylight.
I use SonicStage to transfer tracks to both Sonys, and Red Chair's Notmad for the Zen Xtra.
Yes, the iPod is a kewl gadget, but in my opinion, way overpriced. You are paying for the name. The only advantage I can see with any iPod is the large number of after market products made specifically for them. And with the latest announcement, I think Jobs said they struck a deal with the automakers, that 70% of all 2007 vehicles will come with a built in iPod cradle or connection to play your iPod in your car. They have definitely done a good marketing job with this iPod line.
When I bought my Zen Xtra, it was priced at about 60% of what an equivalent iPod was going for - that was my main deciding factor. The Sony NW-HD1 was a gift, and I have been very happy with it. I probably would not have bought it back then, but I like it so much now, that I am considering picking up another on eBay as a backup in case it ever breaks. The E407 was bought on eBay for about half the going price.. I made a low ball bid and happened to get it - it was not something I would have paid full retail for.
As far as the new players that incorporate video and photograph display functions - not interested in the least. Why on earth would I want to watch a movie on such a tiny screen. I am looking forward to the day when large screen LCD prices come down to a more affordable price so I can buy a big screen TV. It is even too small to show photos to your friends and family.
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