iPod? Zen? Clix? Sansa? (poll)

It’s about that time again — time to buy another MP3 player. My workouts are getting to the duration and intensity that I’m not going to be able to handle the banality of gym TV. I used to own a 1.5GB Rio Nitrus, and it was great until it died an agonizing, battered death. I have an MP3/CD player, and it’s also great, but it’s more than a little clunky and has vibration/skipping issues.

But I need your help. The surfeit of choices is a bit overwhelming.

If I had to list the features I’m looking for, it would look something like this:

  iPod Creative iriver SanDisk
nano Video Zen Vision:M Clix Sansa e280
Price $250 $350 $300 $200 $250
Size (GB) 8 80 60 4 8
$/GB $31 $4 $5 $50 $31
Drive Flash Disk Disk Flash Flash
Vorbis N N N Y N
M4B Y Y Y N N
H.264 N Y Y N N
DivX N N Y N N
MPEG-4 N Y Y Y N
Radio N N Y Y N
Battery (H) 12 14 14 25 20

As this is going to be used primarily for workouts, a flash-based device is preferred. The Rio finally died because the hard drive ate itself, so I just can’t see myself buying another hard drive-based device without a very compelling argument. (Ten times the space with 80GB and video is pretty compelling, though.)

Classes at school publish podcasts in MP3 and M4B formats, so the latter format would be a bonus as it includes little, tiny pictures. I have a good chunk of my music in Vorbis format, so it would also be a bonus, but not a deal-breaker. More and more video is coming out as H.264, so that would be cool, but I also have several set-top DivX players and tons of existing videos in DivX. As for radio … it’s a cool feature, but it would just end up on NPR all the time.

I would love, love, love a device that was a plain-old USB Mass Storage Controller, and thus didn’t require me to use some crappy music manager software to interface with it. I hate iTunes, so this is a major drawback for any iPod product. I know that I could just use MediaMonkey, but I’d really prefer to not have to use anything at all. (And don’t try with the whole "but it’s better to keep an indexed database” pile of crap — I’m not buying it.) Similarly, MTP devices make me grate my teeth.

From all outward appearances, the Creative Zen Vision:M should be the winner, hands down. But! There’s a snag: I also want to be able to keep track of my workouts. For the next few months at least, those workouts will primarily be running on a treadmill. My wife has a Nike+ fob for her nano and loves it. It’s a very compelling argument, but as you can see from my chart above, the nano is tied for the lowest score.

Yo Rick, you should spend some of that phat l00t on a(n):
View Results

And yes, Zune was out of the running before it even hit the gate. Don’t bother bringing it up.

It’d be a waste to buy an MP3 player and then turn around and buy a Forerunner or some other measuring device (which, sadly, wouldn’t even be appropriate, as GPS isn’t all that useful on a treadmill), but at the same time it’s putting the cart before the horse to buy a nano for one small part of the functionality pie. Anyone got any ideas on this front?

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Rick Osborne

I am a web geek who has been doing this sort of thing entirely too long. I rant, I muse, I whine. That is, I am not at all atypical for my breed.