And again they are neither living flesh of mine nor I am referring to the to-be members of the Danish Royal Family, but, as it cannot be be otherwise, they are new gadgets and not so much as monozygotic twins.

During our Easter Holidays (it already feels like a lot of time ago) the hardships of the bouncy road tracks of Iceland sent my beloved (and elder) hard-disk MP3 player Archos Gmini XS 202 to rest forever and my our carelessness (it HAS to be shared blame since my sofa is somewhat uncomfortable to sleep in) made my girlfriend loose her 3rd Generation 4 Gb iPod Nano.

This self-inflicted mourning period gave us the chance to evaluate other options such as using our smartphones whenever we wanted to listen to music or simply checking whether we “need” an MP3 player at all.
We found out that, yes indeed, it is a good thing to be able to listen to music “on the move”, mostly when travelling and that “the smartphone experience” as a music player was not successful enough due to several reasons:

  • default media software was inferior in quality and features to the one that was included in our previous players
  • we were lazy/cheap enough to not contemplate searching for a better/non-complimentary option
  • average smartphone size is bigger than average player’s, making it unsuitable for some occasions (working out, running,…)

I took the plunge first and after evaluating alternatives that satisfied my demands (more capacity than my previous player and flash-based instead of disk) and waiting patiently to become available, I asked an American friend of mine (thanks a bunch to you and your buddy) to bring me a shiny Zune HD 64 Gb. I wanted the über-elegant “Black” one, but it was not available, so I took the slightly-less-elegant “Platinum” one.
First impressions are fabulous so far: fine looks, good sound quality, decent device software with easy to use menus and the most important feature (the deal-maker for me):  lightness. 64 Gb fitted into 74 g. of weight? Gotta love you, Microsoft. I swapped the killing feature of my other candidate (the iPod Touch 64 Gb), its Apps ecosystem, solely for the weight, as well as miserably relaxing my pretentions around desktop software’s variety. Time will tell if I regret.
I am still getting my head around Zune software and I have not yet tried the Zune Pass features, but my first feelings are very positive towards the player. And for the kind of usage I have given it so far, I have to tell my European fellows that I have not had any problems being this side of the pond.

Shortly after, my girlfriend got her 5th Generation 16 Gb iPod Nano. After evaluating some alternatives (Archos Vision 2 and some Sony Walkman players, mainly) she chose familiarity over lower price tag. You can say many things about Apple, but their looks and some features are superb. If I was happy about my HD’s lightness what can one say about eh uncanny lightness of the Nano? It is almost as if it isn’t in your hand at all! We go as far as to say that it is TOO LIGHT. It feels weird in your hand and definitely feels not as sturdy as her former 3rd gen. Besides it has a feature that makes it way inferior to its predecessor: it cannot be operated one-handed. The rest, almost everyone knows it, so as much as I like doing it, I will restrain myself of repeating it.

So, the reader can expect further opinions on the Zune player (and maybe the Nano if I get to “play” enough with it) but one thing I can tell already: player software designers and developers don’t get playlist management. For the love of Matrix’s Architect DO let people create playlists at their wishes. DO NOT force them to use desktop software or make them jump though hoops. Playlists are a feature you can’t go without, make it easy, pretty please. And hierarchical for those of us that have a polluted brain with years of file systems usage.

UPDATE: Out-dated information. That’s what you get when you do not publish post straight away, but leave them an eternity in the Drafts folder. It turns out my girlfriend has been infected by my gadgetry frenzy. She could not help it and sold here 5th Gen to get a 6th Gen Nano. She does not have it yet, but I will be posting some opinions (tinted by envy) when I have the change to lay my dirty hands on it.

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