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Music Media

Review: Nex II CF MP3 Player 227

Music listener and Slashdot author chrisd has prepared a review of the new Nex II CF based mp3 player from Hong Kong based Frontier Labs. He declares it the best MP3 player he's owned, so read the whole review if you'd like to learn more.
I have always preferred the Compact Flash memory format. I'm not alone, either. It's always baffled me that the MP3 player market has been dominated by SmartMedia-based players. It's clearly a throwback to the first Rio that Diamond released a few years back (which I still have in a box somewhere in the basement); It's always been a big problem in my mind. I find the SmartMedia format to be too small in capacity and flimsy in packaging to be appropriate for serious music listening or digital photography.

In digital photography, I've pretty much stuck with the CF-based Nikon Coolpix series of digital cameras, so I had scads of CF memory cards lying about. I also have an IBM Microdrive which I use when taking TIFFs using the Nikon. So I wanted an MP3 player able to handle not just Compact Flash, but also the Microdrive. The Microdrive is tricky because it both consumes much more power than solid-state CF cards, but also is slower to respond and larger, demanding the taller CF-II slot.

Until the i2go ego, there wasn't a mp3 player that could handle the Microdrive. I had owned and immediately given away the original, incredibly flawed, RCA Lyra because it simply stank so much I couldn't stand to own the thing. If RCA wants to send one of the new ones, I'd be pleased to check it out, but the shoddy original made me vow never to give RCA more MP3 player money.

The i2go ego (still sold some places, although I think the company that made it is defunct, look look here to see one) wasn't all bad. It played, and it acted as a pretty basic voice recorder, and it allowed for two CF cards to be inserted, at least if you bought a funny daughter board. But its build quality was such that it would spontaneously lose power if jostled. Also, it had the most annoying bug ever: the player would remember the card's contents from before, even if you changed said card's contents. It would try to play them too. It also -- at random --wouldn't notice songs that were on the card. It was very annoying, besides which it was enormous for an MP3 player.

I had been checking out the Nex II for a few months and with a long trip coming up, I decided I needed a MP3 player for the trip. I wanted to have a player that was smartly designed and able to run the microdrive. The Nex II seemed to fit the bill, so I ordered one (with a 256mb card included) for $239 (plus $15 shipping).

It arrived promptly 3 days after order from Frontier Labs' shop in Hong Kong; I've been using it for about a week now, and I have to say it's the best player I've ever owned. The display, an LCD (the letters are not blurry on the actual display) with a blue electro-luminescent backlight, is very readable, and the interface is super easy to use, with a rocker button on the right for track control above the volume buttons and the stop and the "fn" button on the left, under the headphone jack.

Conveniently, the Nex II also acts as a plain vanilla USB drive, so I can upload and download songs (or other files) under Linux with no problem. You can chose from two types of display while the song is playing (status or spectrographic display), which is fun. I stick with the status screen, which shows all pertinent information, including track length, quality in kbps, song title and time elapsed. The player has been able to handle any data rate I've thrown at it, and the specs says it can play WMA files, but I can't verify that. Also, I was able to pass the card to the camera and back with no problem, as neither the nikon nor the player are too controlling of the disk format.

Physically about the size of thick deck of playing cards, the Nex II allows you to change the color of the area around the LCD by sliding in thin colored pieces of glossy paper. You can buy more of these skins for $10, including the unfortunately named "mutant sperm" skin. It also comes with a snappy little neoprene case which has transparent portions covering the LCD and buttons so you can see what's up.

Despite all its good points, the Nex isn't perfect, it lacks some basic features, namely any sort of external power connector. You must always run it with 2 AA batteries. Mind you, it lasts 12 hours when using solid state CF and 5 when using a microdrive, so this is less inconvenient than it sounds. Also, the included headphones are not to my taste at all. The battery cover should be redesigned completely so the latches aren't as flimsy -- every time I change the batteries, I picture scotch tape in my future. Many would probably also like to see it be able to play Ogg Vorbis files, but that wasn't a deal breaker for me.

Another quirk of the Nex II is that to play Microdrives well, you need to load the 1.4(m) firmware available from the FrontierLabs website. It's odd that they didn't make this the default firmware, as the 1.4m firmware seems to work equally well with solid state cards and microdrives, while the firmware it ships with works poorly with microdrives.

So if you're looking for a decent mp3 player, you should check it out. The Nex II is an excellent value, and it sounds terrific.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Review: Nex II CF MP3 Player

Comments Filter:
  • Predictions (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 21, 2002 @09:06AM (#2875749)
    Thread predictions:

    10 posts about how it doesn't play Ogg
    14 posts about how Ogg sounds much better than MP3 or WMA.
    4 posts flaming people for not reading the article
    15 posts about how much better the iPod is
    20 posts about how the next Nomad will be better than the iPod
    12 posts about the copy protection in the
    17 posts about how some /. reader buys more CD's after using Napster/Morpheus
    5 posts about how Kazaa isn't truly P2P
    4 posts about how no other player other than the iPod uses FireWire
    3 posts from some guy about how USB is fine and nobody needs FireWire
    5 posts claiming that it would take "days" to transfer an x gigabyte MP3 collection.
    6 replies about how the new FireWire Nomad is coming RealSoonNow.
    3 posts predicting the messages in this thread
    9 posts about how thread prediction posts suck
  • Features (Score:1, Interesting)

    by JoshMKiV ( 548790 )
    Suprised at the battery life, that is very respectable. However, if it has enough power to run a Microdrive, I think it would have enough power for an FM tuner.

    I still think the Nomad II MG can not be beat for anyone who wants a small MP3 player, the ability to listen to radio, record radio, and record voice.

    Tip of the day:

    Ever had a problem with carrying change, keys, ID, or MP3 player while running, biking, or working out? Especially for an MP3 player without a belt clip? Click here, and then thank me.

    Amphipod [amphipod.com]
    • Why does it only have 64 megs? It's enough for ~64 minutes.

      Why are they so idiotic? Why can't they supply a reasonable amount of memory? We're already in 2002, aren't we? So why do manufactorers expect us to settle with 64 megs?

      There are Nomads with more memory, but they don't have an FM radio.

      I'll tell you what I'm looking for:
      • Something with a reasonable amount of memory (128megs, and preferably more). It can be also a CD-based player, for all I care.
      • Has an FM radio.
      • Will remember the last playing position and resume it when I turn it on again.

      That's it. Now, is there anything that does that? Couldn't find anything like that, yet.. the RioVolt 250 gets close to it, but it doesn't resume play.

      - Bronze
    • thanks for the amphipod link! I've been trying to find a carrying method for small stuff like my NEX II and keys. Do you know of anything that can clip on the arm?
  • by petermarks ( 133408 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @09:11AM (#2875762)
    I've had one of these players for many months and they are good. Some other features, not mentioned are:
    - graphic equalizer (handy for tuning for headphones with no bass)
    - spectrum display (as an alternative to the normal track display)
    - CF is the best value per megabyte of any storage

    On the negative side, the slot for the CF card is too deep and you can miss the pins if not careful.
    • 1.: From the review:
      You can chose from two types of display while the song is playing (status or spectrographic display)

      2.: CF costs way more per megabyte than HDs or CDs. Its advantages are size, robustness and weight.

      • Plus it doesn't skip while running. I have a mp3 cd player with 120 seconds of anti skip and after about 120 seconds if it is being continuously jostled it will start skipping.
        • I always wondered.. How does something that is entirely solid state, and has NO moving parts whatsoever skip?

          • I always wondered.. How does something that is entirely solid state, and has NO moving parts whatsoever skip?

            It's really simple: it doesn't. He was talking about an MP3 CD player, which does have moving parts (it has a data CD, which stores MP3 files, which is being spun round at a constant velocity, be it angular or linear), which therefore skips with read errors when that velocity changes due to the unit being jostled. The unit that is being reviewed here doesn't have moving parts, and doesn't skip.

            I wonder who modded your message to 2?! No offense intended.

            thenerd.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @09:21AM (#2875787) Homepage
    Sorry, but it get's an initial 10,000 points for the fact that you dump raw mp3's onto the Cf card and it will happily play them. NO OTHER MP3 PLAYER WILL DO THIS. Everything from sony has DRM,the entire Rio line has DRM (except the pmp-300 it was out before Diamond bent over for the RIAA) and I have tried every mp3 player that was removeable flash based storage at best buy/circuit city by bringing my own cf,mmc,smartmedia,memory stick,sd (copy of the mmc with drm abilities) loaded with 3 songs on each. Nothing would play them citing a bad format telling me that you must have it re-encoded and processed by the loader software to ensure you cant swap memory cards with your buddy. (as if ANYONE would do that. removable flash media is expensive, and the chances of finding a large pool of friends with the same mp3 player is near impossible unless you coordinate the purchase)

    The iPod could be better, but I also dont see the point of carrying around 65 million mp3's I am quite happy with my 2 256Merg CF cards. and many times I never listen to 1/2 the music I am carrying... but then that is just me others might like the fact that they can sit through 3 meetings, 2 lunches, 4 bitching-out's by the boss, and 2 more meetings before hearing the same song again....

    Now if they would make an MP3 boom-box... that way I can annoy those around me.
    • Archos (Score:3, Informative)

      by samael ( 12612 )
      The Archos MP3 player has a 6Gig hard disk, and you just dump MP3 files onto it. It's also incredibly handy as a portable storage solution, as it mounts as a drive in Windows.

      It uses USB, so it's not super fast, but it's fast enough for all my uses.
      • Indeed these are incredible USB portable hard drives with a built in MP3 player/sound system. I bought 3 of these Archos MP3 players (the 20MB version,) one for each of the kids. My worst fear was they were going to drop them and the only noise would be hard drives clicking. All three are still working around the clock and connect with our Linux boxen.
    • MP3 boom box (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Pope ( 17780 )
      Sony [mp3shopping.com] makes one, but it's CD-R/W based.
    • The HypeHyde [jaroove.com] does this. It's also brag-a-delically small (little bigger than a matchbox) and runs 6 hours on a single AAA battery. The only downside is that it uses the expensive MMC media.


      Too bad it's only sold in Japan. Then again, that just makes it easier to brag with mine...

    • NO OTHER MP3 PLAYER WILL DO THIS.

      Apart from this other CF-based one [mydigitaldiscount.com], you mean? It's not as featureful as the Nex-II, but it's cheaper too. I have one, and it's OK. I prefer the sound of my MD walkman, but that wasn't $75.

      The other downside of the iPod is the hard disk, which is (relatively speaking) a fragile medium. The CF-based players are completely solid-state.
      • The other downside of the iPod is the hard disk, which is (relatively speaking) a fragile medium

        Those little drives can take a lot of abuse, look at what notebook drives go through, or the IBM microdrives. Read this month's American Photographer to see how much abuse one of those can take, or just look at the camera on the front cover and realize the microdrive lived through it.

        The CF-based players are completely solid-state

        Er, except for the microdrives they just talked about in the review. Not that you need to use them, not when 256M CF cards are under $100.

    • NO OTHER MP3 PLAYER WILL DO THIS.

      ... apart from those mentioned by others in this thread. To which I would like to add the "Microboss MP3 Pocket" player that I own. It's a tiny little box that takes ordinary CF cards (no microdrives, alas) onto which you can store ordinary MP3s. And at approx. $50, it's only half the price of the device from the above review.

      For those who are interested (and can read German), I wrote a little review [haun-online.de] about the Microboss player.

      bye, Dirk
    • The iPod could be better, but I also dont see the point of carrying around 65 million mp3's

      The point is that you can have a big pile of your music (maybe "all" of it) on the thing, and you don't have to think about what you want to listen to this morning before you go running. Plus if you change your mind about being in a Jazz mood and decide Techno or the Blues is right for you half way through your run it is more likely to be in a 5G collection then a 256M collection.

      That may not be with twice the price (or maybe just an extra $100 depending on how much CF you buy vs. how much you had sitting around from digital cameras) to everyone, but it is to some folks. (I'll leave out the FireWire, since you can load a CF card mighty fast with a PCMCIA sled, or a $100 FireWire adaptor; and the battery life may be better on an iPod, but getting two AA's is frequently simpler then finding some place with a FireWire plug to top off...)

  • Yahoo Group (Score:5, Informative)

    by zerosignal ( 222614 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @09:26AM (#2875799) Homepage Journal
    There is a Yahoo Group for discussion of this player at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nexiimp3/
  • But seriously. What are we supposed to do with an MP3 player? Almost no one is releasing their music in MP3 format, and in a short time, we'll no longer be able to put CD tracks directly into MP3 format. Yes, Morpheus and others are still out there, but truthfully, that's an illegal way to get MP3's. The only legal way was to copy them from your CD.

    Yes, we have LOTS of older stuff that we can convert to MP3, but it sounds like all lawful means of converting to MP3 format are being taken from us.

    So, is the message, "If you have unlawfully obtained MP3's that you want to play, we provide a nice player for you!"? Or at some point is the music industry going to embrace MP3 format (cough, cough).
    • ok, I have a crappy, $80 CD player. The speakers for my computer cost that much. As such, I don't often use the crappy $80 CD player. I've ripped every CD I own to MP3 and just use my computer as a jukebox. To me it sounds the same, and I don't have to worry about shuffling CDs around. All that being said, I'd love to have a small little MP3 player so that I might enjoy my music when I'm not in my room. Being a poor college student prevents this. Hell, when I moved in this year I didn't even bother with bringing my crappy $80 stereo, I've got my Computer that does all that and more. So (in my opinion at least) the message is, "If you have MP3s that you'd like to play, we provide a nice player for you!"

      Ok, all that being said, I do think that we are going to move to a digital model for music. DataPlay was talking about having mutiple compressed albums on one of their disk-thingies. A lot of the major labels have some form of download based music in the works, even if it is the pay-napster thing that was previewed a couple weeks ago. I think these are the next generation of the portable CD players. They're smaller, almost as good quality(which means good enough for 97.658% of the people out there).
    • >...and in a short time, we'll no longer be able
      >to put CD tracks directly into MP3 format.

      What makes you say that? AFAIK, no one can make the format illegal/expensive to use, the only area of influence is in the codecs. So we may not have integrated-with-OS apps for ripping mp3, but we will still have open source alternatives [sourcefourge.net] for encoding.

      am I missing something?
      • AFAIK, no one can make the format ... expensive to use

        Not even Thomson [mp3licensing.com]?

        but we will still have open source alternatives (such as LAME) for encoding.

        Which are illegal to use in the United States and other countries where the algorithms necessary to encode MP3 are patented. Fraunhofer's patents cover more than just its codec and ISO's codec.

    • and in a short time, we'll no longer be able to put CD tracks directly into MP3 format.

      Not gonna happen, ever.

      Bit-perfect "ripping" may possibly become impossible, though I think even that is unlikely. But there simply isn't a way that they can prevent sampling the line out from a music player and converting to MP3. You lose some quality there, but very little. Probably less than the MP3 compression itself causes.

      Perfect rips are a nice luxury, but it's definitely not a requirement that will kill MP3 (or Ogg) if we can't do it.

    • I know you're just trolling, but I'll give you an answer anyway. I have over 1000 non-copy inhibited cd and quite a few vinyl albums aswell, I really like to be able to listen to them while I'm on a bus/train or when I'm biking. Ripping them to mp3s for my own use is in no way illegal.
  • Is there anyone that has heard one of these that can give more of a description than

    "and it sounds terrific.".

    This review is like: "yep, found this really cool gadget, it works with Linux and....what ? you mean it plays MP3s ? Cool!"

    or am I the only one that thought that ?

    • the sound is excellent into anything that is considered portable headphones. plugging it into your $60,000 stereo? it will suck just like a portable cd player will suck.

      think portable, and then think portable quality.
    • Re:Sound ? (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by liquidsin ( 398151 )
      of course others thought that. but if you comment negatively on something one of the editors said/did, you can expect to see just how infinite their mod points are. damn bitchslaps. so we all just fall in line to preserve our karma.
    • Re:Sound ? (Score:3, Informative)

      by NMerriam ( 15122 )
      The sound quality is fine for a portable device of this size -- there is a slight hiss at low volume levels, apparently because they have a signal amplifier inline to make it able to reach a pretty loud volume. If you find it annoying (I don't even notice it except when i'm looking for it) you'll hate it, but I don't use a pocket MP3 player for my $800 headphone comparisons. Running or in a plane or wherever, its fine...
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @09:48AM (#2875854) Homepage
    mp3playerstore [mp3playerstore.com]
    has them for cheaper and super low shipping. That's where I got mine, and I see today that they are selling it for even less than before.... my luck I bought mine a month ago.
  • Ogg vorbis is considered superior by a lot of electronic music pundits. It is also gaining popularity [raw42.com] in some circles.... of course, there's a long way to go before MP3 can be reckoned with in terms of pure popularity, but technically, Ogg is already superior. The open nature of the format also makes it a potentially brilliant option for artists [mondodesigno.com] and consumers alike. If I were a portable music device manufacturer, I would seriously look at this format as a possible option in future products.
  • Price (Score:5, Informative)

    by OctaneZ ( 73357 ) <ben-slashdot2@FO ... g minus language> on Monday January 21, 2002 @09:52AM (#2875866) Journal
    I didn't see this mentioned anywhere in the article or in another thread, so here we go. The base price (the player+accessories but no CF card) is only $109 directly from them! [yahoo.com] You can see all of the different options at their Yahoo! Store [yahoo.com]. it looks pretty neat, and if you combine this with the seemingly endless deals on Compact Flash cards that can be found (try AnandTech's Hot Deals Forum [anandtech.com]) this could be a great player.
    -OctaneZ
  • I have one of these as well, and on the whole, it is VERY good. Only two things I can think of is the random play seems to not be... very random. Has anyone else noticed this? Also, I get errors hooking it up to win2k so I use my win98 side to handle file transfers. Other than that, maybe a low battery warning would be nice.

  • Although some people might find this to be a minor flaw, I would have liked to have seen it have a Remote Control that sits between the player and the headphones. As I like to put my player (minidisc/mp3) in my jacket/backpack, it can be a royal pain having to fumble around for the player, just to change tracks. Or for example using a tape converter in car to listen to your mp3s, can become quite dangerous if you have to muck about with the player to change tracks.

    I may be wrong, and perhaps there is a remote control for this product, but from looking at the pictures I could not see one...
    • Actually, I think you're right. The lack of a remote forces you to take the unit out(of your pocket, etc) every time u need to change volume, song, etc. Another feature that would be nice to have.
  • Compact Flash seems to be the most available format, with lots of storage space and low cost.

    The fact is that all Palm devices and the new 3800 iPaqs have built-in connector for the SD card standard. I think the PDA market will pump the SD card standard to the top of the market. My next MP3 player (well okay my first mp3 player :) must have an SD slot so that I can load it up from my PDA. Or maybe my PDA itself will be the MP3 players.

    When are we going to see car stereo decks that take some sort of memory card? That could obsolete CDs for good.
    • I was thinking about the car stereo idea too. For the $109 plus shipping it costs for this thing, I think I may pick one up and try to hook it into my car somehow. If anyone has any suggestions, post 'em before I destroy my car ;)
      • How about one of those iRock FM modulators? Small, light, and battery powered. You can get 'em for $30 at CompUSA. They sound pretty good, better than the old cassette adapters. One guy I know swears it is actually better than the expensive modulator that hooks from his CD changer directly into his stereo's FM antenna lead.
    • Compact Flash seems to be the most available format, with lots of storage space and low cost.

      The fact is that all Palm devices and the new 3800 iPaqs have built-in connector for the SD card standard. I think the PDA market will pump the SD card standard to the top of the market. My next MP3 player (well okay my first mp3 player :) must have an SD slot so that I can load it up from my PDA. Or maybe my PDA itself will be the MP3 players

      The digital camera market seems to sell a lot more memory cards then the PDA market (I know of some PDA users with no external memory, and many with but one card...the digital camera owners seem to have at a bare minimum the card that came with the camera plus one other, many have 4 or 5 extra cards). SM/SD seems mostly dead in the digital camera market, the only recent cameras with it are things like the E20 that also have CF slots, I assume because Oly use to be on the SmartMedia bandwagon and doesn't want to piss off it's past buyers.

      The competition seems to be Sony and the MemoryStick vs. everyone else and Compact Flash. I wouldn't count Sony out as they sell lots of cameras, but Nikon plus Canon plus Oly plus Kodak plus...

      I would bet on CF, in fact I guess having two cameras that use it and 4 CF cards (plus the microdrive when Canon ships it as part of my rebate), I guess I have. :-)

  • Nice review, Chris.

    The only problem is that every one of their players is sold out.

    They sell them via a Yahoo storefront [yahoo.com], and if you click on any of the players you'll see the following text:

    All sold Out. Orders received before 7 Jan will be shipped on 9 Jan . All orders will be back-ordered and will only be processed at the date of shipment. Expected delivery date is March 1, 2002

    Darn. And that $109 one with no memory looked like a deal!

  • by IIOIOOIOO ( 517375 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @10:44AM (#2876028)

    Favorable at MP3.Com [mp3.com]

    Negative at CNET.COM [cnet.com]

    Brief at IGN FOR MEN (heh) [ign.com]

    Mixed at Epinions [epinions.com]

    This is for all of you who don't have google-equipped browsers.

  • Where are they? MP3 recording (mic, line, etc) would be a logical next step for these devices, ala some of the Sony portable minidisc players.

    They'd be ideal for news people, taping live shows, and so on.

    As cool as the iPod is, why can't it record?
  • Personally, I think mass-storage portable music players are the future. As soon as someone comes out with a tiny little box that you can stick in your pocket and keep most of your CD collection on, it will change the way we listen to music.

    I just bought an iPod [apple.com], and I think Apple were so close in creating the ultimate portable player. Of course, it only works if you own a Macintosh (despite the fact that I'm using it with Windows [mentaljewelry.org], most non-geek Windows users wouldn't buy it if it didn't work with Windows out of the box...), but why can't we buy any iPod-type deviced that doesn't need a computer?

    I showed my mother my iPod, and she said that she would love to have one, if only she could copy her CDs onto it without having to have a computer inbetween. IMHO, an iPod-type device which lets you dump CDs straight onto it would sell like hot-cakes. I find that being able to listen to pretty much any music I want to, anywhere and any time I like has changed the way I listen to music, and so much for the better.

    Fiddling around with silly memory cards is annoying to me, and confusing for Joe Average. I just want a box with music in it. I'll keep my iPod thanks. :)

    • but why can't we buy any iPod-type deviced that doesn't need a computer?

      Have you ever looked at MiniDisc recorders? Each 6cm disc can hold five hours of audio in long-play mode, and it doesn't skip when bumped. If that isn't enough for jogging, what is?

    • As I understand, firewire is a mastering bus (each peripherial can control the whole bus - compared to USB, a chained/star system where you need a central controller for everything). So, it seems that if you had a firewire CDROM [psism.com], you could hook it up to a firewire ripper/player, and if you had a firewire CDRW [powerbook1.com] (and appropriate firmware in the ripper), you could burn it back to CD. I see problems in getting an interface that's small enough to be useful for simple playback, but large enough to let you control burning well. Probably power issues too. But it can probably be done.
  • A question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Monday January 21, 2002 @11:09AM (#2876110) Homepage Journal
    I'm a runner, training for a marathon who presently using a MiniDisc player for entertainment on those long runs. But, having pretty much trashed one in this way, I'm pretty wary about using it, and I do worry about it.

    So, what I wan't to know is: Do these, and MP3 players in general, have any moving parts, and are they very resistance to shock, vibration and continuous movement?
    • This one is solid state (no moving parts) as long as you use a Compact Flash Memory card. If you use a micro-drive, there are moving parts.
    • As long as you're not using an IBM Microdrive in it, you're fine. All MP3 players that use CompactFlash, or other types of "flash" memory are completely electronic with no moving parts. So if you're jogging, there's no skipping and no harm done to the player. My girlfriend jogs with her NEX II and loves it. It comes with a protective case that has a belt clip which attaches to her water pack. You can still operate the buttons while its in the case, too.
    • Do these, and MP3 players in general, have any moving parts, and are they very resistance to shock, vibration and continuous movement?

      Most MP3 players have no moving parts at all and are thus very shock-resistant by their very nature. Many of these use some internal memory, and some can use external flash cards to add to that memory.

      Some MP3 players can use the IBM MicroDrive [ibm.com], which is a very small hard drive in a card form, in place of a flash card. The MicroDrive has moving parts and probably will have some problems with tons of movement and shock.

      Other players, like Apple's iPod [apple.com], use a small hard drive contained within them. These have varying levels of shock protection, although all of them are shock protected to some degree. In the case of the iPod it has a 20 minute skip buffer which means it only needs to access the hard drive once every 20 minutes, the rest of the time the drive's head is parked and it is shockproof. These drives are also built for laptop use and are more rugged to start with.

      So for the best shock protection I would go for a MP3 player with some sort of flash card. These usually only hold about a CD's worth of songs but that is still a good amount. The MicroDrives and the hard drive players hold a lot more songs and are still fairly shock resistant. I don't know how good they would last under a sustained pounding however.

    • So, what I wan't to know is: Do these, and MP3 players in general, have any moving parts, and are they very resistance to shock, vibration and continuous movement?

      Any MP3 player that does NOT use a hard drive or CDROM drive should have NO moving parts, and be completely resistent to shock, vibration, and continuous movement.

      So long as that 'shock' you speak of does not include throwing the device on the ground. (They aren't indestructible.)
  • It's clearly a throwback to the first Rio that Diamond released a few years back (which I still have in a box somewhere in the basement);
    Wanna send that to me?

    -B2
  • by yerricde ( 125198 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @11:31AM (#2876184) Homepage Journal

    I had owned and immediately given away the original, incredibly flawed, RCA Lyra because it simply stank so much I couldn't stand to own the thing. If RCA wants to send one of the new ones, I'd be pleased to check it out, but the shoddy original made me vow never to give RCA more MP3 player money.

    RCA already has your MP3 player money, and there's little you can do about it. RCA's parent Thomson Multimedia administers the patent rights for MP3 technology [mp3licensing.com] and charges royalties to all manufacturers of hardware MP3 players.

  • Why don't these units ever have a belt clip? Can you imagine the first Walkman having been released with no belt clip? It's stupid.
  • Keeps Dying. (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Evil Twin ( 217345 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @11:38AM (#2876216) Homepage
    I have one of these things as well. Have had it for more than six months now... oh wait.. now.. THIS one I have had for only about 2. You see the build quality sucks. I love it because of the same reasons stated here (ie, acts as removable drive, no DRM, small, CF format). But the build quality really bugs me. My previous player died. Just wouldn't work. Mind you their tech support was helpful and I had a new unit (from Toronto, Canada to Hong Kong and back) in a week. My friend got one when he was in Hong Kong. Died in a month. Just won't turn on. The plastic is cheap and the battery removal process is cumbersome.

    Some other negatives are:
    - Plan to purchase "real" headphones as well. I have no idea what those "things" are that came with it.
    - Audible "processor noise". That's about the only way I can describe it. The decoding is done by Software so when I first got my unit there was actual decoding "blips" but they fixed that in the 1.4 firmware... still not happy with the audio quality.

    - damn thing doesn't remember last track played.

    Pros are as mentioned earlier.
    - Great battery life.
    - FAT formatted CF Card and Microdrive. (I use an external USB CF reader to put stuff onto the card.
    - Nice clear display.
    - price
    - support.

    I recommend this unit for no other reason then to send a clear "up yours and your DRM" to the RIAA.
    • Mind you their tech support was helpful and I had a new unit (from Toronto, Canada to Hong Kong and back) in a week. My friend got one when he was in Hong Kong. Died in a month. Just won't turn on. The plastic is cheap and the battery removal process is cumbersome.

      What do you expect, dude? It's

      MADE IN HONG KONG
  • My folks bought me a NEX II player for Christmas, and it's a wonderful little gadget. The sound quality is excellent, the LCD display is very clear, and it works like a charm. Well, it worked like a charm until I decided to update the firmware. I downloaded the 1.4c version and installed it exactly as described in the README. After installing the update and transferring across some MP3s, I found that when I played a song it played nothing but a constant monotone bleep, and the player locked up, needing the batteries to be removed to reset it. I reinstalled the firmware update once again, but now it won't even boot up further than the splash screen! I emailed tech support a week ago and they still haven't got back to me... The moral of the story - if it ain't broke, don't fix it...
  • CF is best value? Uh...hello...128M smartmedia is cheaper than 128M of Compact flash...
  • What bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by null etc. ( 524767 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @11:43AM (#2876240)
    From their web page:
    ... the first player that can double as a portable hard disk

    ... the first player with upgradeable firmware

    Does the company actually believe this marketing bullshit? This MP3 player is far from the first player that can double as a hard disk, nor is it incredibly advanced with 'upgradeable firmware.' Shit like this really pisses me off.

  • A neat, albeit limited application, hack would be to get a cf 802.11 card running in one of these and be able to run mp3 off a fileshare.

    Think of it as a wireless AudioTron [audiotron.net]. (Nearly) Infinite storage capacity with good mobility. I'd buy one.
  • I had owned and immediately given away the original, incredibly flawed, RCA Lyra because it simply stank so much I couldn't stand to own the thing. If RCA wants to send one of the new ones, I'd be pleased to check it out, but the shoddy original made me vow never to give RCA more MP3 player money.

    It's one thing to state the problems, or even your dislike for a product, but why would RCA decide to ship a unit to a "journalist" (heh) who claims such bias as to pre-judge all future products because of one old first-generation product.

    A reviewer's bread is buttered with free toys to review. Don't pander to the company, but don't snub them with prejudice either.

  • You Paid _HOW_ Much? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Muerte23 ( 178626 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @12:00PM (#2876328) Journal
    I just got a Diva 3032 MP3 Player [mydivaplayer.com] that does all that for a fraction of the price.

    It's half the size of a deck of cards, it runs for about ten hours on one AA battery, and it acts as a USB removeable drive just like your $239 unit.

    The only difference is the price. I got mine here for $70 plus $5 shipping.

    Add a 256mb flash card from Pricewatch [pricewatch.com] for $80 and that brings the total to a measly $150 for a 256 MB mp3 player with zero copy protection, tiny size, and great sound.

    Another kind of flashdrive MP3 player is the MelloMP3 unit. It's a little bigger and uses 2xAA batteries, but i got one for $60 for my brother for christmas.

    Possibly the most interesting thing here is the compatibility of CompactFlash and IDE. If you do the wiring right you can stick a CF card straight onto an IDE cable with no other translation and it will work. So my idea for everyone, stick a hard drive under the seat of your car with a small power supply, then just hook the MP3 player to the car stereo via a Line In jack, and presto, you have a 30GB Car MP3 player for less than $200, plus you can take it with you.

    Anyways, I hope someone finds this useful.

    Muerte

    • by kbroom ( 258296 )
      I own a Diva player, which is an excellent unit. It even acts as a voice recorder too!!, besides it is the smallest player that takes CompactFlash. The only problem is that is does not accept CFII, therefore, no Microdrive compatibility, but at $69.99 [mydigitaldiscount.com]
      (with 32megs built-in) this is a hell of a deal.
    • The only difference is the price. I got mine here for $70 plus $5 shipping.

      You can get a NEX II without memory for $90, so there's not as much price difference.

      And the big feature difference is that the NEX can take microdrives.

      intersting idea about the compactflash>IDE setup. That could be an interesting project!...
  • I bought one of these and promptly traded it for an Ipod as soon as it was available.

    The interface is good, the size is downright tiny, but the battery life is miserable. Perhaps the reviewer was using the 1GB microdrive, which actually has a lower RPM than the 340MB (which is what I'm using) and consequently gets a better battery life, but my NexII would last a max of 3 hours on 2 batteries.

    Not only that, but when the battery starts to get low, the nex II experienced lockups and crashes. It was an extremely frustrating experience. All of this only applied to the microdrive - with a CF card, it worked great. But the whole reason I purchased it was for its microdrive support. I did everything their manuals and website suggested, but it didn't really help.

    Oh, and another annoying thing - the "shuffle" feature will always sort the songs in the same order.

    Just my .02,
    Matt
  • advertising claims (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stochi ( 114270 ) on Monday January 21, 2002 @12:52PM (#2876582) Homepage
    i just went to their website and noticed that they make some pretty hefty claims in their ad. i'm just wondering if the can really get away with it...

    .... the first player that can double as a portable hard disk

    erm... hasn't the archos jukebox been able to do this for quite awhile now? i bought the 20GB version and it's basically just a USB harddrive with an mp3 player stuck on top.

    .... the first player with upgradeable firmware

    erm... again, my archos can do this. you copy the firmware to the drive when it is off and then turn it back on to activate it.

    i guess these claims work for the CF world, but that's not really clarified in their statement. and it's not that i'm knocking this product. i might have actually gotten one instead of the archos if they had been available when i bought my archos. i'm just wondering if they can really make these claims...
  • While we're on the subject of MP3 players, did anyone else notice that Toshiba just announced plans to start manufacturing 10GB [toshiba.com] and 20GB [toshiba.com] 1.8" drives this spring. How long before someone hacks one into an iPod and posts it ;) Price might still be a concern though; the 5GB drive [toshiba.com] used in the iPod [apple.com] can only be gotten by buying the PC card version [toshiba.com] from Toshiba, which costs $399 ($299 for the 2GB version), or by buying an iPod [apple.com], which also costs $399 ($369 for students).
  • CF Rules. Nex II is a nice player. I was lucky enough to find one at CompUSA a few weeks ago for $99 with a 32MB Card....(32MB sucks for MP3 -- but it works great in my camera.) After purchasing a couple 256 Meg CF cards VIA pricewatch -- I am in good shape now.
    I am an MP3 player junky and own many models ranging from MPMan, RIO500, RCA Lyra, RioVolt CD, Classic CD, Other various First gen CD's, Archos Jukebox, Etc..Etc..Etc. Bottom line:

    1. The ability to use only external media is a plus. (I have fried 3 players via data transfer to internal memory. I purchased a CF reader to load data onto the cards so that the actual player never gets harmed during data transfer.)
    1A. Compact Flash as the external media. (Has anyone seen Smart Media, MMC, or Sony Memory Sticks that hold 256 Meg, 512 Meg??? -- I dont think so.)
    2. CD type MP3 players are nice...the riovolt is a cool player...however I have found that these type of players are 2 big, fragile, and skip prone to be of much use in most "outdoor" type situations.
    3. No external program needed to copy files to memory card. Anyone who has tried to put mp3's...err...mpx's onto the RCA lyra knows what I mean...
    4. Battery life must be good. 10+ hours. This excludes the "hard drive" type players. They are not only as fragile as the CD's, but they will suck batteries at a rate similar to a laptop.
    So far the Nex II is the only player I have purchased that meets all the above.
  • Shock and Shuffle (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tugrik ( 158279 )
    This player is extremely popular with the Gold Wing motorcycling crowd (which I'm one of); many folks on the GL1800 list own them. Two observations come from motorcycle use:

    For one, they are amazingly shock-resistant, even with the Microdrive. Be sure to get a 1G microdrive, and not a 340; the 340 pulls more power and is much less shock proof. Switching up to a 1G microdrive made all the difference; the player gets a good bouncing around in the fairing pocket, but no skips.

    For two, the shuffle algorithm on this player needs help. The controls are a bit hard to operate with motorcycle gloves on, so most 'wingers just leave themselves to the mercy of the Shuffle setting. This thing likes to pick about 40% of the songs on the disk and cycle through them a few times before grabbing another 'chunk'. I'd much prefer the entire catalog be shuffled once (at the time Shuffle is selected) and then played through like a list that can be stopped and restarted. Only doing another 'shuffle' operation would change the order. Many MP3 players have this problem.

    Other than those two comments, I dearly love this device. I got one w/o any CF cards for $79(!!), and threw away the headphones like everybody else. I share the Microdrives between the MP3 player and my Canon D30 digital SLR camera, and there are zero issues. It's fun being able to jam to great tunes on a ride, stop, swap to the D30 and take a few photos at a pretty vista, then put the microdrive back in the MP3 player and keep listenin'.
  • I'm surprised the reviewer didn't complain about my favorite NexII bug: It can't descend into subdirectories!

    If you store your music files on the CF card like this:
    /Artist/Album/01-Song.mp3

    The NexII (with v1.4c firmware) CAN'T SEE any of your music. It will only search one directory level deep. So "/Album/01-Song.mp3" works fine.

    It's not a big problem when you know about it, but it sucks when you forget to shuffle the files and find out only when you go to listen to them.
    I've emailed Frontier Labs about this, and they are aware of the problem. I have hope that a future firmware release could do better. If it bothers you too, consider emailing them today.
  • I've got one too. (Score:2, Informative)

    by gessel ( 310103 )
    In fact, I bought two: one for my gf and one for me (to avoid those relationship damaging techno jealousy issues). The reviewer was right on target I think in every strength and weakness.

    I've used mine with a W2K laptop as music depot and find that for reasons that may be generic to W2K or specific to my laptop, it bluescreens rather than properly dismounting the USB drive feature, but I have a CF-PCMICA adapter that works fine and is a lot faster.

    I also get a lot more than 12 hours from a set of batteries: a lightly used set just lasted a 14.5 hour plane trip and are still going strong. This with the NCP 64MB flash card that came from dataviz.com (total price $99 incl. card).

    Similarly I bought this player for it's CF+ (or CF type II) compatibility, and wouldn't consider any other media format.

    An additional complaint I would raise is that there's no headroom to the amplifier. If you exceed the output it makes a very loud pop (for example on every drum beat). Use it with high db/mw (high efficiency) headphones if you like loud music. They should soft limit the output or use a better output amp.

    Another feature would be to add a "resume play" mode so it picks up where it left off. I used it skiing and in some long lift lines it turned itself off from pause meaning I heard the first few songs of the card over and over. (Yeah, yeah, you can index through pretty easily but that's hard to do with gloves on.)

    I also find the battery cover disturbingly dainty, and the case around the batteries frighteningly flexible. I'd suggest that they install a charge pump and let the thing recharge NiMh AA's off the USB source, which would take overnight.

A fail-safe circuit will destroy others. -- Klipstein

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