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6/11/2007
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Review: 8 iPod Alternatives

iPods are the market leaders in media players today -- but are they necessarily better than their competitors? We look at 8 iPod alternatives and decide whether you should go Apple or not.

The iPod with video is simply a powerhouse in the digital music player market. With a nice screen and iTunes to back it up, the iPod with Video has become the leader in the high-end player market. With that said, my findings for the Archos 604 WiFi and the Microsoft Zune may surprise you.

Archos 604 WiFi
What can’t be said about the Archos 604 WiFi? With a slick design and more features than you can shake a stick at, the Archos 604 is the ultimate do-it-all media player.



Archos 604 WiFi

The Archos 604 WiFi offers music and video playback, as well as photo viewing, Web browsing and television recording (with the recorder sold separately). Simply put, this player does it all. Unlike the iPod, the 604 delivers a touch screen that makes jumping around the interface much easier than using the buttons to the side of the screen. The 4.3-inch TFT widescreen display is simply gorgeous, and watching video for an extended amount of time is actually enjoyable. Although the sound of the built-in speaker was (expectedly) rather poor, it is a nice addition, and the option to view photos while simultaneously listening to music became one of my favorite features.

Product Info
Archos 604 WiFi
Archos
www.archos.com
Price: $450 (30GB)

Recording audio and video could not have been easier. An optional ($99) recording kit lets you view video and record onto the 604 just by placing it into the recording kit’s dock. Even better, the recording kit comes with an AC adapter so it charges the player while it records.

The biggest issue I have with the 604 is its price tag. Even with the updated 704 hitting stores, the 604 is still retailing at most major outlets for $450. Given its functionality and its paltry 30GB hard drive, I would be hard-pressed to spend that kind of money for this player. With that said, the 604 offers much more than any other player on the market.

Microsoft Zune
With a large and vivid screen, the Zune is a great alternative to the iPod.



Microsoft Zune

The inclusion of the Zune Marketplace (Microsoft's answer to iTunes) was the first thing that caught my eye. Much like the iPod and iTunes, Microsoft has created an end-to-end experience with the Zune where you open the box, install the software, and start adding media to the device. It is as simple as that.

The Zune sounds great, and the included earbuds are actually much better than you might expect. Even better, the 3-inch, 320 x 240 screen makes viewing videos a better experience than you will find on the iPod.

My one major gripe with the Zune is its scroll wheel -- or lack thereof. If you are an avid iPod user, or if you have ever used one before, you will immediately try to scroll your way through the Zune’s menu system. Unfortunately, the black navigation circle does not scroll, and can only click up, down, left or right.

Product Info
Microsoft Zune
Microsoft Corp.
www.microsoft.com
Price: $240 (30GB)
When the Zune was released, Microsoft was touting its wireless capability where you could share music with another Zune-toting friend through the player’s wireless connection. Although this a nice feature in concept, the songs only last for three plays or three days (whichever comes first), and the wireless does not work for anything else.

The Microsoft Zune, although not the "iPod Killer" so many were hoping, is still a nice player, and a great first run-through for Microsoft.

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