My iPod is dying

My iPod Nano is dying. The battery lasts something like the walk home from work, which is about two songs or so, so I’m planning on getting a replacement soon, as most of the time I need it to work longer than that.
Requirements:
* Needs to be smallish. I want to be able to carry it in some pocket
* I don’t need video playback. Watching TV shows or movies on screens < 12" just does not appeal to me. * Due to size and battery constraints, I'd rather not go with a HDD-based player, but rather have a Flash based one. 4GB of storage space is mostly enough, but 8GB or an extension option is a plus. * FM Radio is a huge plus. I fairly frequently go on longish bus-rides, and being able to listen to something beside music is a welcome addition to the capabilities. * While MP3 is the most important format, having decent multi-format support is a huge plus, as I have the occasional Ogg and WMA file lying around. * Battery life. Both in terms of how long the player is usable without recharging, and how long the battery can be expected to last before dying permanently. * Sound quality should be better than the iPod. I don't need anything in terms of EQ or other adjustment capabilities, as I would rather have the sound quality be good out of the box. Note that I don't care about the sound quality from any bundled earbuds, as I will be using better headphones anyway. * It *absolutely must* work as a regular mass storage device. I don't want any player that requires special software to sync. I regularily use my current Nano for moving/copying music between the computers I work on, and I want to be able to move all of my music without having metadata destroyed. * It *absolutely must not* lock me to any particular platform on a PC. I use Linux, but I want to be able to have it plug in to a computer running any other OS. See the previous requirement. * I would prefer a device with upgradable firmware, and upgrading of said firmware must not require any special software. Having to locate a Windows machine, boot it, install software on the machine, and like the case is with my Sony Ericsson phone, having to install Flash _and_ set my default browser to MSIE to be able to install the firmware updates, is _not_ acceptable. And before anyone suggests it: No. I'm not waiting for the iPhone. I'm not buying the iPhone when it's out. I'm not buying Apple again. The iPod was a compromise because it was the only Flash-based player that met my storage requirements. Before discovering "Rockbox":http://rockbox.org/ I had to spend lots of time copying all of the music back over because of syncing issues, and I had pretty much stopped using it. I don't expect the iPhone to be anything less than a bad version of the iPod. Bad with respect to being restricted to hell and back, but _without_ the option to replace my firmware as I see fit, so I have freedom with my device. Kidnapping my data is not acceptable. So: Any suggestions for a player that offers me freedom, and fulfils my requirements? (I have deliberately not listed any of the candidate devices I've been researching, as I want people to just hint me at devices for further research).

21 Comments

  1. I have had a iRiver H120 for 3 years now, and I’m really satisfied with it. It plays the most important formats (ogg, mp3, wma), but not FLAC. And it has a radio. The battery is still working after 3 years of moderate use.
    And it’s really UNIX friendly, it works as a USB Mass Storage device, and you simply choose songs by browsing the filesystem. And if this isn’t good enough for you, it even runs your beloved Rockbox firmware.
    Based on my experience with the H120, my next mp3 player is probably going to be an iRiver. The iRiver E10 for example, it looks like a really nice player.

  2. How about a Creative Zen V Plus? Haven’t tried it myself but I’ve been looking for one with pretty much the same requirements as yours and this seems like one of the best matches.
    Review at hardware.no

  3. I recently bought a Samsung Z5F. It’s a mass-storage device, it plays oggs, it’s small, 4GB and generally works well. I haven’t listened to an ipod, so I can’t comment on the sound quality, but it’s good enough for me. The Z5F has FM radio, it has 44 hours of battery life.
    So, it looks like a perfect match apart from not having 8GB of memory or an extension. I have blogged about my initial impressions. It’s held up well so far.

  4. Yes, the Samsung Z5F looks sweet.
    Do you have any idea how this compares to the Samsung K5? The K5 has included speakers, that would be lovely together with 6 beers, a couple of friends and a park.

  5. Kildor

     /  2007-01-11

    Something from iRiver — very good players, with updating firmware, mass storaging, and usuall AA-batteries (or accumulators)

  6. Are you aware that you can get replacement batteries for iPods quite cheaply, and often with longer lifespans than the original battery?
    I’ve replaced both a 3rd Gen and iPod mini with batteries from maplin.co.uk and the process was quick and painless for someone some with minimal technical competence (i.e. no soldering required, all tools and instructions supplied with the replacement battery)
    The iPod Nano replacement appears to be only 5 GBP:
    http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=48938

  7. I would recomend Cowon iAudio G3 since I have one for one year.
    What I like is up to 50! hours from one AA battery.
    Also it plays MP3, WMA, ASF, WAV, and OGG…
    See yourself: http://www.cowonamerica.com/products/iaudio/g3/
    $120
    It’s a pity that it comes with only 2Gb maximum…

  8. I would go for an iAudio player as well. IAudio 6 (alas HDD, but 4GB) or one of the flash based players with up to 2GB of storage space. They are said to have very good sound and you can use them with any OS and without special software. Just have a look at their players. Their support for different file formats is outstanding as well.

  9. Martins

     /  2007-01-12

    I also have an Iriver IHP-120 player ! It’s a bomb ! Bought it 3 years (or so) ago and had no issues with it. Battery last approximately the same as 3 years ago. And it has a support by third-party firmware (rockbox) which has added FLAC support and other goodies.

  10. Bryan

     /  2007-01-12

    I just found this mp3 player last night actually. It seems like it might be what you’re looking for. Take a look.

    Sansa Connect mp3 Player

  11. iAudio is absolutely your best bet. It fits all of your requirements, except that it does play video. There’s a simple solution to that: don’t put any video on it :).

  12. Shii

     /  2007-01-12

    I would go with an iRiver, they are the friendliest and least invasive when it comes to a lot of things. iRivers even have an option that modifies the firmware to let you plug it into any computer and use it like a USB stick.

  13. SZ

     /  2007-01-12

    How old is the nano?
    Sounds like the iPod just needs to be restored.
    You might want to visit http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=60941
    or visit your local Genuis Bar….

  14. John

     /  2007-01-13

    Sounds like your looking for something from Trek Store:
    http://www.trekstor.de/en/products/mp3.php
    Particularly the Vibez. I have one, it’s the best player I’ve seen yet (although I also would prefer a large flash mem pool to the HDD).
    Real quick summary,
    OGG, MP3, FLACC, WMA (9 and 10), WAV support
    Explicit multi OS support “Windows, Mac, Linux”
    Software full spectrum equalizer.
    Built in organize and DJ functions.
    Acts as standard USB drive.
    Has built in mic for recording and supports in-line recording.
    Also has an accessory FM receiver plugin.
    The company seems to be pretty supportive of you doing what YOU want with their equipment, not you doing what THEY want with your equipment.
    P.S. Be careful with the iRiver’s, I heard a nasty rumor that the latest generation is only Windows compatible.
    Cheers,
    John

  15. John: Wow! Thank you for that pointer to the Vibez. Looking at its manual, it’s using the chip that was originally designed for the successor to the Rio Karma, still the best hard-disk based player out there (imnsho)! That means that besides playing FLAC e.a., it has the best playlist functionality bar none (on the fly reordering, inserting and appending tracks, albums, artists and other playlists to the current playlist, etc, etc).
    Shame they don’t also have a harddisk based player, but with 12GB flash, I might just get it as a pre-emptive replacement for when my Karma dies.

  16. Correction on the above: it’s a 12GB microdrive. Meh. But still cool.

  17. leo

     /  2007-01-14

    I recently bought a Meizu MiniPlayer. It meets all of your requirements and has gotten extremely favorable reviews. My only issue with it is it lacks gapless playback, which my iRiver h120 running Rockbox had.
    It’s got 4GB of storage, plays MP3, OGG, WMA, FLAC, WAV and maybe more, FM radio, voice and radio recording.
    Here’s a review: link

  18. Andy

     /  2007-01-18

    Go for a Sony Ericsson W950i, it even ships with Opera 😉
    It has 4GB of flash with USB mass storage and reasonable battery life.
    Cheers

  19. Andy

     /  2007-01-18

    Should’ve read your entire Post…
    Of course the firmware issue remains, although you would get a FM Radio.
    Sound quality on the other hand is extraordinary. I use it with my Shure E3C Headphones and as a musician I am very picky when it comes to sound quality.

  20. Asbjørn Ulsberg

     /  2007-01-22

    Looks like the “Sansa Connect”:http://ces.engadget.com/2007/01/12/video-sansa-connect-hands-on/ might be a perfect match, Arve. It runs Linux and Mono, has no DRM, its memory can be expanded with Micro-SD and it actually has some decent subscription and sharing services as well (with built-in Wi-Fi). Even I got intrigued by this device.

  21. The iRiver s10 or another iRiver is your best option!