I am not claiming that this product is the best designed, coolest or most functional mp3 player the world has ever seen. But at $170 less than the equivalent iPod, it makes a telling argument.
Arguably the best feature of the gigabeat is it’s excellent screen. It is a 2.2″ QVGA screen in portrait orientation (240×320 pixels). The current model iPod has a landscape orientated (320×240) 2.5″ QVGA screen. Currently the Toshiba does not allow video playback – I wouldn’t be holding my breath, either. The screen is very clear, bright and definately usable for displaying thumbnails of your pictures or album art.
240×320 picture of Mum and I at Jervis Bay. This is the resolution you can see on the gigabeat screen.
The hard drive in the gigabeat is actually identical to those found in the iPod, which has used Toshiba drives from the first generation. The gigabeat has a lithium-ion battery which is good for more than 16 hours of playback. The case is made of brushed aluminum face and edges over silver plastic (I think) body.
I’ve spent the last few days ripping and encoding my cd collection to put it onto the gigabeat. It has been a lengthy process, but useful in actually having a consistent system and archive. Previously my ripped media has been of differing formats, bit rates and with varying naming conventions.
Also when you include downloaded files – samples, giveaways, podcasts – often a single album photo gets attributed to all the files in that directory, leading to confusion and inaccurate information being reported by the system.
I’ve ripped over 96 albums into mp3 with CDex, using the LAME encoder with –alt-preset-standard (VBR quality 2, joint stereo, minimum bitrate 112kbps) which gives average bitrates of around 160kbps – a 4 minute song gives a 4.6 MB file. At this bitrate my gigabeat won’t be filled until I hit 4,000 songs – 3 times my current collection.
One disadvantage with buying a non-Apple branded DAP is accessories are harder to come by. My first challenge now I have music (and mini-photos) on the gigabeat is to find a cover to stop the case (and especially screen) getting damaged in my pocket or car.
But there are advantages, though. Included in the box are headphones, standalone AC adapter, usb cable and suprisingly, a docking/sync cradle.
The dock comes standard and can charge the gigabeat either by USB or AC power. The gigabeat has a standard canon type 3V DC power – which means the power supply in my car will work automatically. The adapter included in the pack works when attached to both the dock and the unit, as does the mini-usb connector.
This use of standard hardware is a relief, as is the variety of music resources you can use to buy music online. Unlike iPod users, who are limited to the (very good) iTunes music store, or stores like emusic who sells songs in unrestricted mp3 format, the gigabeat can play copyrighted songs purchased from any store which sells DRM-WMA files – particularly any store displaying the Plays for Sure logo. Such stores in Australia include ninemsn, bigpond and RipIt.
Many online reviews (google them or SMH) have panned the gigabeat, seeing it as failing to be the ultimate iPod killer, I think they are missing the point. When the gigabeat was released against the fourth generation iPod, it was better in many ways. And now the price has come down, it is a great alternative to the iPod video, too – great capacity cheaper than a 2 GB iPod nano. It’s not better than a iPod video in all respects, or for all users, but I know I found it easier to justify loosening the purse strings for the bargain Toshiba than I did for a stylish apple.