Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Looking for an SD-HC MP3 Player

When I got my new car, it had a Nav system in it that could play both from an iPod or from an SD card. Also, seemingly on an unrelated note, I often feel uncomfortable playing my iPod at work since it's rather dirty (er...flour-y) and the speakers are up high, and I've dropped it once. So I decided to try to buy an SD MP3 player so that can load a ton of MP3s on an SD card and then
  1. play it in my car and then 
  2. take it in to work with me and play it there, leaving my iPod safe and clean.
  3. (Optionally,) I would love if it could be used as a USB mass storage device, then I'd have a car SD card, a work MP3 player, and some mass storage I would always have on hand.

Good plan, right? Except for the fact that what I'm looking for either doesn't exist or doesn't exist anymore. I really don't have many stipulations:
  1. It's got to be SD-HC compatible. Because I don't even have a 1 or 2 GB SD card, I don't feel like buying one, and frankly, I would kind of like more space for my entire work playlist/comedy/etc. So 8GB would be ideal, plus I already have one.
  2. It's got to have basic controls (play, pause, next, volume control, shuffle and hopefully repeat)
  3. It's got to be cheap, preferably under $30.
  4. It's got to play MP3s
  5. It's got to be small. The smaller, the better. I want to fit it in my pocket or be able to hang it on my keychain.
Simple
The first thing that came to mind for me was a player that didn't even have a screen. All I basically wanted was an iPod shuffle with SD-HC support. Heck, I didn't even want internal memory, since it would cause an increase in price. I thought I could snag one of these for $10-$15. It wouldn't even need a rechargeable battery, I just wanted something simple. Here's what I've found:
The Kana SD is pretty much exactly what I wanted, except I can't find it for sale anywhere. After that, the Cassette player might be a good choice. But I put it aside because I honestly just wanted some tiny. I wanted something the size of an SD card to shuffle through the contents, that's all. So I didn't buy anything and I put it aside until now.

I think I might have changed my mind on a few things, but I'm not sure yet. I'm not sure I still want the screenless, faceless, crappy player and maybe something with a little more, but still not iPod or Zune level.

Simple with screen
So now I want basically something with limited ability to play songs and select them via a screen of some sort, but also not nice enough to have video and other features because that hikes the price up. Here's what I've found:

 Nothing.

Apparently it doesn't exist. Go ahead, search "SDHC MP3 player" on Google and tell me what you find. You either get the craptastic results I had above, or the $150 Zens and Zunes and such.

Simple microSD
I would really like to avoid microSD because (a) the read/write speed is not as good, (b) I'd have to keep a microSD to SD converter in my car, and (c) it's really easy to loose. But here's some alternatives I guess I've found:
  • Dingoo A320 Gaming System: This is a little different and expensive, but it looks so cool! It can play games from old systems like GBA NES SNES and Genesis, it's got AV out in DVD quality, it plays a bunch of video formats, it has an FM radio, it's got an image browser, it can show e-books, and most importantly, it can play MP3s. That's alot of features....it's like cheap iPhone, almost. Only disadvantage: microSDHC instead of regular. Oh, and it's ok Thinkgeek, which (a) makes me trust it more and (b) gives me the possibility of earning geek points. Unfortunately, I don't think I can justify getting it though since my iPod Touch already has emulators, plays videos, shows images, and can show e-books. Oh well.
  • Kube: Pretty cool. Really tiny, microSDHC slot, Not bad at all. It even comes with a 2GB microSD card, which is like a $10 value, but still.
  • USB Tiny MP3 Player + micro SD(HC) Card Reader: Basic controls and it doubles as USB mass storage. Battery life sucks though, 2hrs. That wouldn't even last my work shift.
Simple microSD with screen
  • SanSa Clip+ 2GB: Wow, this actually looks pretty neat. Pretty much exactly what I want for Simple with Screen, if it only used SD-HC
  • SanSa c240: Only 1GB, but has a microSD slot and can have RockBox put on it. I think I'd have to make sure RockBox is stable before getting this, but it excites me. A 2GB version is available for the same price as a clip, but since I can get up to 32GB of external storage via microSD, I'd rather pay for the data as I need it and just get the 1GB for $20.

Any SD-HC
So now I'm getting pretty desperate and I decide to look for anything that can use SD-HC and that has a screen, and is under $50. Here's what I've found:
  • Creative Zen 2 GB: Not too bad of a deal. It's about the size of a credit card, supports SD-HC, and even has videos and photos which -even though I didn't want in an SD player- is nice for the $40.
Really not alot in that category.

No External
Finally, we've come to the end. Tiny MP3 players that ditch external data altogether. It defeats half the purpose of buying one, but I just want to see what's out there.

Conclusion:
Here are the ones I actually would consider buying, in order of price:
  • $16 - Cassette MP3 Player - Simple - Can be used either as a cassette adapter or an mp3 player. Only plays tracks in order adding to card. From China...I'd only get it if I wanted dirt simple playback that probably wouldn't last long.
  • $20 - Coby Micro MP3 Player - No External - Very easily connected via USB and has a nice looking screen. But quite honestly, kinda large. I might get it under different circumstances.
  • $20 - Sansa c240 - Simple microSDHC with screen - 1GB internal, RockBox ready, has a screen. I'd have to put RockBox on it to get SD-HC support, so I'd have to investigate RockBox more. Has a removable battery, which is good for replacements.
  • $33 - Sansa Clip+ - Simple microSDHC with screen - 2GB internal. Doesn't have a removable clip which sucks. I'd like to see the UI in action. Also, it might be RockBox ready soon. Accepts up to 32GB SD-HC, but apparently has an 8,000 track limit.
  • $35 - Kube - Simple microSDHC - comes with a 2GB microSD card, no interface. I'd only get it if I wanted simple playback, but it's priced more than ones with a screen, so probably not. 
  • $40 - Creative Zen 2 GB - Any SD-HC - Really more like a full-fledged media player. I feel like buying this one would be more of a commitment than a whim. I'd have to check out how well it can smoothly use SD cards; I've heard it doesn't incorporate them well.

I'm thinking that currently, I've narrowed it down to the Sansa c240 and the Sansa Clip+. I honestly like the Clip+ more, but it's a tad more expensive and can't take Rockbox just yet. (Well, stable anyway.) If I could find a Clip+ for the same price as a c240, I would jump on it, since Rockbox will probably eventually fix all the problems, and I think I like the original OS more and device size. Yeah, it's the one. I just really wish I could find it for $25 instead of $33.

Anyway, I'm glad I found something. I was beginning to get discouraged, first with the mini monitor, then with the overpriced iPhone 4. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever be able to spend hours researching and then buy something again.

Excited that spending all night is about to pay off although slightly more expensive than he'd hoped,
-Bry

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