Sunday, June 24, 2007

Music on the Go (part one)

I have music on my mind. I'm listening to Voodoo Child (ten point bonus if you know how this relates to Doctor Who) and thinking about my next portable music player. Like most geeks, the first question I ask about any digital music device is, "does it play OGG?"

Generally superior to MP3, Ogg Vorbis is a must for any lossy digital music collection, but it's not the only feature I look for in a music player. I use four basic criteria to judge music players:

Ogg Support
The level of Ogg support varies quite a bit between vendors, so I always check reviews and the XiphWiki list of portable players. Any product noted for complete Ogg support gets a second look. Be wary of vendors with unenthusiastic Ogg support.

Flash Media
I prefer flash to hard drive storage; I can be rough on my toys so flash media's lack of moving parts gives it a leg up in durability. There is a trade off in storage capacity, but I find one or two gibibytes sufficient. To score full marks here the product also needs fast USB transfers.

User Replaceable Battery
The way I buy electronics, battery replacement isn't usually an issue, but I firmly believe that any product intended to last more than a year or two ought to have batteries replaceable by the user. Forcing us to send our toys back to the factory for such minutiae is a crime punishable by poor sales.

Design
A bit of an optimist, I'm still amazed at the appallingly stupid design choices that continue to show up in products, I categorize both subjective and objective judgments here, ranging from the merely unpleasant to outright unusable.

Part two of this article will apply these criteria to music devices I have owned, as well as a new product on it's way as I write this.