From The Floor: Cool MP3 Players From Iomega & Creative Labs

If anyone had any lingering doubts about whether or not this "MP3 Thing" was going to catch on or not, allay those thoughts. Seriously though, there were MP3 devices in abundance at this weekis MACWORLD expo. In addition to the very cool future technology of DataPlay, there were two fantastic MP3 players being shown. Iomega was showing off their HipZip player, and Creative Labs was demoing their Nomad unit. Each unit takes a different approach to the idea of portable MP3 playing, and each has its merits.

The HipZip is the result of Iomega looking for new markets for their Click! media into an MP3 storage technology. The renamed media is called the PocketZip, and can be used in the PocketZip drive from Iomega as well as the HipZip MP3 player. Iomega has also licensed the HipZip license to other manufacturers in a grab for critical mass as an MP3 standard. Each disc holds 40 MB of data or MP3s, which will carry from 5-10 songs depending on quality and length. At US$10 for each disc, that beats the pants off of most other media used in current MP3 players.

The HipZip itself includes the ability to manage all your files directly from the Finder, meaning you donit need special software to load or delete MP3 files from the player. It connects to your Mac through a USB port, and is updatable with software downloads. All the controls are designed to be used with one hand, making the HipZip work for joggers or others who need portable music while working. The device also ships with a belt clip. Lastly, one can use the HipZip as a PocketZip and HipZip at the same time. This means that you can put regular data files and MP3s on the same PocketZip disk and the HipZip is smart enough to just ignore those files that are not MP3s. The HipZip is one of the best devices on the market in terms of affordable media, but should DataPlay actually come to market, they will be in for a run for their money. Each DataPlay disk holds 500 MB of data and is expected to also cost US$10. At the same time, the PocketZip disks are mutli read-write, meaning you can use them again and again. As of this time, the DataPlay disks are write-once only, making them far less usable. The race is on.

The Nomad unit from Creative labs takes a completely different approach to portable MP3s. The Nomad contains a 6 GB hard drive inside the unit. Letis repeat that: There is a 6 GB hard drive in the Nomad, meaning it will hold as many as 100 CDs. The device connects to your Mac via USB, which would make transferring 6 GB at one time a nightmarish hell, but the folks at Creative Labs figure that most folks will add a little bit at a time. There are no definitive plans to bring a FireWire version of the product to market, but Creative Labs reps at the show told The Mac Observer that this is a possibility for the future.

The downside of the Nomad is that it is large for a portable MP3 player, somewhat heavy, and pricey compared to those devices with smaller capacity. This is because of the internal hard drive, but to many the trade off will be worth it. Itis not for joggers, but it is ideal for people who want to take a large collection of their CDs with them wherever they go. The Nomad can not currently be used to store data files, but versions with larger internal drives inside them are in the pipeline and those units may have that ability. That would make the Nomad even more powerful as an MP3 player and portable hard drive in one. The Nomad can be updated through software downloads.

The HipZip is priced at US$299.95 and the Nomad is priced at US$499.95. You can find more information on the HipZip at Iomegais Web site. You can find more information on the Nomad at Creative Labsi Web site.