> Since I'm likely not the only person with this question, I'll ask
> would you mind commenting on what your bias is, and why? I'm sure
> someone with some technical expertise such as yourself must have
> interesting to say, and while many of us (myself included) have
> our lot, the discussion is worthwhile. :)
Okay, here goes.... keep in mind that I'm not trying to be a
salesperson here, and I'm not actually a JB6K owner. Standard
Obviously, my "bias" is towards the HanGo/RemoteSolution Personal
Jukebox. The PJB was originally designed at Compaq's corporate
research labs, and I was privileged to be on the team that designed
it. [I no longer work for Compaq Research]. In one form or another,
I've had a PJB for a little over two years now, and most people feel
the PJB was the first practical portable hard-drive MP3 player. It
became available for sale exactly one year ago. I'm biased because I
worked on the project, know its guts intimately, and know all the
little design decisions that we made along the way. I have lots of
fun comparing the designs of newer players to see how they solved the
same problems. I also just generally like using the PJB, compared to
the other players I have.
But: The PJB is much more expensive than other hard drive players.
Cost is a huge factor for consumers, and the PJB has always been
criticized for its high cost. It has some high-cost components in it
(LiIon battery, expensive DSP, large LCD), showing a little of
its "research lab" heritage. The newer players like the NJB, Archos,
and Neo25 are pure consumer products.
My favorite thing to compare is the battery life. The PJB lasts
about 11 hours on one battery charge (it uses a Lithium-Ion
rechargable battery). The Nomad has 30% more power in its batteries,
but can only muster 4 hours, about 1/3 the PJB's play time. IMO,
that's terrible! The Neo25 has the same power as the PJB in its
LiIon battery, but I've only been able to get 1.25 hours out of it!
I haven't had the chance to play with the Archos enough to know how
long its battery lasts, but other posts (here, for example) show
battery life in the 4-5 hour range with regular NiMH batteries.
That's pretty good, about equivalent to the Nomad, and probably for
the same reasons.
The Neo25 and the Archos both use FAT-formatted disks. The PJB and
the Nomad use custom disk formats. The PJB's is designed not to need
defragmenting, will not corrupt data due to loss of power or other
software errors, and is optimized to reduce battery usage. There's
no real limit on playlist sizes. Albums are ripped as one huge MP3
bitstream, so there will be no gaps between tracks on live
recordings. Playlists are just pointers to other files, and the
order of tracks is preserved when you add them to the player.
The Nomad boots off its internal disk. Startup time for a full NJB
can exceed take over a minute!. The Neo25 and presumably the Archos
start up quickly. The PJB is also quick, about 5 seconds or so.
FAT players have simple elegance; the disk looks like a drive letter
on Windows, you just drag your MP3s in. Bidirectional transfers are
no problem, since it's just a disk drive (the NJB can transfer
bidirectionally, and the PJB could with a firmware update, but no
such update has been introduced yet). But, you need to defrag and
scandisk the FAT players, and the DOS file system has no concept
of "order", so you'll need to put numbers on your files to keep them
in sorted order. Most of these players (like the Neo) build a file
index that gets corrupted now and then.
The Archos is a really interesting design. It's tiny, though it does
weigh more than the PJB (12oz, right? That's mostly because of the 4
AA batteries. The PJB is 9.9oz). Stylewise, the JB6K looks pretty
cool. I don't know much else about it, as the player was torn apart
by the time I saw it!
I think the Archos has good value for the money. IMHO, it's better
than the Neo25, especially since it runs on standard NiMH batteries,
is smaller, and lasts longer per charge. I don't like the way they
violate the USB specification by putting the "A" connector on the
unit (it's supposed to have the square connector, not the rectangular
one). Some others on this list have questioned the sound quality;
if it's really that bad, it would be a terrible problem. My 20GB PJB
has literally replaced my entire CD collection -- you really get
hooked on carrying so much music with you that you'll never use CDs
again, so it had better sound great!
Of course I'll still prefer my PJB (there's that bias again! :-),
but it's getting really fun to see all the different players coming
out these past months!