It’s over six months since I got my iRiver H140 and I’m very happy with it. Unfortunately I can no longer recommend it to new buyers as it’s no longer available and I’m told that the replacement model (the H340) isn’t as good.

But this afternoon someone mentioned the iAudio X5 to me. It has all of the features that I love in the iRiver (Ogg Vorbis support, FM radio, microphone) and it also plays videos. Oh, and it mentions Linux support in the list of features. And it looks very nice.

And look, you can get them from Amazon.

If I was looking for a portable music player, I’d be taking a much closer look at this one.

Why do so many people buy iPods when there are so many better players out there?


  1. People buy iPods because they do have the best UI of all the players. Unfortunately, they only play mp3s and have proprietary bollocks up the wazoo. But you’d expect that from Apple.I recently bought a 2nd hand iAudio M3 and it’s great! Only cost me £110 and plays Oggs beautifully.The X5 has another nice feature beyond what you’ve listed: it can do USB OTG — which means you can copy stuff from your camera’s cards onto it via a USB card reader. Very helpful if you’re on the road for a significant period of time.What I’d like though, would be a Bluetooth hard drive. My phone can play music, so why can’t I secrete a BT hard drive around my person somewhere?

  2. Is the iPod UI really that much better than the other options? So much better that people will ignore features like a radio and USB hosting? And accept all the DRM?Or have iPods just become so prevalent that people buy them without thinking about it? Just because everyone else has one.

  3. iPods just work. People like that. The iTunes software is simple and the addition of podcasting means that after you’ve subscribed, almost zero effort is required to have everything updated overnight. And there are plenty of free podcasts.I have an MP3 player and a PSP. Both are great and do much more than an iPod. But I never get round to updating the music and video on them, so I find I’m not really using them much.I want to just plug my PSP into my computer, press a button, and have last night’s “Desperate Housewives” (or whatever) on it to watch on the daily commute. Apple are pretty much there with this already.DRM is a timebomb people don’t really realise is happening to them. Once day, they will buy a new computer, and realise all the music they have bought doesn’t work anymore. And I will laugh at them.

  4. Ah. Ok. So it’s not the UI on the device that’s so good, you’re saying it’s the integration with the desktop.And I confess I’m out of my depth here. I know nothing about such things. In Linux all portable devices just look like USB drives and I have to copy files over manually (which, to be honest, really doesn’t seem too hard to me).I dislike the term ‘podcast’. It implies that they are too closely linked to iPods. It’s just an MP3 in an RSS feeds. There’s nothing magical there. I don’t listen to many podcasts. But the ones I listen to are subscriptions in my Bloglines list. I’m sure I could get them downloaded automatically if I was that bothered.So maybe iPod rivals need to address the area of getting the files onto the device and make that easier. Perhaps they need to look at iTunes integration. Or do Apple make that impossible.I agree about DRM tho’. We need to get the message out about that.

  5. I agree that the H340 isn’t as good as the H140. My reasons are as follows:It’s heavierIt’s largerIt’s more expensiveThey dropped the digital line in/outIt does not come with an LCD remote as standardYou cannot record to uncompressed audioThe casing is black and plasticky which means it picks up fingerprints and grease (H140 is brushed metallic)And the very latest iRivers don’t even support OGG any more. They are going backwards!

  6. My ipod Just Works, just like my mac Just Works. And there’s no DRM at all, that’s just FUD. Mine contains nothing but mp3s. Yes, I bought some DRM-infested files, but I immediately burned them to CD and re-imported them without the DRM. There is a theoretical drop in quality when I do that, but I’ve not noticed it. And I didn’t just rip the CD to mp3s. I ripped it to lossless FLAC so when mp3 is replaced with something newer and shinier (but more widely used than ogg!) then I can convert them to that without further loss.

  7. MBA marketing hat on here:Contrary to what others have posted here, I would suggest that most people, by and large, do not buy iPods for the user interface, or the ease-of-use, or any of these things. They buy because of the brand, and specifically because of how the brand makes them feel.Selling a music player is not fulfilling a need, it’s fulfilling a want. (This is a hot topic in marketing right now.) So right from the outset, for most people it’s an emotional purchase not a logical purchase.Personally, I’d never seen any MP3 players before I bought my iPod Mini, I didn’t research them, I went on the brand and I went on the herd mentality. Just about the only logical piece of thought that went into my purchase was knowing that since iPod was the dominant brand it would be the most supported product with the most accessories.And how did the purchase make me feel? It made me feel good. It made me one of the cool kids!This is absolutely classic textbook marketing and branding, into which lots of academic research has been carried out (see the work of Richard Elliot, who lectures in Brand Strategy at the University of Oxford if you’re interested in going deeper into this.)And this is the classic mistake that techies make. The features that are important to techies just aren’t important to most people most of the time. Which leads to another classic marketing mistake: don’t focus on the features, focus on the customer benefits. In other words, MP3 works fine so the ogg format really isn’t a benefit. (Admittedly if your software already supports it you may as well keep it in for those who do value it).

  8. Ian Howlett has it EXACTLY right. The reason it is so difficult for those of us who are audiophiles to find decent products is because they are not being marketed for us. The target market is — you guessed it — the SHEEPLE. Yep, that’s right. If you read the inane reviews on written by ipod users, they rarely mention sound quality, but they always talk about “how cool it looks”. My friend bought one and it has had to be returned and replaced twice, in spite of the fact it has been treated with extreme care. Just stopped working — in one case it wouldn’t even shut off. Just sat there with bizarre error messages on the screen.It really is a shame that it’s the sheeple driving the market…

  9. Hi Dave,

    You may remember me from :-)

    I must be one of the few people on the planet who’s never even touched an iPod, so I won’t comment on them, this is just a brief note to make more people aware of the Archos PMA400, a “Portable Media Assistant” which runs Linux and can play and record music and video. It’s a bit pricey, but I rationalise that away by seeing it as a PDA as well as a 30GB music player (and by buying a refurbished unit ;-) It’s probably not as easy to use as an iPod for playing music (the playlist management is a bit crap, in fact), but IT RUNS LINUX! Which means that it is very hackable – there’s already a project running to open it up further.

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