Nuggets: Oh Yeah, the second Rio is here...

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Written by Justin Pearse, Contributor

It's round II for the Rio...

An inspired and aggressive advertising campaign -- not to mention that silly legal debacle -- has seen Diamond's Rio MP3 player capture the hearts of the public. Indeed mention MP3 and 'Rio' is one of the first things that springs to mind. However there are plenty of other companies lurking in the wings, limbering up to knock the Rio off the top spot. In fact I reckon Pine's D'Music player -- news on that next week -- is capable of doing just that, given a bit of advertising muscle.

Diamond is not resting on its laurels however and is getting ready to ship the Rio 500. Best new feature is the 64MB internal memory -- twice the original -- meaning two hours worth of music, a significant advance. Of course you can add memory with 16MB or 32MB, or 64MB Smart Media cards. Another welcome new feature is the use of a USB cable for downloading -- let's face it, anything that even slightly reduces those ridiculous download times is good news.

Diamond, wisely deciding to cease alienating the Mac community has made this version compatible with Apple systems, erm as long as they're iMacs or G3s that is. The user interface has also had a few changes, with a larger back-lit LCD display that shows the artist name, song title and playback time. It's customisable although just how customisable will be interesting.

Diamond says the 500 is the only player with features designed specially for playing back spoken audio, including a bookmark control to stop and restart playback at the same point. Diamond is really pushing spoken word as another use for your Rio, and it does seem like a good idea. There's already a lot of free content at the RioPort site including a 45 minute summary of news from the Wall Street Journal, book extracts and reviews, live comedy and so on. Plus, you can get a whopping 32 hours of spoken content onto the 64MB internal memory.

Also new is the Rio Audio Manager software that seems to be kinda like RealJukebox, consisting of a media player, database manager and download agent. Like RealJukebox, it features an integrated browser that takes you straight to the RioPort site, where you can download tracks. Not everyone's going to be happy about the fact that the new player supports digital rights management through InterTrust, giving copyright protection for artists and record companies. The more the record companies are re-assured that they won't be cut out of the equation the happier they'll be to put their artists' catalogues up on the Web. Personally I'd rather pay to download music I actually want, rather than be stuck with the crap that's up there at the moment. It should be on the shelves around August for £229, in a range of casings.

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