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Photos: Six alternatives to the iPod

The iPod family may hold a substantial lead in the MP3 player market, but some non-iPod players can hold their own--and even surpass the iPod.
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1 of 6 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Creative Zen Vision

"Alternatives" is so much nicer than "killers," don't you think? While the iPod and its brethren hold a substantial lead in the MP3 player market, there are definitely some non-iPod players that can hold their own--and even surpass the iPod. Maybe you want more features than the iPod can provide. Perhaps you prefer a refreshingly different design (remember, Think Different). A bigger screen? Better battery life? Or maybe you'd rather not be locked into the iTunes/iPod universe. Whatever the case, you have a bevy of high-capacity options.

CNET.com's James Kim takes a look at a few of the better alternatives to the iPod.

Creative Zen Vision (30GB)

The good: Available in five colors, the Creative Zen Vision:M has an incredible screen, a simple interface, excellent video battery life, an FM tuner and recorder, and a voice recorder. It features a customizable Shortcut button, and it supports a wide range of online music stores and subscription services, as well as video formats. It has excellent audio and video quality.

The bad: The Creative Zen Vision:M has no iTunes-like video content--yet. Some will find the touch-pad controller frustrating. The black model scratches easily. The documentation is skimpy. You must use an adapter for transfers and power, meaning that occasionally you need two cables and the adapter. A dock and an A/V-out cable are not included. Finally, the Zen Vision:M isn't as elegant as an iPod.

The bottom line: The dazzling, DRM-friendly Creative Zen Vision:M gives the iPod a run for the money as the current high-capacity WMA champ.

Read more.

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2 of 6 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Cowon iAudio X5L

Cowon iAudio X5L (30GB)

The good: Small size; video player with 260,000-color LCD; customizable wallpaper; FM radio; line-in and voice recording; photo viewer; text-file reader; excellent sound quality; reads photos directly from digital cameras; compatible with OGG and FLAC formats, as well as subscription WMA tracks.

The bad: Must plug in an adapter to attach AC, line-in and USB cables (however, the built-in side USB port handles camer transfers and MTP subscription downloads); so-so control layout; can't autosync music with a PC; can't browse by artist, album or genre; many video files need to be converted to play on X5; no slide-show mode or music while viewing photos; no autoscanning presets for FM radio.

The bottom line: The great-sounding Cowon iAudio X5 looks like an iPod killer on paper, but this palm-size music and video player suffers from mediocre music browsing and some key design missteps.

Read more.

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3 of 6 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Toshiba Gigabeat S MES60VK

Toshiba Gigabeat S MES60VK (60GB)

The good: The Toshiba Gigabeat S makes its mark as a supercompact 30GB or 60GB portable video player. It supports many music, video and photo file types, including subscription services, and it has a bevy of features, such as an FM tuner and support for digital camera transfers. Best of all, the device is completely intuitive, thanks in part to an improved Portable Media Center operating system, and it boasts excellent sound performance.

The bad: Unlike many portable video players, the Toshiba Gigabeat S does not record audio or video. There is no voice or FM recording, and the two-cable AC adapter is cumbersome. Also, the Gigabeat S is an MTP device and requires Windows XP. Finally, rated battery life for video is weaker than Toshiba had originally suggested.

The bottom line: Many prospective MP3/PVP buyers have been waiting patiently for this compact, easy-to-use, one-stop shop for media files--looks like the Toshiba Gigabeat S was worth the wait.

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4 of 6 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Cowon A2

Cowon A2 (30GB)

The good: The Cowon A2 portable video player has a bright, crisp, 4-inch wide-screen LCD as well as a clean, visually appealing form factor and interface. It's a performer with an excellent FM radio, great sound and recording quality, and long battery life. It supports a multitude of audio and video formats and serves as a voice recorder, a zoomable photo viewer and a PVR. Finally, it conveniently uses an A/V line-in cable, rather than a hub, for recording audio and video.

The bad: The Cowon A2 takes a step down because it doesn't yet support Windows Media DRM. Despite a clean and attractive color interface, it has an inefficient navigation interface. Also, the Cowon A2 doesn't ship with a remote control and lacks a removable battery, unlike its chief competitor, the Archos AV500.

The bottom line: The Cowon A2 is a sleek portable video player with a bright, wide-screen color LCD, as well as full multimedia recording and playback capabilities, but it's not the most efficient device. Plus, it's in desperate need of Windows Media DRM 10 (Janus) compatibility.

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5 of 6 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Philips GoGear HDD6330 Jukebox

Philips GoGear HDD6330 Jukebox (30GB)

The good: Philips' nice-sounding 30GB GoGear HDD6330 Jukebox has a stylish design with an intuitive touch-sensitive interface and is packed with features such as a photo-friendly color screen, support for WMA DRM 10 subscription content, an FM radio tuner and a voice recorder.

The bad: Some users will not warm up to the Philips GoGear HDD6330 Jukebox's lack of tactile controllers. Plus, its case shows fingerprints and smudges, the unit's battery is not user-replaceable, and some users have experienced processor-performance issues.

The bottom line: The stylish and feature-packed Philips GoGear HDD6330 Jukebox is the closest that a WMA-compatible model has come to capturing the iPod's design appeal, but try the touch-sensitive interface before you buy.

Read more.

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6 of 6 Bill Detwiler/ZDNet

Archos AV500 Mobile DVR

Archos AV500 Mobile DVR (30GB)

The good: The Archos AV500 has a nice wide-screen LCD with great viewing angles, yet it is compact enough to fit in a pocket. It supports PlaysForSure audio and video and has superb audio quality, and with it, you can record audio and video from external sources, including TV at scheduled times. The AV500 also has excellent battery life and a good printed manual, and with the included plug-in, it will work within iTunes.

The bad: The Archos AV500 is one pricey beast, and the controls can take a little getting used to. We don't like the fact that you can't multitask and that it lacks a kickstand or carrying case. Although audio quality is top-notch, there is no equalizer, and the earbuds are uncomfortable. Also, it doesn't have an iTunes-like source for video downloads, though it does record video.

The bottom line: The well-appointed Archos AV500 puts wide-screen video in your pocket, but we're still waiting for a point-and-click way to get video into the device.

Read more.

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