New Portable Ogg Players from iRiver

Reading over the hardware section of the [Ogg] Vorbis wiki, I’ve discovered that iRiver is due to release some new portable Ogg players this month. Sure, there are other Ogg players available, but I haven’t found any with native OSX support — until now. In addition to the Mac support, these new portables have some other nifty features:

  • Uses 1 AA battery, for 40 hrs claimed battery life
  • FM radio with timer-based recordings
  • Firmware upgradable

So, why am I jazzed about Oggs? Well, in addition to their higher sound quality at a given bitrate, Oggs also have the advantage of being patent-free — patent-encumbered mp3s could have their license changed at any time. And, since none of my own music is digitized yet, I’m not locked into a format for music already on my hard drive.

So far, the Craft 2 (as they call it) looks like a decent player. But, I’m a bit torn by its flash-based storage. Though the product isn’t widely available at online retailers yet, it is listed in iRiver’s online store and the 1 GB model has a list price of $400 (gulp). For that price I could get a 20 GB iPod!

Maybe I wouldn’t mind paying such a premium for flash if there were distinct benefits over a hard drive-based player. Normally, flash-based players would be less prone to skipping (since they can’t skip) but, from what I’ve heard, hard drive-based players are rugged enough that they hardly skip in the first place. Really, it looks like battery life would be its main benefit. And I’m just not sure whether that's enough to justify its price. Or… are there any other flash benefits of which I’m not aware?

9 thoughts on “New Portable Ogg Players from iRiver

  1. The reason I will not buy a hard drive based player is because of how easily hard drives wear out. There is always a chance that you will drop the device and that could possibly cause a head crash and loads of other things inherent with moving parts.

    With a flash based drive there is none of that to worry about. Also, there isn’t any seek time on a flash based system. Press play and there is music.

    I used to have the Sony MS-NW7 but got tired of the proprietary ARTRAC3 format that I had to use for the device. I liked the fact that it was memory stick based but it wasn’t worth the trade off. I have been wanting to get iRiver’s 512MB player for a long time now. All of my music is in Ogg and they have the nicest looking players that support Ogg. 512 is plenty for working out or walking around stores.

  2. I have a 20GB Neuros ( and it’s great! I’m using it with almost every feature under Linux (the exception being ‘hisi’ – which I don’t care about anyway). The player looks like a USB hard drive (umass) and holds a FAT32 filesystem (up to 80GB). And the HD is a standard laptop 2.5″ and easily replaceable by the advanced user in the field.

    It ships with a ‘Sync Manager’ for windows that reads and writes the XML database that the player reads to get its tracklist. However, Sean Starkey et. al. has created the AWESOME Neuros Database Manipulator ( It’s a java app, but it’s still great. This makes the Neuros accessible on Mac OSX, Linux, Windows all with a single program. You can even store the jar file on the Neuros itself and not have to install anything (save Java) on your host machine.

    The Neuros has great features, too, including Ogg support, FM recieve and transmit and about 10 hrs battery life.

    Oh – and it’s available for $200 in 20GB version. Larger sizes are available (in USB2.0, as well) – up to 80GB I think.

  3. Also – to put in my US $0.02 on flash versus HD:

    Flash: fast access, slower writes, impervious to physical shock

    HD: fast writes (can take more of the full USB 2.0 speed), high capacity, user-replaceable

    It’s that last one that gets me: I can change out a failed HD. I run ‘rsync’ periodically to keep a copy of my Neuros, and if its disk ever dies, I replace it in 30mins. I don’t know about you, but my re-work skills aren’t good enough to replace a surface-mount flash chip.

    Oh, and a word on flash chip life: It is limited. Typically, this is around 100,000 write cycles which, under normal use, should out-last the device’s usefulness. However, filesystem bugs and manufacturing defects could reduce this number to as low as 10,000 under certain circumstances. But I’m not worried about it.

    (Most HD players actually use flash memory as cache for the HD, thus making them subject to flash write-cycle limitations, as well.)

  4. Those are good points. There is just one more thing that I like about flash players over HD based players: the size. It is much easier to stick a device the size of a pack of gum in a pocket, or just plain hold it, while doing activities that require a lot of movement.

    The fact that the Neuros player supports Ogg now might change my mind though. Thanks for that information.

  5. 1) iPods are awesome. No other portable music player has that totally sexy interface.

    2) Hard drives wearing out? When it comes down to it, I’m pretty sure any battery that a portable music player would use has a shorter cycle life than the hard drive.

  6. The problem with iPods is they are proprietary and do not support Ogg playback (as far as I know). I also don’t want to get a player that does not have a replaceable battery. The iRiver players seem to fit the bill perfectly but they are too expensive for me right now :(

  7. He means “My battery died – can I run to CVS, buy one and pop it in to keep going?”

    Yes – they are “replaceable” but not in the field.

  8. Don’t touch iRiver!

    I have an iRiver flashplayer, and it has trouble dealing with W98 and XP – and it won’t even think about any non-windows OS.

    These are a bloody pain – and the OGG capability appears to be mostly vapor-ware (they claim this and that, and this model will get it soon, and that model will play ogg with a firmware upgrade…but will it then talk to your PC?). Oh, and the company has zero interest in support. Absolute zero. No response to emails, nothing.

    I hate to say it, but I now understand why people buy iPods.

    If in doubt, check around. I should have noticed the iRiver website listed problems in normal usage, and touted solutions, work-arounds, new firmware…

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