iPod nano is no doubt one of the best selling music players. Ever since the 3d generation, the device has evolved from being a music-only player to formidable PMP in sub-10k category. My first ever music player was the first gen nano, which is still alive.
The fifth gen nano was the best nano IMO. superb 2.25” display, video recording and playback, FM radio and available in 9 different colors. The price too was very competitive with 8Gb at 7.5k right now and 16Gb costs around 9.5k. The inbuilt video camera was so good that people consider iPod nano 5h gen as pocket camcorder killer. And yes, it was one of the best selling iPods and almost took on pocket camcorder. When Apple announced a media event to happen in September 2010, people were excited about new gen nano. But what was revealed disappointed many. When compared to 5th gen nano, the current gen lost the following features:
- Video playback
- Video recording
- Voice recording
- in-built speaker
Apple had talked so much about the tiny touch display. Last week, I got to play with 6th gen nano and felt the display very very cramped and the player worthless. The click wheel and the formfactor of 5th was lot more usable than the new gen. The worst part is that the 6th gen costs the same as 5th gen even with reduced feature set, which is a huge deal breaker.
Here is how the 5G and 6G nanos look:
There are many who think that iPods are the only players that are good and today, I will give a brief overview of worthy PMPs that are much more worth using/owning and also explain how they are better than the sixth gen nano.
Cowon PMPs are known for superb audio qulaity and wide range of codec support (Audio/video). But one problem was that most of them used to be bulky, very very bulky (eg: D2, a3, o2, v5). Then came the S9. This is one of the few devices that have killer looks and monstrous feature-set. While inheriting legendary AV codec support, the device looked stunning, thanks to sleek curves, brilliang AMOLED. Let us quickly check how this devices is better than iPod nano 6th gen.
Take one look at the photo comparison and the first question is “why are these two compared in the first place”. The reason is that both sell at similar price point:
1. Display: A stunningly beautiful and incredibly sharp 3.3” 16M color AMOLED display that puts nano 6g’s 1.5” display to shame. The glass layer is gorilla glass, which is very strong and scratch resistant as can be seen here. By using this type of glass for display, Cowon has negated the need for screen protectors.
2. Design: If you think that nano has superb looking design, you should try out S9. The curves and the placement of audio controls are just perfect and the chrome border elevates the look. Also, unlike iPods and iPod touch’s shiny chrome backplate, S9 uses matte surface that has very good grip and keeps those ugly scratches away.
3. AV Formats: Compared to the very limited audio code support and lack of video playback in nano, S9 can play wide range of audio and video formats, and thanks to the AMOLED display, the videos looks stunning. This removed the painful process of converting videos to play on S9. Here is a brief list of formats suppoted by S9:
Audio: mp3, wma, flac, off, wave, ape
Video: avi, wmv, asf
4. Battery: 55 hours of audio and 11 hours of video playback. That’s twice the amount of battery life that nano provides.
5. Misc. Features: Bluetooth, FM, voice recording, physical controls means that you need not take the player out everytime you need to change song, TV out. It’s loaded up to the brim with features.
6. Audio/Video quality: Apple was never a match to Cowon in audio quality. This thing can drive any high end headphones and it can be really really loud. BBE+ customization can let one to customize the audio output heavily. The default settings make the audio sound okay but once you get the right settings setup, the player opens up and makes one feel ‘this is how audio should sound like’.
All in all, S9 costs around 9k right now for 8GB and around 8k for 4GB. This player will be pulled from market soon to make way for newer J3, which right now is in iPod touch’s price point. The only area where nano scores is in size but then there are other players that beat it in that area too. If you have the budget to pay for iPod nano but want something to do more, S9 is your best bet or wait for price drop on J3.
This is another monster from Cowon, set to replace S9. Additional features include memory expansion slot, more battery life, slimmer than S9 and has metallic finish. This player competes with iPod touch.
Cowon iAudio 9:
If you are not interested in a player with a huge display, check Cowon iaudio 9.
1. Display: Display is not as sharp as that on nano but that extra half inch real estate makes it much better. Add to that the capacitive touchpad, making the navigation easier when compared to scroll/swipe on 1.5” display. The menu/volume buttons can be configures as playback controls when the hold key is active. This means that one can control the playback without taking the player out of the pocket.
2. Design: At 8mm and weighing just 40grms, this player feels thin and light and very good in hand. The only gripe is that the slide across style navigation bar takes some times to get used to.
3. AV Formats: This player, can play truckload of players and is similar to S9. It can play divx and xvid too but only at 320×240 resolution and there is no need to convert videos unless the video has high resolution. So, with support for wide range of audio and video formats, this player truly is better than nano. Also, the BBE and jet effect with 39 preset settings makes it worth every penny and effortless to cusomize audio output quality.
4. Battery: Backup is similar to nan, at 29hours of audio and 7 hours of video
5. Misc Features: Built in mic, FM recording, Text document viewer are nice additions. Thanks to the inbuilt mic, one can use this player to record classes and sessions etc and play whenever needed.
6. Audio quality: Audio quality is same as what S9/J3 provides, stunning and among the best.
At 6.5k for 8Gb this player is around 3k cheaper than nano and it does lot more, is easier to use and carry, has stunning audio quality. The saved 3k can be invested in premium earphones/headphones making it one complete package.
Sony never really was in mp3/pm player competition ever since iPod started gaining momentum and quickly went into minority share. Time and again, they used to bring out high quality players. The A844/5 is one such player. This is purely an audio and video player and does nothing else.
1. Display: The 2.8” OLED may not be as brilliant as S9’s but it does marvellous job. When compared to nano 6G’s display, this is lot lot better.
2. Design: 7mm thick and 60gms in weight, this player looks awesome and feels solid in hand. The navigation is using D-pad, a classic Sony style which some thing is still 90s method of navigation. Though it is not as good as click wheel, it’s lot better than nano’s navigation. And hard keys means that playback can be controlled without taking out the player.
3. AV Formats: Sony’s AV format support is limited and similar to iPod’s. Thanks to drag-n-drop support, one need not rely on pc s/ws like WMP or itunes to copy content. When it comes to Audio quality, this player puts nano to shame. This is one of the very few players in the market right now that support active noise cancellation technology to wipe off ambient noise. This is very useful in crowded and noisy areas like rail station and public places. The bundled in-ear headphones are of premium quality and they cost aroudn 3k to get outside, making the player VFM. the videos look crips, so are the photos, thanks to OLED display. The S-Master digital amplifier used in this playe removed noise that is added during D-A conversion. The end result is stunningly good audio quality and superb noise cancellation, which is usually attanied using costly hardware. The noise cancellation can be disabled or set to various levels too.
4. Battery : Battery life is similar to iPod nano’s.
5. Audio quality: Similar to nano, this one is purely a music player that also plays videos. No wifi or games or apps. if you are looking for an audio player that gives the best out of the box audio experience, this one is for you. And the EX bundled heapdhones means that you need not spend extra for 3rd party headphones.
So, here we have, four very good PMPs that does lot more than iPod nano 6G and are available for a lower or similar price. It is time for you to think and decide. If you are looking for an Apple PMP only, an iPod touch 4G makes lot more sense than iPod nano. For really tiny players, you can also check the following:
- Creative Zen Stone Plus
- Sansa Clip+
- Sansa Fuze+
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