What kind of MP3 player will $18 buy?

From the Department of Bad Ideas: While we totally understand (and encourage) good old-fashioned price wars, they shouldn't come at the expense of basic functions. Take, for example, the "KanaSD" MP3 player from Greenhouse Japan.

The good news is that it costs about $18. The bad news is that it doesn't have any built-in memory--we're talking none. Instead, you need to get your own SD storage card, which will probably be more expensive than the player itself. Nor can we expect find video playback or a color screen at all on this low-budget device, as … Read more

Toshiba Gigabeat U watered-down for U.S. market

Toshiba announced today they its latest version of the Gigabeat U, the U202, is now available in the United States through direct order. Crave reported on an earlier, Japan-only version of the Gigabeat U (the U201) back in March, when we marveled at its high-quality 1-bit DAC and built-in FM transmitter. This latest version of the Gigabeat U has an updated look, but it seems to have dropped the Gigabeat U201's nifty built-in ability to broadcast playback over FM. We're kinda bummed.

Sure, Toshiba was able to shave about $50 from the Gigabeat U's price, but the … Read more

DRM deathwatch

[This entry has been revised: I didn't read the MediaNet release carefully enough...they are offering DRM-less MP3s, not WMA files. Apologies to anybody whom I misled. My bad.]

Back in May, EMI--one of the big four record labels--agreed to sell its songs through Apple's iTunes without digital rights management (DRM) protection.

Before this move, iTunes and the iPod were technically linked: if you bought a song from iTunes, you could only play it on an iPod (unless you burned it to CD then re-ripped it into an unprotected format). Offering DRM-less downloads severed this link, allowing … Read more

Photos: RCA Opal

We've had an influx of inexpensive RCA MP3 players lately. Jasmine posted her reviews of the RCA Jet and the RCA Pearl last week. Now we've got the RCA Opal, which is probably the most unique player RCA has released. It has a great list of features, including support for DRM WMA and Audible formats. I thought the user interface was a little confusing--not helped by the fact that the control pad is a little slanted.

The claim to fame here is that the Opal supports photo and video playback for under $70. If you're interested, click … Read more

Zune tops million mark, again

After the false alarm back in May, yesterday's announcement that Microsoft has now officially reached their goal of one million Zunes sold (or is that shipped?) had about as much fanfare as a fart in a bathtub. Usually a product announcement like this comes with a blitzkrieg of press releases, but it looks like May's misfire must have taken the wind out Zune's sails. Thankfully Zune Insider went to the trouble of digging through Microsoft's Financial Release to find the statistic.

A video player as jewelry, sort of

It's a funny thing: Jewelry that pays homage to technology can work just fine, but it seems to make less sense when it actually functions. Why, for example, would one need to carry a computer peripheral around one's neck?

Case in point: The oval-shaped video MP3 player from X-Micro, which is designed to be worn as a pendant. As Chip Chick rightly points out, watching videos chained to the neck doesn't seem like an optimum viewing experience, especially on a screen that's so small. Nor does it look quite like anything under glass at Tiffany's.… Read more

Photos: Cowon iAudio 7 review

Our review is up, and the results are in--Cowon's latest player, the iAudio 7, snagged a CNET Editors' Choice award. This little guy has just about every feature you'd want in an ultracompact MP3 player, plus a rechargeable battery life rated at an incredible 60 hours. You'll have to read the CNET review to get all the details.

Or, if you don't care about details and just want some eye candy, then take a gander at our official Cowon iAudio 7 slide show. If you want a slightly less polished tour, then here's a slide showRead more

This week's deal brought to you by SanDisk

Actually, the deal is brought to you by In an apparent bid to clear out its stock of older products, the site is selling the 1GB SanDisk Sansa C140 for the bargain price of $29.99--with free shipping. The C150 is a fine option for first-time MP3 player buyers, and at this price, you really can't go wrong. If you've been waiting to introduce someone to digital audio, now's the time. Note that there's a limit of two per customer.

Soundwave import-only MP3 player

You may have heard that Transformers director Michael Bay, in his infinite wisdom, decided to exclude the beloved Soundwave character from his film (the poor guy took the news pretty hard). I guess the kids today don't care about portable cassette players, even ones that turn into gigantic robots capable of blowing your head off with a sonic concussion cannon. As a side effect, the film's merchandising machine is not cranking out any affordable Soundwave toys for us to clutter our cubicles. I even resorted to buying this cheap piece of crap. Japan, as usual, has the solution. … Read more

Now, Swarovski lays claim to the Walkman

Say it ain't so, Sony. The standard bearer for decades in defining good taste in consumer electronics has gone Swarovski on us.

It's hardly the first design leader to fall under the garish crystalline spell. First Philips, then the iPhone and now Sony's E-Series MP3 players have fallen victim to the trend with its "Walkman Abiste" model. As if that weren't bad enough, Digital World Tokyo says the Swarovski-studded stick players will be available in blue, gold, pink and violet, as well as black, when they're released in September on the Japanese market.… Read more