If there’s one gadget that appears to have complete control of a market it is the Apple iPod. Many have tried (Philips, Ministry of Sound, Creative Labs) so far no one has managed to debut a hard disk based MP3 player that can match the Apple player in terms of usability, size, elegance and downright cool.
Latest to challenge what is fast becoming the Walkman of the new decade is Rio. Freed from the shackles of SonicBlue the company, which was among the first to debut an MP3 player, has just taken the wraps off a range of new models.
Its iPod killer is branded the Rio Karma. It is cigarette-packed sized, boasts 20Gigabytes of storage and comes with a USB 2.0 connecting cable. Stateside it is selling for $400.
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The iPod killer?
So how does it compare with the iPod?
In terms of features the Karma has the edge.
One really cool feature is that it is accompanied by a cradle with an Ethernet connection to enable it to be integrated with a wired, or even better, wireless home network. Unlike its Apple rival also boasts a line input enabling the user to record music direct from their CD player/hi-fi system. Finally it supports Ogg Vorbis an open source audio format.
Of the three features the Ethernet cradle is a neat touch, the line input is found on almost all other MP3 hard disk players, while only a handful of techhy die-hards will care much about Ogg Vorbis.
In terms of styling and design it might be shorter and lighter than the iPod, but it is wider and still nowhere near as elegant.
The clincher could well prove to be the Karma’s battery life, which at 15 hours is twice the length of its Apple rival.
So while the Karma is unlikely to challenge the iPod’s seemingly unassailable position as market leader it should establish itself at number two.
Also new from Rio is the Nitrus, which sports a tiny hard disk capable of storing 1.5Gigabytes of music. It might divert a few punters away from buying Sony Network walkmans, but with hard disk players offering significantly more storage and selling for not much more it is hard to see Rio shifting too many of them.
The bad news is that Rio hasn’t yet sorted out its European distribution so UK buyers will have to purchase the player over the Internet for the time being.
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