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01. 18. 2008

Insignia Pilot MP3 - unpretentious iPod killer

insigniapilot.jpg

Imagine an iPod that could support subscription music services like Rhapsody, have an FM tuner, built-in Bluetooth, and in-line encoding so you could convert your old cassettes and vinyl or rip CDs on the fly from any stereo. Lately, as much as I continue to love my iPhone, and my various iPods, the player I've been using almost exclusively is the sacrilegious (to the Church of Apple) Insignia Pilot. Combined with a $15/month subscription to Rhapsody, I've been able to download hundreds of songs without paying anything more, as well as having access to Rhapsody's "channels" which are highly customized digital radio stations.

I've been feeling so musically oppressed by iTunes lately, and it's been liberating to listen to whatever I want, even nostalgic hair metal, without having to pay for individual songs or albums. And an FM tuner, as old-time as it sounds, is great to have for news, or finding broadcasts of sporting events, or when I'm just sick of having to think of what I want to download and just want the choices made for me. I'm a complete subscription service convert, even with the knowledge that all my music disappears the minute I don't renew my service. I'd believed as much as anybody that I'd want to "own" my music, but after suffering the loss of tons of music with every iPod generation change due to the restrictive iTunes DRM, I haven't felt that security very much anyway.

A bit more about the player - it's a featherweight 2 oz, and comes with either 4 GB or 8 GB of flash memory but is expandable with SD cards, which is great. It also plays MPEG and WMV videos on the 2.4" color LCD. Battery life is great; the rechargeable goes 25 hours, but I swear it's even better than that - I can easily go a week without a charge even with seemingly constant use. It comes with wired earbuds, but is compatible with Bluetooth. If you're used to iPod navigation, the user interface may be a bit confusing at first, and while it's not that hard to get used to, it could use a simplicity makeover in future generations. Also, the player is so light, it feels insubstantial and flimsy although I haven't had any problems with it so far.

The Insignia Pilot is $110 for the 4 GB model, and $140 for 8 GB and both are available from Best Buy. Rhapsody has various subscription plans, including a limited free account, but you can get a 30-day free trial from Best Buy.

Posted by Mia    Category: feature | highlights | portable media
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Comments (4)

El Niño Lindo:

"...after the suffering loss of tons of music with every iPod generation change due to the restrictive iTunes DRM, I haven't felt that security very much anyway."

I've never heard of this before. I'm confused, you lost music how?

Mia:

Hi- sorry I didn't elaborate a bit further. I meant that because you can't transfer songs from iPod to iPod, or from iPod to computer, if you get a new iPod, it's impossible to re-create your library identically if like, me you've been buying music on several computers, as well as sometimes getting songs from other people's iTunes accounts. The Rhapsody option eliminates that because you always have access to the complete library as long as you have a subscription.

A good solution, of course, would be to have a dedicated backup drive, independent of a particular computer, to keep all music, but I'm dumb or lazy and haven't done that as fastidiously as I should. So it's not impossible to keep your music, but pretty hard if you're a typical user. My niece recently got a 6G iPod when her 5G died, and she's only been able to re-build about half her library because the iPod database was corrupted and a couple of the computers she'd used were trashed. It's just...inelegant and fussy, and too easy to end up losing songs.

The other problem I've had- which remains unsolved, is that occasionally music simply does just disappear. I'll look for a song on my iPod, and won't be able to find it on the iPod, iTunes, or my backup drive, but when I re-purchase it, I get the warning message that I've bought it before, which reassures me that at least I'm not stark raving loony. Well at least that I'm not imagining that I buy Kelly Clarkson songs so I can belt them out in my car.

And one more thing, for people with iPod song transfer issues- there is software, not offically supported, like iPod Access which will let you transfer music from iPod-to-computer, but because the iPod database is quite touchy, it's hard to get all the songs without all kinds of file errors.

nina smitek:

Hy.
Have you tried to transfer files from a SD card on the mp3 player? I want to use it for saving pics on my trips.

I think your points about losing your bought & paid for iTunes are very important -- and alarming. As someine who has yet to invest in an iPod (and still buys physical media - actual CDs), I'd be livid with otrage if my music just vanished like that.

The device itself sound like one of those really nifty, interesting things that a lot of people might want -- IF they ever heard about it or could find out about it. So I posted about this (with a link back here) on a board discussing "iPod killers."

:-)

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