01. 18. 2008
Insignia Pilot MP3 - unpretentious iPod killer
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.