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Friday
Nov072003

Tungsten E as an MP3 Machine

Tungsten E MP3 PlayerOne of the things I've been pleasantly surprised by with my new Tungsten E are its music-playing capabilities. With the old Clie N610, it was never an issue, since the 610 couldn't play MP3 files. Besides, back when I chose the Clie, I felt I really didn't need MP3 capabilities in a handheld, since I'd invested in a SONICBlue RioVolt MP3 CD player.

Now, don't get me wrong -- the RioVolt is an excellent piece of kit, especially for airline traveling or long road trips in the car. I can get 10-11 hours of music on a single CD-R disc. This is perfect for a long road trip, as I can set the RioVolt to play and I don't have to fiddle with anything, or constantly swap CDs. It even has a wired remote, so flipping songs and increasing/decreasing sound levels is convenient to do without looking down.

However, last night, while playing around with RealPlayer on the Tungsten E, I realized that this little handheld would be a perfect music playing device for short spans of time. Things such as half hour to one hour errands in the car, or visits to the café where I want to pack light: like sketching concepts or reading for an hour or two.

The big eureka moment on using the TE as a gap-filling music player came during in an IRC chat with Hal Schechner (PalmStation). During our chat, Hal mentioned the CNET story Five reasons not to buy an iPod and we discussed it a bit. As we talked, I came to realize that the TE could replace the old mix tapes I used to love making in my college days quite nicely. Funny that I hadn't considered it before.

A quick calculation shows that a 128MB card could hold maybe 20-21 songs at about 6MB average size (128-bit VBR); a 256MB SD about 40-42 songs and a 512MB SD maybe 80-84 songs. That's not bad, especially compared to the 15-20 songs I used to pack onto an average 90 minute mix tape.

Of course, I'd need to pick up a dedicated SD card for this, as the 64MB card I have now is already well-stocked with e-books, photos and applications. The good news is, SD cards are dropping in price rapidly, since the SD format is being adopted for digital cameras over the older CF (well, except for Sony anyway). I can't wait until SD cards are cheap enough that I could have 10 of them, each with a dedicated mix and maybe one SD for 'du jour' mixes I might make on a whim. Now that would be really cool.

Readers who've been using handhelds as music players for years might snicker at my post. Yep, it took me this long to "get it" I admit. Still, I'm still very happy to have arrived in the present day, so even a little mocking won't bring me down. And every now and then it's nice to be pleasantly surprised when you least expect it. :-)

Have a wonderful weekend!

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