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Hard-Drive Music Portables Abound

Hard drives proliferated in the car and in portable audio at CES. Here’s what dealers found in the portable segment:

Archos: The peripherals supplier announced January shipments of a 10GB hard-drive-equipped “hand-held multimedia entertainment center,” a combination MP3/WMA portable player, MP3 encoder, and photo viewer with an expansion port that turns it into a digital still camera, digital camcorder, or TV-video recorder. Full-motion video recording uses MPEG4 compression.

The base unit will retail for $325. The still-camera module will be $69, and the video camera module will be $99. The price of the video-recorder module wasn’t available.

Creative Labs: The company’s latest hard-drive portable is the Nomad Jukebox 3, which will be 30 percent smaller as compared to its predecessor and will ship in the spring. Unlike its predecessors, it will be able to rip and encode songs directly from a home CD player or record live from a microphone input. Other features include a hard drive with at least 20GB capacity, lithium battery delivering 10 play-back hours, optional second lithium battery to deliver an additional 10 hours, and support for MP3, WMA, and WAV playback. It’s the company’s first with a 1394 connector. It also has USB 1.1.

The company says the GUI is more intuitive, and a jog wheel speeds up access to individual songs.

A second Jukebox 3 with lower or higher memory might also be shipped for spring delivery. Then in the summer and fall, the company plans hard-drive portables that will be shirt-pocket size like the new Apple model, said brand manager Kevin Brangan.

Dlink: The company’s first hard-drive portable is the 10GB Roq-It at a suggested $249 and estimated everyday $209. The 5.6×4.8×1.1-inch MP3-only player weighs 7.6 ounces with lithium batteries that deliver 8 hours of playback time when playing files at 128Kbps. It’s read as a standard hard drive by Windows Explorer, and music-management software isn’t needed to drag and drop files to the portable.

e.Digital: The company, which previously focused on platform development, launched its first branded products, though it continues to market on an OEM basis. It sells direct to consumers via its Web site,, but it is seeking retail distribution.

Its first branded product, available since October, is the MXP-100, which features IBM microdrive and voice recorder.

A hard-drive portable, the shirt-pocket-size Treo 10, features 10GB device at $249. It is 0.77×4.63×3.03 inches and weighs 9.9 ounces. It also decodes MP3 and WMA and is codec upgradable.

RCA: The company launched the Lyra III solid-state portable and its first hard-drive MP3 portable. RCA also expanded its 5-inch MP3-CD selection to three SKUs from one, its MP3 boombox selection to two from one, and MP3 shelf system selection to two from one.

The Lyra III, replacing the Lyra II, is smaller than its predecessor and smaller than the MP3-only Kazoo, still offers its predecessor’s FM tuner, Compact Flash card slot, and support for WMA codec and DRM, but it replaces MP3 playback with mp3PRO playback. Price and ship date were unavailable.

The 11-ounce, 10GB hard drive, dubbed the Lyra Personal Jukebox, is 5.25x3x1.13 inches in size and carries a suggested $299 retail, including car adapter kit. It decodes MP3 files, but a downloadable mp3PRO upgrade will be available in the spring. Upgrades to any stereo codec are possible.

For the new MP3-CD portables, boomboxes and shelf systems, RCA plans running changes in some or all of the models to mp3PRO.