MP3 Players’ Feature List Grows

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New features popping up on MP3 players include Bluetooth, color OLED displays and 2GB flash memory.

More models with 1GB of flash memory are also turning up, and another MP3 portable, which doubles as a portable media player (PMP), is said to be the first PMP with a 100MB hard disk drive (HDD).

The Bluetooth-equipped models are from start-up X2 of Irvine, Calif. The devices, which use Bluetooth to connect wirelessly to a cellphone, display caller ID information, record phone conversations and enable users to hold a cellular conversation through the supplied microphone-equipped headphones. The players also mute automatically when an incoming call is received.

X2’s MEGA 522BT is available in 512MB and 1GB flash-memory versions at $199 and $249, respectively.

The 522BT is X2’s second flash-memory model with 1GB memory and OLED display, which uses less power than an LCD screen, is easier to view outdoors and is five times thinner, allowing for lighter portables with greater design flexibility, the company said. Other features include playback of MP3 and protected WMA files, playback of subscription-based WMA downloads, FM radio, voice recorder, nonmusic file storage, SD/MMC memory-card slot, interchangeable color metallic panels and SRS WOW 3D Surround Sound. It’s available at the company’s Web site. Retail and e-tail distribution is also planned.

What could be the industry’s first 2GB flash-memory portable is an addition to PNY’s Vibe lineup of flash-memory portables. The computer-peripheral and flash-memory company plans second-quarter availability of a $299- suggested model that operates for 12 hours on a single AAA battery. It plays MP3 and WMA files, doubles as a USB drive and a voice recorder and stores data files. A sliding faceplate covers the unit’s controls and display. Its firmware can be upgraded, and it features SRS’s WOW. The company also offers a 1GB model.

Two new flash-memory models from GoVideo are the $119-suggested AMP 512 and $169 AMP 1.0, both in the company’s sports series with 512MB and 1GB of embedded memory, respectively. The 1.0 is the brand’s first 1GB flash-memory model. Both feature MP3 and protected-WMA playback, FM tuner, FM/voice recorder, SD/MMC slot and 16 hours of playback time on one AAA battery. The firmware can be upgraded to play subscription-based WMA songs. The upgrade is scheduled for the second quarter.

Flash models with 1GB of memory appeal to active users who want a light product, fear HDD crashes and want longer battery life, GoVideo said. Prices of flash memory have fallen to the point that 1GB flash models are viable in the market, the company added.

Other companies launching their first 1GB flash models this year include Samsung and Lexar, joining 2004 entries from iRiver, PNY and San Disk.

Consumers looking for 100x more storage capacity and full-motion video will consider Archos’s 100GB AV4100, a $799-suggested PMP that displays digital pictures; stores music; and records video directly off a TV, DVD player or VCR. Images and video are displayed on 3.8-inch TFT LCD screen that features quarter-VGA resolution and 262K colors. It will be Archos’s third PMP with TV time-shifting capability. It comes with TV docking station/recharger and built-in timer for automatic time shifting from a TV or satellite-TV tuner. With these features, consumers can time shift by manually select days and start/end times or by using a PC-downloaded Yahoo! TV Guide, which provides program listings up to a month in advance.

Video from prerecorded tapes and DVDs can be transferred to the device, but the VHS and DVD video content can't be transferred to another device, nor can that video content be displayed on any display but the devices' color LCD screens. Stored TV programs, however, can be displayed on connected TVs and PCs.

The Archos device also displays videos transferred from a PC or Mac and stores MP3, protected-WMA and WAV music files transferred from a PC or Mac. It also encodes in MP3 format from any audio source.

Video transferred from a PC in MPEG-4 will appear in near-DVD quality up to 704 by 480 pixels at 30 fps when the video is displayed on a connected TV screen.

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