One of the problems with MP3 players is that they need to be tethered to a computer to receive content; you cant deliver it on the fly over the air. Now you can with the introduction of the Sansa Connect, which will be available in March, and Ill tell you more about it then. The prototype model at CES was a big hit and even garnered a coveted C/NET Best of CES 2007 award.
The Connect comes with 4 GB of built-in storage, enough for about 1000 tunes. It also has a micro-SD slot for infinite expansion. Its sleek, shiny black case measures 2.05x3.58x0.63 inches, sports a 2.2-inch screen, and will cost $249.
What makes the Connect so special is its fast 802.11g wireless technology that enables it to connect to the Internet at any hotspot to receive data. Now you can download new tunes and listen to Internet radio live, which is a huge step forward in the MP3 world.
In some ways, the unit is a step backwards, however. First, it has a goofy antenna sticking up on the top left that makes it look like a Treo 700 series cousin. It does not have video playback capability, which most other Sansa models feature--what a waste of that nice color screen. It does not have an FM radio tuner either. I suppose that is because you can listen to Internet radio. But, you have to be connected to do that, and you can listen to FM radio anywhere, anytime. I wonder why it only comes with 4 GB. Of yeah, SanDisk is in the business of selling memory cards. Do you suppose that has something to do with it?
One of my chief complaints for all MP3 players including iPods is that they do not have Bluetooth capability, and you have to go around with dangling wires hanging out of your ears. What a nuisance. However, I did discover one MP3 player that will be available in a couple of months. Why havent other developers figured out this no-brainer feature?
Fifth CES Favorite: Jabra Bluetooth devices
As noted above, MP3 players do not come equipped with Bluetooth for your listening pleasure with wireless headphones. To my further disgruntlement, Treos (except the 750) are not equipped with the proper Bluetooth codecs for wireless stereo music, which renders them less than perfect music players. But, dont despair. It seems Jabra has heard my call of desperation and come to the rescue like a Saint Bernard in a blizzard.
Jabra makes a nice set of wireless Bluetooth headphones (BT620s) that fit comfortably over your ear. The problem for Treo toters is that while the headphones hook up via Bluetooth, they only work for phone calls, not music. Clever Jabra has come up with a solution, however. The A120s is a nifty, little Bluetooth stereo music adapter. Of course it comes with the standard 3.5 jack, and you will need a 2.5 adapter to use it with a Treo. Why Palm uses the non-standard, smaller jack is a mystery to me. Anyway, with that accommodation, you can now listen to your tunes via Bluetooth on your Treo in stereo. When there is an incoming call, the music automatically stops so that you can talk on the phone through the built-in microphoneif you have paired the phone with the headphones. Tap the headphones, and the music starts again. You can also navigate through your music and adjust the volume with buttons on the headphones.
If you just want to talk on your Treo handsfree, you may wish to consider the super small and light Jabra JX10 Bluetooth headset. You can wear it on either ear with or without the ear clip. You can just plug this featherweight (less than 1/3 ounce) right into your ear if you wish. It comes with a charging cradle and costs about $99. Thats a bit pricey, but it has no peer for stylish design, sound quality, and ear comfort. If you want something a little more economical, Jabra offers other Bluetooth headsets BT125 and BT160 for as little as $39.95.
Check out these products and more at www.jabra.com.
Sixth CES Favorite: ago7 UMPC
I think maybe I saved my favorite until last. Its the ago7 UMPC. UMPC stands for Ultra Mobile Personal Computer, which has only recently been unleashed on the market. Code named Origami by Microsoft, the units were supposed to cost about $500 each but were three times that amount when they finally hit the market. What attracted my attention to the ago7 is that is retails for only $799, which is way below the competition.
What you get is a seven-inch touch sensitive screen and a Windows Tablet PC operating system that weighs under two pounds. Its a perfect solution for people who need a small computer but dont want to lug a laptop and need more computing power than a Pocket PC affords. This is a fully functional Windows computer, and you can do anything on it that you can do on your desktop or laptop. It sports 512 MB of RAM and a 40 GB hard drive with 1 GHz processor. Its available in white and black.
It comes with a stand, a stylus, a rollup USB keyboard, and a stereo earplug/microphone set. It has two USB ports but no SD slot, which is unfortunate in my opinion.
I do not think this device will necessarily replace the Pocket PC, but it certainly is a viable alternative to lugging a clunky laptop, especially at this highly competitive price.
Check it out at www.agopc.com.
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