Sizing Up Portable Music

Monday, February 07, 2005, at 03:46AM

By Eric Richardson

I'm thinking about buying an mp3 player. I never have because the places I listened to music were either my car or a computer. But these days, well, I don't have a car and I spend a lot of time sitting on the bus or the train. So I think it's time. The trendy choice is obviously the iPod, but I don't know if it's necessarily what I'm looking for.

My music collection right now is about 11gig -- not huge, but decently large. I wouldn't want all of that to come with me (there's a fair bit of old cruft), but I'd want enough storage to not have to worry about space.

More importantly, though, my music collection has a fair number of ogg files, 3.6gig to be exact. The iPod doesn't play ogg files. That's a huge negative, but not completely a show-stopper. I could recode the files into mp3 if I really needed to (and most of those I still have the cd's lying around, so I could just re-rip to mp3 rather than transcoding), but obviously that would be a pain.

In terms of name recognition (for me, and I'm not exactly up on the industry) the next competitor to the iPod is a player from iriver, for instance the H320. I haven't ever seen one in person or much less played with one, though, so all I know of them is what I read in the specs. The specs, though, are very nice: ogg support is there, as is an FM tuner. Really I guess an accurate impression is only going to come from getting my hands on a unit and actually playing with it a little.

I know there are other players out there that I should be considering, but I don't know much about them. I guess I should be doing more research instead of posting here...