Roomy Memory Keeps Intel's Music Rolling
Edward N. AlbroMP3 PLAYER
The skimpy capacity of most MP3 players is a major drawback of these devices: Just as you get into a nice groove, it's time to stop and transfer some bits. That's because the 32MB of memory that many MP3 players offer is too little to store an entire CD recorded at 128 kbps, a rate approaching CD quality. Players can, of course, become more expansive by accommodating small memory cards, but if they do, it increases their cost.
The Pocket Concert Audio Player from Intel addresses this issue with 128MB of onboard memory--enough to hold about 2 hours of MP3 music compressed at a near-CD-quality 128 kbps. And with a list price of $300, it's not much more expensive than players with skimpier storage.
A preproduction model that I looked at was attractive, but maybe a little too slick--literally. With its rounded corners and egg-smooth surface, the device almost slipped through my fingers more than once, like a bar of soap. Encased in brushed aluminum with translucent blue accents, the unit resembles a large pager.
In my informal tests, the Pocket Concert Audio Player produced good, big sound through the included headphones. Its controls are well designed, too, especially the raised volume buttons that simplify adjusting the player while it's in your pocket. Intel also promises accessories for playing digital music through your home or car stereo.
The player comes with two pieces of software: its own audio manager--a simple way to transfer music from your PC to your player over a fast USB connection--and a copy of MusicMatch Jukebox to help you rip music from audio CDs. Unfortunately, while Intel says that you'll be able to program the player to handle new music formats in the future, it can't play one of the current dominant formats--RealAudio files.
Pocket Concert Audio Player
Won't play some music formats, including RealAudio.
This player holds lots of tunes for the money.
List price: $300