Thursday, November 30, 2006

Rebates, aargh!

Well, so far this year I lost out on about $90 in rebates, mostly because I missed the due date. That means I paid $90 more for items I thought I was going to get for a lot cheaper. I have of course got a lot more than that back in actual rebate checks. Also, I received a couple of those rebate Debit Cards some companies are using instead of checks. These Debit Cards kinda suck, and limit what you can do with the rebate money - certainly your only option seems to be to spend it.
After I had almost completed this blog entry I heard a CNET Podcast "The Real Deal" about rebates - here is a link to the podcast.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Other Wish List Items

I've been concentrating on the MP3 Players for replacing my iPod Mini, but what about the other Christmas Wish List Items?

I'd already eliminated several items from the list, but here is what's left:

The Microsoft Flight Simulator for PC with airplane controls or Nascar PC game (or Sony Playstation 2 game) with driving controls. I ruled out the Flight Simulator quite quickly - I find myself easily bored with flying simulators.
Racing is another story though. There are an amazing variety of driving controllers avaiable for the Sony Playstation 2. I priced some online - they range from $50 to $130. The problem is how much would I use them, as I tend tire of driving/racing games quickly (I'd also have to buy a couple of PS2 racing games as well). I could get a wireless joystick, but I really prefer playing the Sony PSP.

The Nintendo Wii remains tempting. With the motion sensitive controllers I might actually get some exercise. But I have a Sony Playstation 2 which gets more use as a DVD Player than a gaming console. Oh well...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Psst!... want a PS3?

No, I don't have a Sony PlayStation 3 for sale, but a lot of people seem to have them and want to sell them.

(Note - I've updated the following on November 22, 2006 as some of the links did not work and may not work for long)

Sony PS3s have been selling for around $1300+ on eBay (of course this will change depending on demand and the day of the week), and for $2000 on preorderonline (come-on, regular price $3000??) as well as on Craigslist (New York search link) for from $900 to well over $1500 (I've heard of one being offered for $4000). On Amazon Marketplace the 60GB version is going for upwards of $2000, and at Infinity Micro for $3,495. Just think, for $3000 you could get a mega gaming PC...

Of course if you wait for several months (until February or March next year!) you can pay the actual list price of $499 for the 30GB version and $599 for the 60GB version.


According to iSuppli, the actual cost of the components for each PlayStation 3 is more than the official list price. The PS3 with the 60GB HDD costs around $840 to make. Sony is of course hoping to make back their money on games, and there probably is a break-even point when they hope to start making a profit. The interesting thing is that they are losing more on the cheaper model: $300 instead of $240. Of course Sony is not getting any cut from the price gouging which is rampant, except that the buzz may benefit the gaming console when the supply begins to meet the demand.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

PS3 sold out, Zune Wars

Not unexpectedly, the Sony PlayStation 3 sold out within hour(s) of it’s release on Friday.

The Microsoft Zune, however, seems to be staying on shelves mostly and getting really bad reviews. Engadget said "Installing the Zune... sucked".
A news blog sums it up as: "A rude awakening for Zune" - "Forget brown. The true color of the Zune is black-and-blue.".

Oooh, nasty, but there have been other nastier references to the brown colored Zune: "The only thing cool about the brown one is that the color is appropriate." from "Zune is out of tune, for now"
Others said that the Zune is actually quite good – notably the review which concluded that "…intuitive interface and solid playback performance will please most users…" and gives it a rating of 8.0 out of 10 (the iPod Nano received a rating of 8.3 out of 10.)

And back to gaming:
Tomorrow the Wii gaming console is due for release in the U.S., which I'd almost forgotten about with all the PS3 hype.

It does seem like there may be some queues for the Wii too – I wouldn’t have thought so – but here is a site with tips for getting your Wii with the least amount of inconvenience- and the exact same article, it appears, at

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Zen Plus?

I had just about decided that the second generation iPod Nano was the MP3 Player to top my Wish List, when I came across the Creative Zen V Plus. This tiny player is not much larger than a container of tic tac mints (see the first picture on page 3 of this excellent review on or
alternate picture here)

It is shorter than the iPod Nano by almost an inch, but slightly wider and more than double the thickness. Like the Sandisk Sansa e200 series, the player features an FM tuner and video playback. The player has an excellent user-interface, which is licensed to Apple for their iPods. It is also loaded with useful features like creating multiple playlists on the player, renaming and deleting them. Files can also be deleted on board the player. Creative players are well known for superb sound quality.

There is also a plain Creative Zen V (no Plus) version, which doesn't have an FM tuner or video playback. This costs about $20 to $25 less than the Plus version. At present the Plus comes in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB versions, but an 8GB has been rumored and reported (on mp3newswire) and is even mentioned on the Creative Asian website, but is yet to be seen in the USA.

The Zen V Plus would really be a contender if it had a 8GB version available in the US, as the 4GB is around $180, some $20 cheaper than the 4GB Nano, so an 8GB version would be cheaper and more worthwhile.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Too soon for the Zune

In one of two major product releases due this week, the Microsoft Zune Media Player (or MP3 player) is scheduled to be released tomorrow. (The other is the Sony PlayStation 3, scheduled for release on Friday November 17).

By "Too soon", I don't mean that the player will not be ready. Instead, I would want to remind all those caught up in the hype that this is version 1.0 of a Microsoft product. Not only is this a hardware product running an OS, but a whole ecosystem to support that product. Just to make matters a bit more interesting, the Zune is not backward-compatible with PlaysForSure - Microsoft's own DRM (see Wikipedia Digital Rights Management). This means that subscription tracks purchased from stores such as Napster or Urge will not work on the Zune. The Zune is also a bit large, at 4.4 by 2.4 by 0.6 inches and weighing in at 5.6 oz. Okay, that is about the same size as the Creative Zen Vision:M, but the ZVM came out in December of last year.

Personally I wouldn't touch the Zune for at least a year or more. Still, it will be interesting to see how this version 1.0 product fares against the 5th generation (or 5.5) Apple iPod.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Nano bit

My research turned to the iPod Nano. Interestingly enough, this is no longer the smallest MP3 Player out there, although it may be the thinnest. Ever since it first came out I wanted a Nano, but the first generation was just too expensive. At $199 for a 2GB Nano and $249 for a 4GB it was just too much. You could get a non-Apple 6-10GB hard drive player in the same price range. There was also the widely reported problem with the Nano scratching easily.

The 2nd Generation Nano spectrum

The second generation Nano fixed that by being coated in Anodized aluminum, like the iPod Mini was. The prices are a bit more competitive - especially since there are now a number of different Flash-memory based players on the market. Starting at $149 for the 2GB Nano (available in gray only), $199 for a 4GB Nano (available in multiple colors, excluding black), and the 8GB Nano for $199. The 8GB only comes in black or red (the latter color is only available online).

Like other iPods the Nano doesn't have a FM Radio built-in, but unlike most other flash-memory based players it cannot play videos. Even lacking these features it is one of the most popular MP3 Players.

It definitely rates high on my wish list. I just can't decide whether it is worth shelling out an extra $50 for a black 8GB Nano instead of going with the $199 silver 4GB Nano.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Research - Sansa e200 series

Okay, so I researched the second possibility on my wish list, the iPod Mini replacement. Because I mainly use the Mini to listen to podcasts and music in my car, it had to be small enough to easily fit into a cup holder. Also, it had to be light, since I don't leave it in the car, to keep down the weight of my work bag.

Flash-based MP3 Players seemed to be what I wanted (Flash memory being more resistant to bumps than hard drives).
The first MP3 Player I looked at was the SanDisk Sansa e200 series.

The SanDisk Sansa e200 series has a lot going for it. I first mentioned it in my Blog on Wednesday, April 12, 2006: "Technology moves fast (sometimes)" , but to recap:

Available in four storage capacities, 2GB (Model Number e250), 4GB (e260), 6GB (e270), and 8GB version (e280). SanDisk had an 8GB Flash-based player out months ahead of Apple. Until September this year, the 8GB version was known as the highest-capacity flash-based player in the world. It also cost the same as the 4GB iPod Nano.

The e200 series was initially my first choice, being packed with features, the most important being a user-replaceable battery. There is a major downside to iPods and many other MP3 Players - the battery only has a limited life (100 full charges or so). When the battery finally dies, unless it is a user-replaceable battery (and they are few and far between - the manufacturers would obviously rather have you buy a new MP3 Player). Anyway, Apple apparently does have a plan where you send in your dead iPod with about $70 and they send you another one, usually a refurbished one.
With the SanDisk Sansa e200 series a replacement battery costs about $20, and all you do is remove 4 screws to replace the battery.
The Sansa e200 series also has an FM Tuner, can play videos (on a 1.8 in screen), and has MicroSD expansion slot. Music can either synchronized to the player using Windows Media Player (a requirement for subscription music), or copied via drag and drop. You can also run myPodder software from directly from the player to manage podcasts. This feature really excited me. That was, until I found out that if you lose your place in a 30 minute podcast it is difficult to Fast Forward and find your place again - the Sansa just doesn't offer the fine control with Fast Forwarding and Rewinding that other players do. That was the deal-breaker for the otherwise promising Sandisk Sansa e200 series for me.

You can get a 6GB Sandisk Sansa e270 for slightly less than a 4GB iPod Nano, but no amount of useful features and even a highly competitive price matters if the MP3 Player doesn't do what you want it to.

Touchscreen iPod?

According to TrustedReviews the "Touchscreen iPod Comes This December". That would make the Microsoft Zune look a so last year.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cellphone Research Stopped!

Actually it is only temporarily suspended. My (early) research for a new cellphone has temporarily halted. The reason: I'm drawing up a Christmas "Wish List". Cellphone research can resume after New Year.

My wish list so far is:

Nintendo DS Lite game console.
But it has two counts against it - the majority of games are mainly aimed at children, and I already have a Sony PSP. If I want a more portable gaming device than the PSP I always have the Tungsten T3, which has a number of games on, as well as the Tapwave Zodiac, which I often take with on shorter trips.
A replacement for my iPod Mini - its battery life is getting worse - either the iPod Nano or Sandisk Sansa or maybe a Creative Zen V Plus.
"Media Carousel" from - the black one which takes 150 CD/DVDs for $132 - but it is maybe rather large (physically)
Microsoft Flight Simulator for PC with airplane controls (or similar for Sony Playstation 2) or Nascar PC game with Driving controls
iGo charging kit - consisting of iGo juice 70 ($129.99 - power from wall/auto/airplane) or iGo wall85 ($79.99 - power from wall only), iGo dualpower (free with iGo juice 70 or iGo wall85) - allows charging of notebook and another gadget simultaneously, also need iGo power splitter ($14.99). Also iGo powerXtender($24.99) - power from 4 AA batteries.
iGo power tips for devices cost $9.99 each - Need 5 Tips =$50
Cost = iGo wall85 ($79.99) + iGo power splitter ($14.99) + iGo powerXtender($24.99) + iGo power tips ($50) = $169.99 (plus tax). This would be useful, but it is not really appealing as a Christmas present (too practical)
Nintendo Wii (or maybe not..)

Of course, I can only choose ONE item from the list above...