Walt Mossberg has tested the Sansa Rhapsody MP3 player and music software/onlie outfit for The Wall Street Journal. Mossberg reports, “the latest portable music player to challenge Apple’s iPod hegemony. This is the first player to be specifically designed to work with RealNetworks’ Rhapsody music-subscription service… The Rhapsody service itself also has been overhauled, with a new, cleaner interface. Best Buy stores will be launching a store-branded version of Rhapsody and sell the new player.”
“The Sansa Rhapsody isn’t really new hardware. It’s a variation of existing SanDisk players, and is formally called the e200R series. But this isn’t just a marketing gimmick. Unlike previous players that worked with Rhapsody, which relied on Microsoft software, this uses Real’s own music formats and copy-protection software and is more tightly tied to the service. The player can be switched into Microsoft mode for use with Microsoft files,” Mossberg reports.
“The player itself is small, black and good looking. It has two big advantages over the iPod Nano. First, it has a larger screen, allowing for a better display of album art and text. Second, it has a replaceable battery,” Mossberg reports. “But in most other respects, the Sansa Rhapsody is inferior to the iPod Nano. It is bulkier — more than twice as thick and almost twice as heavy as the Nano. It doesn’t have a feature for playing audiobooks or podcasts, and its battery life is lower than the Nano’s. I also found transferring music to the player from Rhapsody to be slower than on the iPod, despite Real’s claims to the contrary. And when I added my own tracks to the Sansa, it failed in many cases to display the album art.”
Mossberg reports, “Also, after the initial 60 days, you must plug the player into your computer and synchronize with the Rhapsody service at least once a month to verify that your subscription is paid up. Otherwise, all the songs on the device become unplayable. (Rhapsody also sells nonexpiring tracks a la carte, like Apple, but that’s not its main business.)”
“The player does a good job of displaying photos and videos, but getting them onto the device was more of a hassle than on the iPod. You need separate software, and that software was confusing to use,” Mossberg reports. “For people who don’t want to choose their own music, or who value discovering new artists over hearing familiar ones, the Sansa Rhapsody may be just the ticket. For those who place a higher value on personal choice, the iPod is better.”
Full article here.
Real+SanDisk+Best Buy with more than a dollop of Microsoft thrown in does not equal a smoothly operating vertical solution. Regardless of what they call it, it’s still a mishmash of companies that couldn’t compete on their own against Apple and, even while pooling their limited resources, cannot replicate iPod+iTunes well.
Mossberg is evil (but, a good kind of evil) with the inside dig, “For those who place a higher value on personal choice, the iPod is better.” Especially since Real Rhapsody tried and failed so spectacularly with their bogus “Freedom of Music Choice” publicity stunt back in August 2004.
Best Buy teams with RealNetworks’ Rhapsody and SanDisk to launch ‘iTunes Store killer’ – October 05, 2006
Study shows Apple iTunes Music Store pay-per-download model preferred over subscription service – April 11, 2005
Petition to RealNetworks to cancel ‘Freedom of Music Choice’ publicity stunt garners large response – August 18, 2004
RealNetworks launches ‘Freedom of Choice’ campaign with song downloads for 49 cents – August 17, 2004