EFX Newgen5

I’ve been thinking of getting an iPod for quite a while, but hadn’t quite managed to get over the “$500 for a fancy-shmancy walkman?? pfft!” mental hurdle. However things came to a head recently — I’ve joined the local gym to try to get a bit fitter for skiing in a couple of weeks (Mmmm. Skiing. Sorry, can’t help it), and having some nice music to distract myself from the sweat and pain seems useful. Last time I went I ended up having to make up a song to keep my rhythym up while running on the treadmill. Its lyrics were “one, two, three, four” repeated for ten minutes straight, in time to my steps (or fifteen minutes or twenty hours or something, whatever). Obviously something had to be done.

With two iPod obsessed friends, and with the “I read it on the Internet, so of course I trust it implicitly” recommendation from some snowboarder chick who might be Japanese, I even got as far as giving my credit card details to Apple to order a pretty new 20GB clickwheel iPod. At that point I started looking up some Linux based mp3 encoders since my collections of oggs wasn’t going to be much use, and stumbled upon notlame (which installs a program called lame, which is a program for encoding mp3s, whose name stands for “lame ain’t an mp3 encoder”. wtf?), which has a FAQ for portable mp3 players. It makes the following recommendation:

Q: What is better: an iPod or a flash-based mp3 player ?

A: It completely depends on what you want to do with it: if you want something to listen to in the train, car, or at work, then the iPod or an iPod-clone is for you. On the other hand, if you want to go running, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking (or other extreme sports …), it is better to get a player with no moving parts – much less likely to get broken (due to falling, running into trees, cold weather, etc).

And running and skiing are kinda what I want to do with this gizmo. Naturally this led me to reconsider what I was getting (with thanks to Apple’s wonderful and up-front policy of “no questions asked” cancellations within a few days of ordering). As it turns out, flash based mp3 players have reasonable battery life, and reasonable storage — you can’t store all your songs, but you can store, say, half-a-day’s playlist. And you can also run it off a AAA battery instead of having to recharge, and you can listen to FM radio on them. And they’re cheaper and smaller than the iPod mini, and they’re available without a four week wait.

As you might’ve figured by the this post’s title, I ended up getting an EFX Newgen5, which is apparently the same as the Hyundai Newgen5, which are both apparently rebranded Teravalue Newgen5. Well, as long as you don’t expect them to have gone to the actual trouble of rebranding the device. Whatever. Teravalue is Korean apparently. Neither Teravalue nor EFX seem to have downloadable drivers, which is a nuisance since they’re needed for it to work as a USB mass storage device in win98. Bleh. (Please ignore the hyperlink behind the curtain)

Apart from that, I’m pretty happy with it so far. I ended up with the 512MB model; mp3direct.com.au rang and said they were out of stock of the 256MB model I ordered, and suggested I get the bigger model (“smaller model? oh, yes, I suppose we have some of those too…”). It came with a necklace attachment (hook it into the ring on the back, loop it round your neck, and it’s light enough not to be a bother), it came with a little case with a belt clip, and it came with an armband that you can also clip the case to. I’m not convinced the armband’ll work terribly well, it seems both a little loose and possibly uncomfortable, but hey, we’ll see. And if not, it’ll hang around my neck well enough and won’t try depantsing me in public if I put it in my shorts’ pocket. So it should work for its intended purpose pretty well. (The 128MB model doesn’t come with the case and armband apparently, otherwise the three models only differ in memory size and colour afaict)

What else? It’s got a hold button, so you don’t accidently turn it on or off by bumping buttons. It’s got a funny proprietary USB connector on the device itself, so you have to use the supplied cable to connect it to a computer rather than just plugging it in. The headphones work, but jut out crazy-like — as though they’re a homage to Thor’s hammer or something. It records from an inbuilt microphone, from a line-in, or from the radio, which is cool, but probably useless. It can do shuffle play, I’m relieved to find; and you can even do playlists by putting mp3s in separate directories, by the looks, which seems to be better than a bunch of players manage. Ordering seems to be done by messing around with the FAT, though. Tacky, but apparently kinda standard for these things. As such, there’s a tool for it: ReOrganize, originally Windows freeware, with a Linux port these days. That link via the review of some noname mp3 player on Dan’s Data. And hey, you didn’t even have to sign up to get that link like you would’ve at Expert’s Exchange.

Oh, and its big feature is you can stick in an SD card, for either more mp3 storage, or just because you don’t have any other reader handy. The player’s only USB1, though, but when you’re not talking gigabytes, that’s not that big a deal. This didn’t work for me first go — it apparently makes both the internal flash and the card available over USB at once, and as such needs CONFIG_SCSI_MULTI_LUN enabled in the kernel; though the kernel config help seems to suggest is normally not worth doing for clueless newbies. D’oh.

There’re some lightweight reviews from Kelly Mills at the Australian and the Gadgets Weblog.

There’s a bunch of other mp3 players around too of course. The other one I was leaning towards was the “Pocki MP3″ which comes in a couple of versions, with similar features, and a substantially lower price tag. I ended up not liking the shape (in particular worrying that it’d be a nuisance to take jogging or to the gym since it didn’t seem to do the necklace or armband thing) and not feeling terribly confident that it wouldn’t be flakey — the Newgen5 specifically mentions Linux support, and has had firmware updates, whereas the reviews on ebuyer.com seemed to indicate it’s occassionally flakey. And at least with the Newgen5 there’s an Australian company I can harangue. Probably futilely, but at least it’ll be futility in English!

And to finish, why not pretend I’m on Livejournal just this once?

Current music: Collider – Les Horribles Cernettes

Current mood: Indolent

(Oh, and to be complete: People are mean and make life suck! Except when they aren’t and it doesn’t!)

(Yeah, ‘sif I can finish a post in the time it takes for just one song to play: also listening to Emma’s Song – Sinead O’Connor, Innocent Eyes – Delta Goodrem, Love is Never Equal – Jill Sobule, and apparently the closest thing to testosterone in my playlist at the moment is Pass It Around by The Donnas… Hrm. Something must be done about this situation, too)

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