Recycled Computing

iPod touch or Cowon A3: What's a Mac User to Choose?

- 2008.08.25

A confession: I am willing to admit that I do not own my own iPod.

Shock! Horror!

Behave! There are iPods in the Hatchett habitat. I don't own one personally. The kids do. My wife does, as well . . . if she can just find the tiny little thing.

Now, I suppose it's time that I joined the rest of humanity and owned a portable media player. But which one to buy? My daughter has the older nano, and one of my boys owns the new video (3G) nano. Linda, my wife, owns the mythological shuffle, which is so small that it disappears and reappears from time to time.

This leaves me wondering how to fill my personal entertainment needs. I can't let the rest of the clan have all the fun.

Right away I have to ask myself what am I going to use the PMP (Portable Media Player) for? If I just want to listen to music, it will be simple for me to pick up a simple and cheap device. However, nothing it is ever simple for us übergeeks.

After a great deal of research, I have narrowed it down to two choices.

The iPod touch

In this corner, the iPod touch. My fellow workers have them and swear by them. Since I cannot imagine buying an electronic gadget with only one purpose, the iPod touch (new software release) has all sorts of software to interest someone who thinks that better living can be achieved through electronics.

The iPod touch would provide me with all sorts of electronic functions to keep me too busy to do anything really important. I can sync my iCal and Address book to it. I can scan all those silly membership cards that clutter my wallet and save them to a photo file. The iPod touch has WiFi capability and a Safari browser. And there is all sorts of software available to make my live easier.

But there is not much memory, unless you are willing to shell out five fins for the 32 GB model. And there is (currently) no way to put Skype on it. And it does not have USB On-the-Go (OTG) on it.

What's that? What does it do?

Conveniently, it introduces the other portable media player that I am interested in.

The Cowon A3

Cowon is a Korean firm that manufacturers all sorts of MP3 players and personal media devices. The A3 has a 30 GB or 60 GB hard drive device and supports all sorts of audio and video formats. It also has a larger, higher resolution screen (4" 800 x 480) than the iPod (3.5" 480 x 320), and it can record both audio and video (at up to 1280 x 720 pixels - true HD!).

There you are, visiting your friends, and they have a CD or DVD you have always wanted. Whip out the Cowman A3, and you can rip it with out having to use a computer. You can run some microphones through a preamp and record live material from willing musicians. (Just bring back Jerry Garcia and you could make your own Grateful Dead bootleg recordings.)

USB On-the-Go

And the Cowman has USB OTG. On-the-Go allows one USB device act as a host for another USB device.

What does that mean? It means you can connect two USB devices without using a computer. If your camera's memory card is too full, you can transfer those photos to the A3 (not all digital cameras support this). If your USB flash drive is too crowded, move some files to the A3. If your wife wants to listen to your songs on her iPod....

See where I'm going with this? The Cowman A3 can be a portable juke box, an ultimate sneakernet device, and a capable digital audio and video player.

There are a couple problems: It has no Internet access, no web browser, and limited software integration for Mac users. The A3 will appear on your desktop as an external drive, and you can drag and drop music and videos files into to it . . . but the iPod has it all over the A3 in terms of software.

What to do? I could be solving the world's problems, mowing the lawn, or defraging the hard drive on my son's Dell, but instead I'm thinking about which one to buy.

If I were Paris Hilton, I could buy both - but then I would be Paris Hilton. LEM

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