Durable & Versitle Portable Media Player


Active Member

I'm looking for a good portable media player to take with me when I go overseas.

It needs to be durable, which at first made me think "Flash Based," but the storage is waaay too limited on those. I'm thinking I need 30-100GB to be able to hold what I want...

Now as to what I want to be able to hold: How about 500 songs, 500 photos, and 20 or so full-length DVDs converted to a more "portable" format.

The player also has to appear as a normal USB Flash or HDD drive to the PC, so I'll be able to use it on machines on which I do not have admin privelages.

It also needs to be able to play nearly any media format - I do not want to be tied to downloading only stuff from apple, real, etc... Most of the content I will put on it will be stuff I already have in cd/mp3/dvd/vob format... Of course, I'd convert the CD/DVD/Vob content into something more efficient....

So, what player meets these criterea. I may spend up to $500 on this thing, so that nearly encompasses every player out there.

Also, as far as video on these portable devices go, is there an easy to use utility, available commercially, freeware, or included with these palyers, that will convert DVDs/vobs to mpeg4 or some other small format (and at the player's native res, which is less than a DVD's)? If I have to load vob's to the device, I'll only be able to load 5-10 before I fill it up!
So far it looks like the Zen Vision (regular or M, 30Gb each) and iPod (30-60GB) are leading the pack. I think both can handle my current audio/video collection.

I can use these tools ( http://www.slysoft.com/en/ ) to handle converting my DVDs to formats freindly to either family of players. I know I can use a slew of fre e utilities to do the same, but I like the "three click" simplicity the slysoft products boast.

The Zen Vision has a nice screen (3.7") and the Zen Vision:M and the iPods have 2.5" screens.

The Vision:M and 30GB iPod both retail for $299
The Vision and 60GB iPod both retail for $399

So, I have to choose between a bigger screen or a bigger drive.

I'm not really looking as iTunes being a "feature" for the iPod, becuase I will probably not be able to use it - if I can even get to a networked PC where I'm going, becuase I will not be able to install the software.

Perhaps I'll try the software first and see just how small I can get my videos. If I can get them to around 500MB for a full-length movie, then 30GB will be more than enough to hold the movies I want to bring - and allow me to get a bigger screen vs. bigger drive. If the movies take up more room than that, then I'll need to opt for the iPod's larger drive.

What other things should I consider? What other alternatives are there?
The Vision:M has been on my list for a while as something I'd like. Of the well-known brands, I think it is still probably the best out there. But I have no immediate need so I haven't gotten one yet (I already have a 30G music only MP3 player). I'm not sure how well any of the hard-drive based players will hold up. Certainly not as well as some of the flash-based ones - but that extra capacity is really tempting.

Do Creative players now look like normal external drives to Windows? The last I heard, you either needed the Creative software or (at least for the Dell versions) you needed to be set up for Plays-For-Sure - which still required specific software to be installed on the machine (from Microsoft this time, instead of Creative).

I use my PDA to watch movies (when I travel) so I haven't felt the need to get a video player yet. I usually convert them to pretty low quality divx, but a 2 hour movie is probably about 250M. I put a couple movies and maybe a few 1-hour (40 minute) TV shows on an SD card for my PDA.

As far as converting video for the player, many players (and I think this includes Creative, I know it includes Sandisk (who make the flash player I'd buy if I were getting one)) use their own format and do include programs to convert. You may not need to buy or find something else.
i have the previous version of this:

it works great, a little bulky but has very good sound quality and the screen is very nice. shows up as a removable drive in windows. mine has a CF slot, which was really handy for downloading pics off my wife's digicam when it got full the last time we went on vacation.

one of my friend's really likes the toshiba gigabeat. here's a random review i googled:
Wow! The Archos and Toshiba both look like outstanding players and may be moving to the front of the pack. It might be time to build a decision matrix.... I have time to shop around too.
Guys I bit the bullet and ordered the ARchos AV700 over the weekend, it should be here today or tommorrow. I opted for the 40GB drive model.

I'm also runing the 21 day trial of SlySoft CloneDVD Mobile.. It's not very fast at encoding, but it is one of the easiset to use conversion programs I've ever tried. I tried it on both an old 800mhz P3 and a newer 2.4ghz P4. It took the P3 78 minutes to endcode a DVD and the P4 62 minutes... The DVD the P4 encoded was about 30 minutes longer than the one done by the P3 - so it was probably about 30% faster overall.

The ARCHOS players use mpeg4/DivX - so that's what CloneDVD converted the vobs into - oh, and CloneDVD already has a preset for the Archos player's native resolution. The only "options" offered was a slider that let me change the compresion. At the default level of "23" on a slider that went as high as 33, the DVDs were comin in at around 600 and 700MB respectively - I adjusted the slider to 17, which got one right at 500MB and the other at 600. After seeing the results I think I could compress them even more - artifacts won't be too obvious on a 7" diagnol screen - heck, they even looked good when I played them backon my 17" PC monitor on fullscreen mode - not DVD quality, but better than VHS!

I'm sure I'll be able to load a good 40-50 videos onto it and still have plenty of room for my entire music and photo collection.

I'm looking forward to the player arriving soon, as I have the whole week to play with it. I got PRK done on both eyes yesterday - courtesy of Uncle Sam -so I'm on leave all week. I'm in a little pain, but the Percocet they gave me is making me functional enough to thype this email and convert a few files (though I'm really supposed to be sleeping). However, I've done enough goofing off for the day, so now it's back to bed for me! It'll be nice not to have to keep track of glasses anymore, especially once I get overseas!

See Y'all later!
HMMMM......You got PRK done "courtesy of Uncle Sam".....now I know where all my tax dollars are going!!!! :)

Actually, good for you. Now at least you might be able to see who is shooting at ya! Then again, given the situation, maybe not. :(

Chuck (Retired E7)
Chas821 said:
HMMMM......You got PRK done "courtesy of Uncle Sam".....now I know where all my tax dollars are going!!!! ;)
Ha ha!

Thanks Chuck.

Given that everyone who needs glasses in the military gets 3 sets each year (One normal, one BCG,and one insert) - I bet refrative surgery is cheaper in the long run - especially if the service member is done earlier in their career.

It's going to be very nice to be able to put on sun/safetyglasses without having to worry about my prescription leneses anymore.

I would not be suprised if it become very routine for the military.. You make it through your initial entry training, and you get your eyes done. It's far easer to function without glasses.

Anyway, back on topic... I'm beginning to wish that I'd of sprung for one of the 100GB models. I've counted up all the DVDs I want to "take with me"and it's coe to about 95 - at 500-650 MBs per disc, I'm going to run out of space rather quickly...

I think I'll put the ones I'l watch the most on the player's HDD, and put the rest on a regular DVD - I should be able to fit 8-10 movies on a DVD, then when I want to watch then I just ned to get to a PC and delete some of the HDD content, and copy some stuff from DVD - since everything will already be in DivX format, it won't be a problem..

Hmm, I bet the discs could play directly from one of those mpeg4/DivX compatable players...

So, now I'm looking at putting about 30 movies on the player - leavng the other8-10 GBs for music, pictures, etc.

The conversion process takes a while. I have 4 seperate PCs converting 4 films at a time - ranging from a celery800 up to an Athlon 2600+ - with conversoin times going from 60 minutes up to 180 minutes... If I can convert 10 or so movies a day, I'll be done relateively soon.

There are probably more typos than usual in theis post, becuase I'm pretty much touch-typing without proofreading - my vision's not back yet, but I think I'm past most of the pain.
you may want to check out the rockbox project for a more robust firmware for the player. It supports gapless playback, as well as almost every format known to man. Everyone I know swears by it. www.rockbox.org
congrats on the purchase. when i bought my AV420, the AV700 was $1200! it's sure come down in price.


the rockbox firmware does not support the AV series. it only supports these:
Players, Recorder v1, Recorder v2, FM Recorder, Ondio SP and Ondio FM
Guys - thanks for the updated info. It actually looks like the AV700's included firmware is pretty robust - I probably wouldn't want to mess with it.

I also recently discovered that the Archos AV500 and 700 players are the same hardware as Dish Network's Dishplayers - there's just a different firmware on them - The AV700 (at geeks.com) is half the price of the equivelant Dish Player direct from Dish! I suppose if there's not some sort of coding involved - that if someone could get their hands on the Dish Player firmware, they could have a Dish Player for half price!

Anyway, I've encoded about 20 DVDs from VOB to mpeg4... So I'm about 1/2-way there. I've also discovered that the AV700 not only connectes to your PC via USB, but also connect to other mass-storage compliant devices as a USB host (it has two ports). So I can use a USB HDD to hold extra media and move stuff back and forth between the AV700 and the USB HDD (but cannot play directly from the USB HDD). Pretty neat!
jrfuda said:
I also recently discovered that the Archos AV500 and 700 players are the same hardware as Dish Network's Dishplayers - there's just a different firmware on them - The AV700 (at geeks.com) is half the price of the equivelant Dish Player direct from Dish! I suppose if there's not some sort of coding involved - that if someone could get their hands on the Dish Player firmware, they could have a Dish Player for half price!
amazon has the archos ones for 369 shipped free


the 'pocket dish' players are actually about the same price, cheaper with rebate

Thanks for the links, damage.

Looks like the prices on both have come down across the board. 2 weeks ago I beleive they were higher.

It looks like the pocketdish firmware is available here: http://www.pocketdish.com/tech_support.jsp

I'll have to see if anyone has been brave enough to put it on a straight AV700..