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Toshiba Gigabeat U watered-down for U.S. market

Toshiba's latest MP3 player, the Gigabeat U, has been announced for sale in the United States.

Toshiba's U.S. version of the Gigabeat U. Toshiba Corp.

Toshiba announced today they its latest version of the Gigabeat U, the U202, is now available in the United States through direct order. Crave reported on an earlier, Japan-only version of the Gigabeat U (the U201) back in March, when we marveled at its high-quality 1-bit DAC and built-in FM transmitter. This latest version of the Gigabeat U has an updated look, but it seems to have dropped the Gigabeat U201's nifty built-in ability to broadcast playback over FM. We're kinda bummed.

Sure, Toshiba was able to shave about $50 from the Gigabeat U's price, but the Japan-only U201's FM transmitter seemed like such a unique method for sharing music to other FM-tuner equipped devices. I think it's also fair to assume that Toshiba's silence on the type of audio input converter used on the latest U, means that it's probably not the same high-end 1-bit DAC advertised on the U201. [Correction: Despite my earlier guess, it does look like Toshiba held onto 1-bit DAC line-input recorder afterall, so users looking for a device capable of making high-quality direct recordings should be pleased.]

Regardless, a $99, 2GB, color screen Gigabeat U with an FM receiver and line-input sounds relatively tempting, but still pretty "meh" compared to the product Toshiba could have given us. To add insult to injury, the U.S. version of this Gigabeat U comes in only two colors (black and silver), while the Japan version comes in 24 colors! Then again, does the world really need a mauve MP3 player?

I'll reserve judgment until an actual review unit comes across my desk.