The application that wasn't there
Compared to EphPod, which we struggled with for hours, XPlay installs like a dream come true--in seconds and without a hitch. To launch the program, simply plug in your iPod; XPlay then automatically launches on your desktop. Unlike EphPod or the iPod's Mac software (iTunes), XPlay doesn't display a standard, Windows-style interface. Instead, you click the iPod icon, which shows up as a mounted storage drive in the My Computer folder, to see and access the files inside it.
When you first start XPlay, you can use the autolaunching setup wizard to select folders on your computer to automatically synchronize with your iPod. Thereafter, XPlay will automatically upload any music that you place in one of these folders when you connect. You can also copy and paste music folders directly onto the iPod window to update manually or drag and drop individual songs into the Songs folder. Like Apple, XPlay prevents you from copying songs from the iPod, so if you're using more than one machine to play music, EphPod is the better bet.
Playing with playlists
XPlay mimics all of the standard iPod tricks, including the ability to make playlists with whatever selections you choose. To do so, you can simply select a song or a folder in your iPod's music folder, right-click, and choose Send to Playlist--a nice trick. You can then send the music to an existing playlist or make a new one. To rearrange a playlist's entries, open the Playlist window in the mounted iPod, open the playlist you want, then drag and drop your selections; this is much easier than EphPod's complex process.
Since XPlay doesn't offer a standard user interface, you reach most controls by right-clicking songs or folders. For example, you can right-click to adjust a song's volume, designate an equalizer preset, or adjust a tune's start or stop times--unlike EphPod, which doesn't let you tweak sound or volume settings. Alas, XPlay overwrites your settings the next time you autosynchronize your files.
XPlay can store contact information on your iPod in vCard (VCF files) format, as do iTunes and EphPod. Unlike EphPod, though, XPlay doesn't sync with any Web sites or offer additional uses for your 5GB or 10GB portable drive. We appreciate that unexpected extra in EphPod, as it takes logical advantage of all those gigabytes.
Should you encounter a problem with XPlay, you can e-mail tech support or place a toll call. XPlay doesn't list support hours, though, so you'll just have to take your chances. Mediafour promises an e-mail response within one business day, but we waited four days for an answer. When it did show up, thankfully, it was polite and helpful.
With XPlay, Mediafour offers an attractive, straightforward program that will appeal to those who value ease of use. But after seeing EphPod's creative features, we wish XPlay's developers had added a bit more value. Yes, XPlay brings the iPod to Windows users with no hassles. But we'd enjoy a few surprises, too.