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Christmas Gift Guide
MP3 Players

Sharp MP-B300: But too blunt to slay the iPod

Sharp has launched some new MP3 players, which is nice, but they're not going to worry Big White. We just wish they were a bit more exciting -- here's our cut-out-and-keep guide to building a real iPod killer

Here we go again. These are Sharp's new MP-B200 (512MB) and MP-B300 (1GB) MP3 players. The Sharp MP-B300 can be expanded with miniSD cards. The players measure 49 by 88 by 9mm and include direct audio encoding, an FM transmitter, voice recorder and FM Tuner.

To make things easier, we're going to be using a simple checklist from now on. This will make it easier for you, our readers, to see at a glance why we're seeing so many unexciting MP3 players appear on the market. Hopefully, by standardising our response to new players, we might even find that a manufacturer reading Crave realises where it's going wrong and steps in to save the day, so here goes...

The Sharp MP-B200/300 will fail to beat the iPod because:

DESIGN
[ x ] It fails to match or improve on the Clickwheel interface
[    ] It uses proprietary song transfer software that is poorly implemented
[ x ] It has a lower capacity than the equivalent iPod, but a bigger chassis
[    ] Song navigation is flawed by badly designed menu systems
[    ] It converts MP3s into an inferior codec before playback 

PERFORMANCE
[    ] Sound quality is poor
[    ] Battery life is inferior to the nano
[ x ] It is only compatible with one operating system

We hope this quick reference to the latest MP3 players will provide an easy way of working out if a player is likely to topple the iPod from its proud eminence. We're still taking bets on whether any manufacturer is going to bother designing a decent alternative this year. It's been five years since the original iPod and still no takers, this is the most stagnant of all the gadget markets. Come on iPod killers! Get in the game! -CS