Going up iRiver

A gadget coincidence: Recently, I’ve been searching for a portable media player to replace the Toshiba SD-P1400 portable DVD/CD player I gave to my wife for Christmas. The Toshiba never worked- either the audio would cut out or the video would- and after a test run spent lugging it around in its case nearly the size of my laptop bag, it became clear quite quickly that it wasn’t the product for us.

To replace the Toshiba, we’ve abadoned the hope of more portable video for under $500 (this has been tempting though) and instead have refocused our search towards a portable MP3 player with tons of space. Our strong aversion to the cult of Apple and a desire not to pay a premium price for a massively over-hyped product meant that even from the beginning, the iPod has never been our leading choice.

After a relatively fruitless search (there is a big low-end market), this revelatory post led me to the H-series MP3 players made by iRiver.

The price is right, the feature set is impressive, the battery life is excellent, and…well, what more do you need? Usually, all that’s left is a deal-clincher: that extra feature or selling point that turns you from shopper into buyer.

After checking out iRiver’s H-Series, I think we’ve finally come to our decision: the iRiver H320, an MP3/WMA player with a 20GB hardrive, onboard FM tuner, voice recorder, image browser, and much more.

And our deal-clincher? It came from this post on Instapundit, which I noticed just a few minutes after narrowing the field down to the H-320. An emailer tells Glenn:

A few weeks ago you mentioned the iRiver H320 as an alternative to the iPod. This was new to me, but I investigated and now own two! It has a first-class screen, excellent sound, good form-factor, and even plays videos made from ripped DVDs. Another bonus–I don’t have to support the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field.

I am finding the ability to play many codecs very valuable, especially OGG Vorbis, which seems superior for spoken word material. For music, I generally use WMA.

Hmm…the fact that the product is outstanding by itself almost makes the ripped DVDs claim too good to be true. But let’s assume for a second that for less than $300, I can get a media player with tons of space, long battery life, wide format coverage, FM tuner, image browser, and voice recorder…that plays my ripped DVDs?

What is Apple’s answer to that? A Rolling Stones-branded Mini Mac?