People across the world download MP3 files to play on their computers, and, increasingly, on portable players. Iomega has decided
it’s time to get in on the action by launching the HipZip – a portable MP3-player that uses tiny floppy discs to hold the music.
The disks are known as Clik discs,
but Iomega has relaunched the Clik format as Pocket Zip. The HipZip is a last-ditch attempt to save Clik, but one I fear is doomed to failure. This is because it fails to meet the minimum requirements for a useful MP3 player.
Iomega claims that this is a cheap way to listen to music, and that you can get 70 minutes of music on one disk. The 70-minutes claim is only partially true. An MP3 file can be compressed to different levels, rather like a JPEG file. If a file isn’t compressed too much, a near-CD quality sound is possible, but it needs about 1MB per minute. However, if you’re happy with AM-radio quality you can cram 70 minutes of music on to a Pocket Zip disk. But, at a decent sound-quality, you can store only 40 minutes.
The other claim of cheap storage is also misleading. If Pocket Zip is compared to solid-state memory cards it’s cheap, at £8 per disk. To get the same capacity would cost a fortune using a CompactFlash card, for example. However, the Pocket Zip is more akin to a MiniDisc, which is much cheaper.
MiniDisc is capable of recording from CD with MP3 compression, or recording from just about any audio source – including MP3s copied from a Mac. You get 74 minutes of audio per disc, and a disc can cost as little as £1 if you shop around. Not only does MiniDisc have almost double the capacity, you can get players that are smaller than the HipZip. Also, the players cost from £150-£250, whereas the HipZip weighs in at £289 – although in the US you can buy one
for just $299.
MP3 players need to fulfil a few basic requirements before being a good idea. They need to be smaller – or at least as small – and cheaper than the competition. They also need to be more convenient than the competition. The HipZip fails to meet the first two requirements, and the convenience issue is debatable. If you already have a big collection of MP3-formatted music, it’s convenient to transfer the files to the HipZip. If not, converting your CDs to MP3 format is a time-consuming pain in the rump.
If the HipZip was £89 instead of £289 it would be a different story, as the little complaints would be acceptable. Unfortunately, the HipZip’s price is so high that problems, however small, are extremely annoying. The fact that you can buy the HipZip in the US at two thirds of the price, will not endear
Iomega to potential buyers. If you really want portable music, there are much better, cheaper and smaller options.