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Iomega HipZip Digital Audio Player

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The idea is clever: a portable audio player that uses inexpensive magnetic media and doubles as a USB disk drive. That's the thinking behind Iomega's HipZip Digital Audio Player, based on the company's PocketZip drive technology. But although Iomega clearly put some thought into the HipZip itself, the playlist software needs work.

The HipZip uses PocketZip media, 40MB disks that measure just 2 inches across and that cost about $10 each (compared with about $50 for a 32MB SmartMedia card). Iomega claims that a disk holds 80 minutes of music, but we got better sound quality by putting only 45 minutes of 128-Kbps MP3 files on each disk. The "player itself is rugged, lightweight, and well designed. Although it is slightly larger than most MP3 players, the HipZip has the edge in usability--its built-in, rechargeable LiIon batteries are worth up to 12 hours of play time, and the backlit display is very readable. Con-nect it to your Mac via the included USB cable, and it's a PocketZip disk drive.

Unfortunately, the HipZip supports Mac-formatted disks only in disk-drive mode, not in audio-player mode; to play MP3s on the HipZip, you must use DOS-formatted disks. And the bundled MusicMatch Jukebox Plus software, for compiling playlists and transferring them to a disk, is slow, buggy, and difficult to use.

Macworld's Buying Advice

The HipZip Digital Audio Player is a cool idea, and it's well executed from a hardware standpoint. But the bundled software is practically unusable. Until Iomega resolves the problem by writing a HipZip driver for iTunes, SonicBlue's Rio MP3 player may be a better choice, particularly if you're not interested in the HipZip's disk-drive capabilities.

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