I’ve never had a hard-disk portable player (I do own a couple-year-old Rio flash memory player), so I can’t compare directly with an iPod, but thought I’d comment on my experience with the DJ so far.
I charged up the battery (there’s a cord that connects the USB port to a wall outlet) and installed the Dell software on my Windows box. The Dell software included both the Dell DJ Explorer and Music Match Jukebox 9.
I then connected the DJ to my box with the included USB cable. The first thing I got was a note saying that data transfers would be faster if I connected to a USB 2.0 port – but unfortunately, my box (which is a couple of years old) only has USB 1.0 ports on it.
I then fired up Napster, to see how it would go transferring music to the DJ from Napster To Go. The first thing I got was a message saying that I had to upgrade the firmware on the DJ so it could support the copy protection scheme used by Napster To Go (Microsoft’s amusingly named PlaysForSure). The firmware upgrade went ok after some futzing about (I suspect it would have been smoother if IE was my default browser instead of Firefox).
I was then able to transfer songs easily (if slowly, due the USB 1.0 connection) from Napster to the DJ. I continue to be impressed with the breadth of material available on Napster, and having a subscription-based service (as opposed to paying for each song individually) definitely encourages me to explore artists and whole genres I wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to (Zephyr turned me on to Cassia Eller and Maria Rita yesteday).
When I went to transfer some of my mp3 files to the DJ things got a little more complicated. The DJ Explorer software could no longer see the DJ at all. Musicmatch 9 seemed to work, but then crashed so hard it locked up Windows, and the songs it said had been transferred did not show up on the DJ.
I figured these problems were a result of the firmware upgrade, so I went looking for corresponding software upgrades. I couldn’t find an upgrade for the Explorer software, but there is an upgrade to Musicmatch Jukebox version 10. Of course it’s not easy to find the free version (as opposed to the paid versions that have way more features than I needed) – the free one is here.
Once I had installed Musicmatch 10 and had it index my mp3 collection I could move files onto the DJ easily enough – ahh, sweet success!
The DJ seems pretty easy to use, and it’s a great size and weight. The sound on the included earbuds is not great (us bass players tend to like a lot more bottom end), but seems good when played through my Koss The Plug in-the-ear buds.
I did try connecting the DJ to my iMac, where I do have USB 2.0, but the Mac and the DJ refused to even acknowledge each other’s existence. That seems unfortunate to me – my Rio works fine on the Mac, and the iPods can work on both platforms (with iTunes software).
I’m assuming that Dell will update the firmware and the included software bundle by the time they start shipping product for school to start in the fall. As long as that’s done the attractively priced DJ line will be of interest to those who live in a Windows-only environment.