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Rio reveals 20GB Ogg Vorbis network music player

Plus: Creative launches MuVo NX Flash player in UK

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MP3 Players

Rio has announced its first raft of MP3-based portable music players since it was acquired by consumer electronics company D&M Holdings in April following the collapse of Sonic Blue. Today, the company unveiled seven players under five brands, including its first hard disk/Flash combo unit, the Rio Nitrus.

Said player is a 1.5GB machine that runs off a built-in Li-ion rechargeable battery. Connectivity is provided by a USB 2.0 link.

An IDC rent-a-quote announces the devices a "pioneer in an important new MP3 player category", but we're not convinced - there seems little need to bring the Flash and HDD player markets together. The Nitro isn't capacious enough to challenge the iPod, iRiver's iHP-100 or Creative's Zen, or small enough to match the convenience of most modern Flash-based players. At $299 it's not particularly cheap, either - you can get a 10GB iPod for that.

Of the latter category, Rio announced the Chiba, Fuse and Cali players, the latter essentially Rio Sport S30S with more memory - up to 128MB (which retails for $169)and 256MB ($99) from 64MB - and with an improved play time: 18 hours off a single AAA battery over the S30S' 15 hours.

The Chiba and Fuse are new models, both offering the same play time as the Cali. The Chiba appears to have the same spec. as the Cali - it's available in $169 128MB and $199 256MB models, both with FM tuner, five-band equaliser and backlit LCD, as per the Cali.

The Fuse is a 128MB device designed to plug straight into a USB port - music files can be dragged and dropped onto its icon. It too sports a backlit LCD and an adjustable equaliser. Fuse costs $129.

The $399 Rio Karma is a 20GB HDD-based player. Its built-in Li-ion battery provides 15 hours of play time. Like the iPod, it ships with a docking cradle, which serves as the PC connection point and battery charger.

Unlike the iPod, the Karma connects to its host via an Ethernet connection. Can it be networked? Rio doesn't say. However, the Karnas does offer Ogg Vorbis support. Users can create playlists on the fly, crossfade from one song to another, and adjust the output using a five-band equaliser.

All seven models will go on sale in the US this month.

Creative will begin shipping its tiny

Nomad MuVo NX

128MB Flash MP3 player in the UK this month.

The NX is the successor to the original MuVo, and adds a backlit LCD, a scroll wheel controller and an eight-hour voice recording facility, courtesy of a built-in microphone. Like Rio's Fuse (see above), the NX connects directly to a PC's USB 1.1 port, allowing MP3 and WMA files to be copied directly to the device. The NX contains 128MB of Flash memory.

Creative claims 11 hours' of MP3 play time from a single alkaline AAA battery, less if you're playing back more decode-intensive WMA files.

The MuVo NX will cost £119.99. ®

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