Put a smile on dad’s or that grad’s face this year with the newest portable music player on the block, Toshiba’s Gigabeat!

I’ve been playing with this little wonder for a few days now, and it’s awfully impressive.  Available in 10GB, 20BG, 40GB and 60GB configurations, this is the first device of its type that may be a worthy competitor to Apple’s vaunted iPod. More on this as we go.

So, what IS Gigabeat?  It’s about the same dimensions as an iPod, comes with the aforementioned hard drive capacities and it has a 2.2-inch color LCD screen (larger, higher resolution and brighter than iPods, but with fewer colors) to display photos (NOT videos), even while listening to music.  Download photos, create slideshows to music, customize screens and backgrounds and also attach album covers to each album and track when the art is available.  Pretty cool, eh?

Gigabeat offers a tremendous, easy-to-use feature called CD RipRec.  With the supplied software loaded on a Windows PC, push a button on the right front corner of the supplied cradle and RipRec can transfer an entire CD directly to the Gigabeat in as little as five minutes, without even transferring it to the PC.  That’s DIRECTLY to Gigabeat in just one step!  Gigabeat can download and play any MP3, WMA or WAV file so it’s also perfect for online music purchases to get transferred to Gigabeat.  It supports Napster To-Go (included on the installer CD) and Windows Media Player-10,

Note the “plus” sign on the face.  That’s the touch-sensitive control surface for up, down, left and right control, as well as touching the center to “select.”  For this iPod user, it takes some getting used to, but it’s pretty easy to use.  In addition to volume controls on the right side of Gigabeat, the + touch-sensitive area on the face intuitively controls volume up and down.

Control usage is straightforward, in my view. I am thrilled with its claimed up to 16-hour battery life, besting current iPod models’ 12-hour battery life.

In my brief tests, Gigabeat excites the senses.  It’s a very cool gadget!  RipRec worked well once I deleted my iTunes software and some other conflicting programs.

Photos transferred through Gigabeat software to the device with ease, and display very nicely, though not with the color palate available on the iPod.  However, its larger than iPod size somewhat makes up for its lack of color range.  Unlike iPod, however, all Gigabeats have the same size color screen and are photo-viewing capable.  iPods also have the ability to play slideshows through connected TVs, and Gigabeat does not.  Photo viewing is strictly on its screen.

Listening through its supplied earbuds, the sound was very good, though I see a burgeoning market for better buds as an added gift idea, just as with the other music players.

Gigabeat has the potential for being a strong contender in the marketplace.  Any Windows PC users interested in one of these gadgets should definitely consider it!  Further, for dads ‘n grads, Gigabeat from Toshiba would make the perfect gift.  Priced from $279 to $450, depending upon the capacity.  Here’s the model breakdown: four capacities and seven distinct colors – 10GB in silver, blue and black acrylic priced at $279 (MEG-F10), 20GB in silver and black brushed aluminum finish at $329 (MEG-F20), 40GB in a brushed aluminum champagne finish (MEG-F40) at $399 with in-line remote control and the 60GB model in a “steel” brushed aluminum finish at $450 (MEG-F60) with in-line remote control. Check it out at www.gigabeat.com or at www.tacp.toshiba.com to find a nearby retailer. It’s just coming to the market, so don’t give up easily when looking for one to see in a store.  More info is at 1-800-350-4105.

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