Frontier Labs – nexblack

I know it’s not an ipod… but I’m looking forward to hearing some word when Fronteir Labs releases their “Nexblack”. For background…. the nexblack is priced at around $89 (at the frontier labs store), but I’ve found $69 here. It’s a portable mp3/wma/wma with drm/ogg player (according to the spec sheet.) It uses AA batteries (2), has built-in recording, uses compactflash cards and according to the spec sheet will have a line-in (line-in recording as well). It also will have fm radio functions.

A year – or two ago, I was looking for a relatively low priced mp3 player that would use compactflash, standard off the shelf batteries and play ogg files (recording too was a looked for feature.) I bought the Nexia player from frontier labs. It was ~50-65 dollars or so at the time, it didn’t play ogg, but they thought future firmware would make that possible, and it used AA batteries, compactflash, had good battery life (14-20 hours?) It also has a little microphone for recording (recording clips of my 4 year old was one of the goals..)

Anyway, unfortunately OGG support has never materialized (processor too slow or too little internal memory (I can’t recall which)), Frontier labs support has been excellent though. I had problems transfering directly under Linux (which is something I anticipated – that’s one reason why I looked for a compactflash player). I was sent firmware to try for that and a problem with the fm tuning (non-existent). Several firmware updates and the player was very stable, linux could see it and read/write fairly well, but still no radio. They offered to have me ship for repair, but I declined because fm tuning wasn’t a big priority for me and I didn’t like the thought of giving it up for that long.

Since then I’ve collected a few more compactflash cards (had about 4 then, probably 8 or so now), some have spanish news shows downloaded from shortwave broadcasters for me to work on my spanish listening skills, others are filled with music (one genre or another). Again, it’s no ipod with many GB of space (unless you have a compactflash or microdrive with many GB of space to plug in…) But it’s modular, less than $100, runs on standard batteries and is good at what it does.

I’m curious to hear how the nexblack goes when it comes out. The line-in recording would be a nice improvement over the current nexia I’ve got and IF OGG really is supported too, that might tip me towards upgrading to the new one. It also looks like there may be support for larger compactflash devices (nexia I think has problems above 2GB if I recall correctly.) Anyway, it should be released sometime this month from what I see.

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