i`m trying to swing a press pass for MacWorld SF, next January and one of the qualifications is an industry related story published in the last six months. i completely forgot that i promised an editor in Trinidad that they`d have a piece today, so i`m actually writing it here first to get all the kinks out and then sending it on.

There are quite a number of portable music players on the market, but none as recognisable as Apple Computer`s iPod. For the last three years this has been the must have gift, for everyone. This Christmas is not going to be any different and with three standard models and a limited special edition version, the choices have become; if anything; more difficult.

The three standard editions are the iPod Mini; which comes with a 4Gb hard drive and six colour choices; the iPod; which comes in either 20 or 40Gb versions and the iPod Photo; which boasts a colour LCD display with a choice of 40 or 60Gb drives. Apple also introduced a special black and red U2 edition of the iPod with a 20Gb drive.

According to Apple, the iPod Mini allows you to carry 1,000 songs. This figure is based on an assumption that all songs are all four minutes long and encoded at 128Kbs; which produces fairly decent sound quality. If you have a small to average music collection and not necessarily looking bang for your buck this may be the iPod for you. The Mini; as the name implies is the smallest of the iPods; is a little smaller than a pack of cigarettes and comes in silver, gold, blue, green and pink. Apple`s recommended retail price is US$249.

However with an extra US$50 ($299) you can get five times the music with the standard 20Gb iPod. The 20Gb iPod is the ideal balance of price and storage capabilities. Put in perspective, 2OGb of music would allow you to listen to a different song, all day, everyday for approximately two weeks without hearing a repeat. if you have the money to burn and truly want to be different you could shell out the US$349 for special edition U2 iPod, which is just a marketing gimmick. You`re basically paying $50 more than the standard iPod for a black and red iPod autographed by U2, not particularly worth the extra expense in my book.

If you`re an audiophile and believe you can discern between MP3 and AAC encoding and can tell the difference between files encoded at 128Kbs and 320Kbs, I would recommend the 40Gb iPod. Solely so you can have some of your music to go. The 40Gb iPod retails for US$399.

the new iPod Photos, in my humble estimation, are geared toward the technophiles that must have the newest, latest, shiniest toys. I think the colour screen is cute, but see no need to upload photos to my iPod. I do however appreciate the possibilities inherent in 60Gb of storage space. My current digital audio collection is close to 50Gb and the ability to have all of it, in one place makes me drool. The prices are however a little steep, running US$499 and $599 for 40 and 60Gb models respectively.

All versions of the iPod work on both Macintosh and computers running Windows with Firewire or USB 2.0 ports

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