Toshiba’s original Gigabeat is among the most successful non-iPod portable media players (PMP) out there, boosted by the fact that Microsoft used it as the basis for the Zune. Whether or not this new Gigabeat, the Gigabeat V, will be the basis of Zune 2(or Zune Too, or whatever hip, focus group-tested name Microsoft gives it) is yet unknown, but Toshiba’s player does its best to stand out from the crowd. The big draw here is its 4-inch 480 x 272-pixel resolution screen. And on that screen you’ll be greeted with a Windows Media Center-like interface, which is good or bad depending on your point of view.
The Gigabeat V is as close to a Microsoft-only PMP as you can get, with video playback limited to Windows Media Video files and no support for AAC or FLAC or any other codec other than MP3 and WMA, including WMA 9 Lossless. Um, does anybody use WMA Lossless? Just checking.
The battery life, typically the death knell for many PMPs, actually isn’t too bad, rated at 28 hours during audio-only playback. The thing about battery life, though, is that once you get past a certain point—I don’t know, maybe 12 hours or so—it’s hard to notice anything more. How often are you away from a charging conduit for more then 12 hours? My nano’s damn nearly always charged, but that could also just be because I’m a zero who’s rarely, if ever, more than 20 feet away from my computer.
So the Gigabet V looks just OK—nothing really revolutionary, even in the consumer electronics sense of the word, and it’s a little too Microsoft-oriented for my tastes. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes off, though, when it launches in Japan in June, and here in the U.S. a short time thereafter.