Friday, August 18, 2006

w950i vs N91 vs IPOD....the new mp3 gizmos



Original article at

Music on a tape, music on a CD and now music on a MP3 player! The next step is a mobile phone with MP3 player, which will blow away the current standard MP3 players on the market. This step is just been set with two new models; the Sony Ericsson W950i and the Nokia N91. One of them, the SE, has not yet reached the market and cannot be put to test completely.

As competitor of the two a comparable model was chosen in the price range between 400 and 600 Euro. The iPod G5 Video with 60 GB of internal memory space, strong video possibilities and the strong looks was chosen.

During the story several points will be discussed such as audio and video quality, headset quality, accessory package, user control and the user interface of the music player itself. Every part shall be rewarded with 10, 8 or 6 points. At the end we will calculate the complete amount and decide which one is the winner. The first part to discuss is the accessory package.

What will be delivered with the devices when you buy it?

All three the models have their own special accessories, but it is the question which one has the highest score. First of all you will find a list below containing the standard accessories, which are available in the package.

The N91 has the biggest package of the three. Especially the pretty nice desk charger is something the others do not have as a standard in the box. The N91 has a disadvantage that it cannot be charged via the USB data cable, so the desk stand is needed. However the device does have a remote control build-in the headset that has the opportunity to connect 3rd party headsets.

The W950i has a package that is known from the other Walkman devices. No desk charger, but only a data cable which can be used for charging. The headset is also connected to the connector underneath the phone. There are fewer possibilities to connect other headsets. The N91 has two; the W950i only has the remote in the headset. The W950i also has a sparse equipped headset in comparison to the N91 which has more options and controls on it.

As it is indicated in the table the iPod will be delivered rather sparse. The biggest drawback is the data cable that is also the main charging item. There is no travel charger available in the package and that means that you need to have a PC around equipped with at least one spare USB connector. It is possible to buy an extra travel charger. Next to this the manuals delivered with the package were not suited for the country the device was sold in. In our case the manuals were German and French and the device was bought in the Netherlands.

For people that are used to another iPod and have a special docking station, an extra docking station kit is delivered with it so that the new iPod can fit in the old docking station. The last thing is the headset which does not have a remote in it.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 10 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 8 points
iPod G5 Video: 6 points

The device itself and all that should be discussed

To give a better view of the corresponding devices several groups are determined that should be discussed here. They contain size, available memory, available connections and the possible synchronisation options.

Size

When we look at the figures and numbers you will notice that the iPod and N91 are different positioned then the W950i. The SE is light and that is really noticeable during use. When you look specifically at the size of the device then it becomes clear that the W950i is the smallest of them all. The iPod follows and after that the N91, which is rather heavy and ungainly.

If we then discuss the external functionalities of the three it becomes clear that the Nokia N91 is the winner. The amount of hardware keys and the different connection possibilities put the N91 at the top. But it is also a drawback, because it makes the device impractical and messy. For instance charging needs to be done with a different cable than transferring data and charging via the USB cable is not possible. The N91 uses an aluminium finish. Unfortunately it is not that good scratch resistant. During usage a pocket with keys should be avoided.

The W950i is the device with the biggest screen of the three on the smallest space. The iPod follows straight ahead. Next to that it is the only model with a touchscreen. But the W950i also has some hardware keys to control the music. Relating connectivity there is only one port and that needs to be used for charging, listening music and sending data. Relating looks it can be positioned next to the iPod. Both have almost the same size and the looks of the keyboard give a splendid feeling. Also the plastic finish has lesser problems with scratches then the other two.


The iPod is the most fashionable device around in this set of three. The looks are characterized by the central "click wheel" from Apple. The navigation wheel can be used for scrolling by moving your finger over the central key in a rotating movement. The chrome backside of the iPod is really exclusive, but you need to clean it a lot and it is not that resistant to scratches. The iPod will be delivered with two connectors; one for charging and sending data and another one is a 3,5 mm connector for any headset you choose or the standard iPod headset.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 6 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 10 points
iPod G5 Video: 8 points

Memory

It is quite clear from the table that there are two harddrive devices and one device with a flash memory; simply a build-in memory card. The N91 and W950i have a maximum of 4 GB on board and do not have expandable memory. The choice for both models should be decided on the fact if 4 GB is enough.

The advantage of a iPod is the fact it contains a harddrive which is fifteen times bigger than both mobile phones. It should also be mentioned that both mobile phones have more features that are quite essential for a mobile phone.

The statement that needs to be made is the fact the W950i has a different handling of the data within the flash memory than the N91 and the iPod.

Both have a harddrive and that will mean that songs will be loaded from a harddrive which is rather slow and becomes rather hot in the N91. The W950i did not show any of these problems and the iPod is known to be fast and did not become hot at all during testing.

As a comparison option the price per MB is taken as a final outcome and it shows that the iPod is the cheapest per MB. That is rather logical. The prices which are known at this stage are 619 Euro for the N91, 569 Euro for the W950i and 439 Euro for the iPod. The W950i has a higher score than the N91, especially thru the high introduction price of the N91. When the W950i hits the market both will have the same price and so both will score 6 points.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 6 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 6 points
iPod G5 Video: 10 points

Synchronisation soft- and hardware

Each made their special choices that are quite clear for every brand discussed here. The N91 chooses for the support of Windows Media player, which means that the device can exchange audio and video. Unfortunately it is not possible to synchronise album art, such as a album cover. You should enter it manually into the device. A disadvantage!

The W950i has it is own Walkman player version 2.0 and does support this feature. Only synchronisation with iTunes and WMP is not possible. There are Walkman plug-ins but those do not support the W950i yet.

The iPod is the only device that is delivered with a media player from Apple called iTunes. Synchronising data between the PC and iPod is quite easy to do with this package. There are other packages available for the iPod when needed. The iPod is the only device that is not a USB mass storage without using a program like iTunes.

All models have there own island on which they synchronise. None of the standard packages supports one of the other programs, but there are plug-ins and packages available. When you finally look at the programs, you can say that iPod supports the best program around; SE supports its own and delivers something really different to Apple. Nokia however does not deliver anything in the package and the person needs to use its own WMP 10 or 11. Next to that the album art is not synchronised with the device, which leaves is us with a draw.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 8 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 8 points
iPod G5 Video: 8 points

Connectivity and radio possibilities

In relation to the available connections the N91 scores the best. The miniUSB port on the side of the device and the 3.5 mm jack on the top support that. The N91 has also a FM-radio without RDS support. The W950i does have such a function, but does not support multiple connection ports. The headset can be detached halve way and another headset with a 3.5 mm connector can be placed. There is no direct 3.5 mm connector in the Sony Ericsson.

The remote of the N91 is the best equipped with functions. It can control the total media player. The W950i can only address incoming calls and the iPod does not even have a remote integrated into the headset. The same counts for the radio which is not available in the iPod. However people can buy it as an accessory.

Another point that needs to be addressed is the key that is used for the keylock. The W950i does not have such as a hardware key on the device. The N91 and iPod do have such a key and this is really a weak point inside the W950i.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 10 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 8 points
iPod G5 Video: 6 points

Battery lifetime

When you use the iPod, you will be able to last the longest. A disadvantage is that the iPod only charges via the standard data cable. Next to that the battery cannot be replaced.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 6 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 8 points
iPod G5 Video: 10 points

What is the sound quality that all models will show?

The most important part of the complete test is the part in which the W950i is not taken into account. However the headset which is in the package will be tested and is the same for any Walkman device. In the future there will be a stereo Bluetooth headset available. That means listening stereo music without a wired connection. Something both the iPod and the N91 do not support.

Audio quality

What will be clear from the test is that both models (N91 and iPod) are not that different between each other. It is especially the used headset that makes the difference. The hardware is most of the time the same. It is the fine-tuning of the device and the sound carrier that make the main difference. In our case the iPod and N91 got the same standard equalizer setting and four headsets were used:

1. Standard Nokia HS-28 Music headset
2. Standard iPod headset
3. Sennheiser HD485 headset
4. Shure E3c professional in-ear headset

Shure E3c (on the left) and Sennheiser HD485 (on the right)

By switching all the headsets between the devices you will get a clear view on the quality of the device. Multiple persons and several sound specialists of the company TMaudio have listened and told us the following story:

What can be noticed is that both score high on audio quality, but it is also becomes clear that the iPod sounds better with the Sennheiser headset.

Terms like "better covered" or "sounding better over the complete range" were mentioned during the test.

Because not every one uses such a headset on the street, we used a second headset; the ultimate headset for any mobile user; the Shure E3c. Not well-known at the main customer and with a price range around the price of a new iPod the headset shows a value not seen elsewhere. More about that in the next part of the test.

This exclusive headset and the standard headsets show that the N91 scores the best on the audio quality and over the complete spectrum. The professionals were unanimous and were amazed about the strong identity of the device. "How louder, how better it was!" was a significant statement.

They also declared that the N91 was much more transparent than the iPod. The iPod was felt as rather screaming device and especially when using the Shure E3c headset.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 10 points
iPod G5 Video: 8 points

(When the W950i is available and can be tested we will update the audio quality part within the test!)

Quality of the standard headsets

The quality of the headsets which are in the box will be discussed here. They are compared with the Shure E3c in-ear headset and the maximum score is 10 points for the Shure headset. Other headsets will have a score compared to that.

The in-ear headset is a headset which is placed completely into the ear channel and should close off the ear. When it is not done like that several tones are not well covered. The standard ear headset is placed into the ear and not completely into the ear channel. This is the biggest noticeable difference.

First of all we should address that all headsets that were delivered with the models performed worse than the Shure E3c. This headset was the best tested over the complete range. The headsets of the models sound duller and have less colour in the lower tones. Also the mid end is enormously increased to give a better colour to the music. We expect that this has been done to be save over the complete spectrum. The fact that this has been concluded is really depended on what you are used too and that was also one of the main conclusions from the test.

From the standard headset the Sony Ericsson in-ear headset was the best tested, but only when you place it correctly into the ear. The Nokia headset is rather dull. Something the normal headset from the iPod also has. The in-ear headset from iPod was the worst headset, a lot worse than the Sony Ericsson in-ear.

What we should not forget is the fact that you need to decide what you want. Not everybody likes the in-ear headset in their ears and they can become dirty quite easily. So keep them clean, it will enhance the audio quality. When you choose for the standard ear headset there is not really a winner. Both models (N91 and iPod) are quite good.

When you need briljant quality it is maybe a good idea to switch to a 3rd party professional brand like Shure. They have several special models in any price segment. For more information on that visit this link!

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 8 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 10 points
iPod G5 Video: 8 points

How are the models controlled and which options are on on board?

The last part that needs be discussed is the menu of the devices. Which media players are on board, how do they operate and how simple are they to control. Different items that will be addressed.

Which media players are on board of these models?

All models have their own specific player onboard for music playback, video playback and other media. Making a comparison between all three is rather hard to do, but we can look at user control and the available parts. The equalizer will be discussed and we will look at the other possibilities of the models.

User control

Each has their own possibilities to playback a lot media formats. The iPod in this case an iPod Video also consists of a video part. This will also be discussed. Off course music is the main part in this test, but the other options will also be discussed. First the user control of the music player.

The controls of each device are rather different. Especially entering and selecting a song has quite a different approach. The W950i uses a touchscreen which is controlled with a stylus, scroll wheel on the side and several dedicated music keys on the front. The N91 has a central control key and music keys on the slide. The iPod used the simple click wheel which cannot be beaten. All options are easy in their way. The user should make its own decision what the handiest functionality is.

The N91 and iPod have a hardware key to lock the device. The W950i does not have this feature.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 8 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 6 points
iPod G5 Video: 10 points

Music menu options

The music player is quite comparable in any device. All have almost the same player with some slightly different aspects to it. The way in which music is selected is the same on any device. However the W950i uses an autoplaylist system, in which someone can select a list of songs on genre, personal rating and part of the title. De iPod and N91 do not have this function. The W950i does not have the option composers in the menu. The songs cannot be sorted on that category.


Furthermore all three have the possibility to use album art and to show the CD cover when playing the song. Unfortunately the N91 cannot synchronise this data and the CD cover needs to be linked to the songs manually. Also the rating or categorisation of music on a mood (a distribution of five different colours for any mood of the day) is not possible in the N91. The iPod does have a rating, but not this categorisation. Only the W950i has both.

The iPod has some extra features for Podcasts and spoken books, also called Audiobooks. Both other models do not have such a feature. Finally the standard functionalities like shuffle, repeat, rewind and forward are available.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 8 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 10 points
iPod G5 Video: 10 points

Equalizer

All models have comparable equalizers. The non-adjustable equalizer of the iPod is not a direct issue, because pre-settings can be changed in iTunes. It is rather striking that the amount pre-sets and the difference in pre-sets is quite large per model. The Nokia has the least pre-sets and gives you the feeling they are not that well chosen. They are not as good and do not give something extra to the music. Sony Ericsson and especially the iPod have way better settings.


The N91 and W950i have both adjustable equalizers onboard. The Nokia equalizer consists of eight bands and the Sony Ericsson equalizer has nine. All corresponding frequencies are not mentioned so you need to hear and check out what the difference of the settings does to quality of the song. It is not that handy, but after some practise it will work out. Next to that the maximum volume range can be determined in the iPod which prevents ear damage. The other models do not have such a feature.

The N91 does have the option for stereo widening and the option to change the balance between the left and right.

People that use the equalizer should be aware that it will use more battery power when it is engaged.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 6 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 8 points
iPod G5 Video: 10 points

Photo menu options

Watching photos is not directly an issue when you buy a MP3 player device. So it is rather logical that Sony Ericsson did not install a camera in the W950i. The N91 does have camera; a 2.0 megapixel camera. The iPod does not have the ability to use a camera and does not have a camera onboard.

However the iPod G5 has the option to save photos and to show them in an album. These photos are synchronised with iTunes and you have the option to show them full screen on the QVGA screen or in full original size. Scrolling thru the pictures is possible by using the click wheel. A slideshow can be started and adjusted.

The iPod offers a complete package in one menu style. The N91 has just like the W950i a separate place where the photos can be watched. The W950i has no camera, but photos and other pictures can be transferred to the device. Synchronising pictures and photos is not possible with both devices.

People need to exchange them manually.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 6 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 6 points
iPod G5 Video: 8 points

Video menu options

Video is also a part of the device that is not directly related to a MP3 player. But the models have a certain options onboard, so it should be addressed. All models can play several video formats.

The iPod G5 is the first iPod that could play video. Especially MP4 and MOV files can be played. These videos are also synchronised with iTunes and can be viewed in different albums.

The N91 can only play 3GP videos and certain MP4 videos. Several MP4 files were not working that well or did not play at all. The reason is unknown at this stage. The device shows the files as not supported. The W950i has the same problem, but will show more files than the N91. Both devices do not support any option of synchronisation.

The playback quality of the videos is related to the screen which all models use. The W950i and iPod use a QVGA screen with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. The N91 has a 208 x 176 pixels screen which can be used to play full screen video.

The W950i has the highest score in relation to quality. The screen quality is really good. In close range of the W950i you will find the iPod which also has a QVGA screen and then on some distance the N91 with its smaller screen. The N91 uses a really small screen and it is not suitable for video.

The points will be divided in the following way:

Nokia N91: 6 points
Sony Ericsson W950i: 10 points
iPod G5 Video: 8 points

Other menu options

This part is added to the story to show that the iPod is not only media player but also offers more than just the playback of videos and songs. Off course it is clear that the mobile phones offer more in this group of devices, but it does not say there are some abilities.

The iPod can be synchronised with Outlook and contacts, agenda items and notes can be transferred. The data can not be adjusted in the iPod itself.

There are also several games available in the iPod and extra software like the first-person-shooter Doom can be downloaded. Finally a clock, world time, alarm and stopwatch are available.

Final conclusion

At the end of this enormous extended test a score can be made up between the three devices, in which the Sony Ericsson did not participate in the audio quality test. This score is not used during the calculation of the average score.

When looking at the score you can really see that the iPod wins when all scores have the same weight in the average calculation. The model is and stays the ultimate MP3 player. The other models come really close. Especially the N91 with his great audio quality, accessory package and the large amount of connectivity options in the device itself.

However the Nokia has some problems. The size and weight are not that great, the battery time is the lowest and the possibilities in the menu for photos are not that great. A camera was not a desired item here, the synchronisation of the data was; something which is great in the iPod.

The Sony Ericsson is without the audio quality test a good second in this test and is close to the iPod. Especially on the great screen, the low weight and the small size, the better headset and the outstanding music options in the menu. The W950i looses some points with respect to the iPod on the user control, the smaller memory and the easier photo and video menu options. The camera is not available and it is also harder to synchronise photo and video data than with the iPod.

The difference between the Nokia and the Sony Ericsson is large. However the scores look alike, but that is because the Sony Ericsson did not participate into the audio quality test. The Nokia focuses on the external controls, the easy connectivity options, the nice accessory package and the availability of a camera. The Sony Ericsson has better looks and weight, the headset sounds better and the extended music options in the Walkman player 2.0 are great. Oh yes, watching video on the screen of the W950i is one big happiness.

The clear winner is the iPod, but we can say the W950i comes really close to the iPod. The Sony Ericsson also shows some options that the iPod does not have. The W950i is a phone and has the option to use stereo Bluetooth headsets. These are points that the user should consider when buying a MP3 player device nowadays.

Generally speaking we can say that when you buy a MP3 player you should also look at a mobile phone; especially the new N91 and W950i. Both models are close to the iPod and show that when spend a little bit more money you can get a device similar to the iPod but with a lot more into it. The choice between the two phones will be much harder and shall be decided on looks, size, weight and the expected audio quality of the W950i which is not tested at this stage. The camera inside the N91 will also be an issue, but the decision should be made especially on the MP3 player qualities of both devices and if you want to invest extra in stead of buying an iPod.

In relation to the headset types we should address you that when you buy a 3rd party headset it should fit your ears properly. You should decide if you like the in-ear concept better than the standard ear headset. Always adjust the volume when listening, do not put it too loud it can lead to ear damage.

(In this complete story several parts of the devices were not addressed such as the telephone functionality and the camera in the Nokia N91. The test was ment to check the MP3 quality of all three models. The choice between a device with and without telephone functionality needs to be made

by the user itself and was never addressed here. The other choice "Do I want a device which has it all?" should also be addressed by the user or

customer.)


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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

WOW i think i should go for W950i when ever i change from my 6680. Does this phone have remote sync option as all my contacts are on zyb.com and its my 2nd criteria for selecting a phone after higher storage memory.

Mohammed Moyeen.A said...

@anonymous

cool dude....u have my choice....i m also going for w950i....awsome model

elbert said...

Just a heads up in case your readers are interested in replacement iPhone Headsets for their iPhone, iPod, or Mac.