Monday, July 03, 2006

Oono MiniDAB

Look again at the above photo. The device on the right isn't an iPod, it's an Oono MiniDAB, which went on sale in the UK today. Yes, its an MP3 player, available in a choice of white or black, which apes the iPod both in styling and form factor, but the MiniDAB has a little something extra to offer and the clue's in the name; DAB - the digital radio technology which promises listeners more choice, better reception, easy tuning and accompanying text and data services and is flying off the shelves as a result (over 3 million DAB sets have now been sold in the UK).

First things first, this isn't an iPod killer. But then again, what is? The iPod does what is does with such finesse that its difficult to see it being improved on by anyone other than Apple. That said, there's a lot the iPod doesn't try to do and one of those things is radio. Yes, there's the add-on FM radio remote, but it offers a clumsy analogue interface which feels incongruous with the rest of the iPod experience. Surely a digital music device deserves a digital radio?

Enter the MiniDAB, the first product from Oono, which aims to bring "quality audio products to areas of the market where none existed before". Of course the MiniDAB isn't the first combined DAB/MP3 device - PURE got there some time ago with the PocketDAB 2000 - but it is the most pocketable.

The Oono is not only shorter and slimmer than the iPod it also weighs 41 grams less. The trade-off is depth (an extra 8mm) and inferior build quality, although I understand both of these will be addressed in future iterations of the MiniDAB. It also trumps the iPod in terms of battery life, promising 22 hours of MP3 playback versus the iPod's 14 hours (although DAB playback drops the Oono's battery life to a less impressive 8 hours).

Other selling points of the Oono include an FM radio, a built-in speaker and the ability to record direct from the radio into MP3 format. All in all, it's a nice piece of kit which, despite appearances, offers something distinct in the crowded digital audio player marketplace. My only reservation is the asking price - I can't help feeling that £179.99 for a device with just 128MB of built-in memory might prove a little steep...

Apple iPod (30GB)
Dimensions: 104 x 61 x 11 mm
Weight: 136g
Claimed battery life: 14 hours
Memory: 30GB
Price: £219

Oono MiniDAB
Dimensions: 99.2 x 56.2 x 19 mm
Weight: 95g
Claimed battery life: 22 hours
Memory: 128MB (Expandable to 2GB via SD expansion slot)
Price: £179.99

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