Looking for the perfect DAP? Insignia Pilot may be it..
Not a commercial. I don't work for or profit from Insignia or Best Buy. I don't even like Best Buy. I always feel like I'm walking into a used car dealership when I go in one on rare occasions. I thought I'd pass on my latest find. I've been using Rio Carbons for about three years. Until now, I haven't found one that I thought would significantly improve on it's capabilities. I've been keeping an eye on what's out there however. My requirements are good sound quality, hard bookmarks, Audible compatible, standard UMS, at least 20 honest hours of playback per charge and at least 5 GB's of capacity. 5 GB's minimum seems to be the sweet spot for me as it's enough for a couple hundred high quality mp3's, tons of Audible books and periodicals and countless hours of podcasts. I didn't want one of the larger hard drive based devices. Small and portable only. Finally several players have hit or are about to hit the market that did all or most of the above: the Sandisk View (16GB flash player for 200 bucks) available for pre-order from Amazon, the Creative Zen (16 GB version with SD slot for about 250) and the Insignia Pilot (8 GB version with SD slot for 189). The View had more than enough capacity but as far as I could find out, does not let the user set hard book marks. Why all mp3 players including iPods don't let you set hard book marks is beyond me. No hard bookmarks is a deal breaker for me. Other than that, it looked almost perfect but hasn't been released yet. The Creative Zen looked great. The 8GB version is available right now but I haven't been able to find the 16 GB version for sale. It has an sd slot for added capacity, allows for hard bookmarking, is Audible compatible and looks to be great. My only gripe is that it doesn't integrate the sd card's contents seamlessly with the main memory so navigation can be annoying. Finally and after doing some research, I took a chance and bought Best Buy's house brand player, the Insignia Pilot. At first I was skeptical but after living with it for a couple weeks, I'm glad I bought it. The engineers behind this really did their homework and as far as I'm concerned, took the geek crown from the late great Rio engineers. I bought the 8 GB version. It's Audible compatible (including format 4, the highest quality Audible format), allows the user to set quick bookmarks, it's a ums device so I can bounce from my Mac to my PC's without any annoying software, has an sd slot that integrates seamlessly with the main memory, has very fast boots (about 3 seconds if no new content has been added), does extremely fast transfers from my pc and mac, has a form factor that is almost perfect and controls that are very intuitive. The sound quality is on par with my Carbon and 4th gen iPod. It doesn't do gapless however. All the above players do video, something I don't really care about but I tried it anyway. I downloaded a video file from Revision 3. It wouldn't play natively in the Pilot. The Pilot comes with the Arc Soft media converter. I've always avoided using the crapware that comes with a lot of products but tried it anyway. It installed painlessly with no annoying bells and whistles. I dragged and dropped the Rev3 file into Arc Soft and it immediately started converting it. It only took about 3-4 minutes for a ~45 minute, ~100 MB file. The Pilot has a 30 fps, 2.5 inch lcd screen. The quality is outstanding. Very smooth and clear video playback. At 2.5 inches, I wouldn't want to watch more than about 30-60 minutes of video, but what I saw was very impressive. It even has a video-out which can be re-mapped to a second headphone jack. There are a lot of features that might escape some but which I appreciate and other players miss. When bookmarks are set, all are deleted when you delete the file. This is something my Carbon wouldn't do. The battery is easily replaced by the user. The controls are very intuitive. When I put the player down, I barely have to look at it when I pick it back up. It also softbookmarks all audio and video files if you need to put it down quickly. You can delete files on the go. Most notable, it has bluetooth. If you're car's audio system has bluetooth, you can connect the Pilot wirelessly and painlessly. Bluetooth headphones are supposed to work too although I haven't tried a pair. Another nice touch is that it alway maintains a state of being disconnected from your pc unless a transfer is taking place. In other words, no more 'Safely Remove Devices' routine in Windows and no more dragging the device icon to the trash in OSX. I can't address reliability yet but so far, I'd have to say the Pilot is a winner. No freezes. Insignia could make it perfect by improving the materials a little. More metal, less plastic. I'd also like to see the hold switch black out the screen. With the hold switch on, any movement of the scroll wheel will activate the screen. I carry it in my pocket usually. I suspect the screen is turning on and off a lot which will affect the battery life. So far, I'm getting an estimated 15-18 hours of playback with audio only. Other brands such as Cowon, iRiver and Apple can't compete with the Pilot's overall package of featues. If Insignia improves the 'polish' on next gen, this will be a company to get excited about.