This is a deal-breaker for me, as I only use Ubuntu. The next mp3 player should be manageable from a Ubuntu desktop. In order of preference:
- Manufacturer lists Linux support or compatibility on the box
- Manufacturer lists Linux support or compatibility on their website
- Device is known to work with Linux
Of course, I would also need to be able to update the device's firmware, but this isn't a must. I can probably find someone with a Windows box to do a one-time firmware update.
I spend a lot of time in airports and planes. This is where I use my player the most. I like watching videos and movies while on the move. I want at least a 2.5 inch screen, but it still needs to be light and small enough to fit in my shirt pocket. It's what I had on my 5G iPod Video, and it's the minimum I would tolerate.
Video conversion should be easy, and should not require Windows-only software. I should be able to encode video from DVDs I own, and from video podcasts I download from the Internet.
Bonus points if the manufacturer gives some example ffmpeg or mencoder command-lines in a wiki somewhere, or submits presets for their device to encoding software such as Handbrake.
I listen to a lot of podcasts. Since a lot of podcasts are available encoded in mp3 format, most people think they work on any mp3 player. Fact is, I want the player to be able to recognize podcasts and apply special logic to them the way iPods do. They need to:
- Have a “completed” flag to be able to easily spot the ones I've listened to already
- Automatically resume from where they were left off (without having to manually set a “bookmark”)
- Be in a separate list from regular music files
The most important criteria for me is the automatic resume one, and is the one most media players are lacking. I don't enjoy losing my place in a podcast when I get interrupted, or want to listen to some music. Trying to locate where you were in an hour-long podcast with a fast-forward button is painful.
Standard USB port
I want a media player with a standard mini or micro USB port for syncing and charging. I hate having to spend extra on spare proprietary cables. I hate having to lug ten different proprietary cables in my laptop bag when I travel. And most of all: I hate forgetting the proprietary cable at home when I leave on a trip. Even though the iPod has a proprietary connector, at least you can purchase a spare cable pretty much anywhere.
Of course, most devices come with proprietary ports because a standard USB port can't offer all the extra features that a portable media device needs, such as TV Out, Audio Out, Line in, etc. How about this for an idea, folks: USB for syncing/charging, and proprietary port for all the rest.
My dad came over the other day with a cheap no-name 3rd generation iPod Nano knockoff he bought at an electronics store. He was raving about how inexpensive it was.
The user interface was the most horrible thing I have ever encountered. It was so complicated to simply get a song to play that I would have paid double the price difference to never see it again.
On-demand playlist support
Although this isn't something that's absolutely necessary, I really enjoy listening to music while creating a playlist on the device itself.
The volume needs to be loud enough to listen to music and movies while on a plane. My Sony PSP isn't loud enough for me to listen to movies on a plane.
Open multimedia format support
It would be great if the device supported open multimedia formats and codecs, such as Ogg, FLAC and Theora.
Well, that's all I can think of for now. Based on recommendations in my blog comments, I have purchased a Cowon S9. Also, I have received a Creative Zen MX, and will be receiving a Sansa Fuse shortly. In the coming weeks, I'll be reviewing each of these (and maybe others) to try and find the ideal portable media player for Linux users.