Article > Portable MP3-DVD player
Description :: All I want is a Walkman type device that plays MP3s on a data DVD, without the added bulk necessary to play DVD-video.

Yesterday I decided, on a whim, to search for a portable MP3-DVD player.  This is something I've done off and on for several years now, and I always come up empty handed.  As usual, I came across several forums where people were inquiring about exactly the same thing I want.  The collective wisdom of the internet, once again, says that this is a product that does not exist.

What is this dream product?  Well it seems simple and obvious to me--something that would have demand outside just the "geek sector," and I see no technological reason it should be infeasible--and it continues to elude me why nobody has made it.  The concept is this:

Portable CD players often have the feature of playing MP3s.  That is to say, you can burn a data CD (rather than audio CD) full of MP3s, and the CD player will scan the file system on the CD looking for MP3s, index them all, and then let you play them as you would audio tracks (and the nicer ones let you browse the filesystem, randomize, shuffle by directory, etc. too).  Now, extend that to DVD.  A single-layer consumer-grade writiable CD (typically) holds 700MB, while a DVD holds 4.3 GB of data[1].  Such a DVD holds 6.3 times as much as a CD.

From my own personal experience, when I used to burn MP3 CDs to listen to on a portable player, I averaged about 130 songs per disc.  If I could use DVD discs, I could record about 820 songs on a single disc.  And unlike with an iPod (and its built-in hard drive), I can swap those discs out.  To put it another way:  let's say all your music fits in a 128 CD wallet.  Again, from personal experience, full albums rip encode to about 75 megs worth of MP3s[2].  That's just under 9.4 GB, or just over 2 full DVDs.  That entire CD wallet you carry around, or used to carry around before you got your iPod, could be just two or three DVDs you carry around instead.  And you don't have to worry about hitting that 40 GB limit you have with your hard drive, or constantly take songs off to put songs on.  I don't know this part from experience, but I know how big my music collection is, and it's not getting any smaller.  Also, I know upgrading to an iPod with a bigger hard drive (if you find your existing one too constraining) isn't cheap either.

So when I say DVD, understand that I'm talking about DVD discs, but not the DVD formats.  This has nothing to do with video, surround sound, or any of the other DVD-Video perks.  I'm just talking about using DVDs to store data, specifically MP3s, to play on a portable player.  A Walkman type device, running on two AA batteries, that plays 820 songs on shuffle.  Does that seem so absurd?  Why isn't this type of device on the market?

[1] Yes, I know they're advertised as 4.7 GB, but like hard drives, that's measured in base 10 (1K = 1000 bytes; 1M = 1000000 bytes).  Operating systems use base 2 (1K = 1024; 1M = 1048576 bytes), so Windows will tell you that a completely full DVD has 4.3 GB of data on it (rounded).

[2] I encode at 112-320Kbps VBR, generally.  From a random sampling, I saw everything from 50 to over 100 megs per album, but the average was in the 70-75 range.  I erred on the side of bigger albums so as not to make my argument seem better than it actually is.

[3] All prices were as of 8/15/2007.