Toshiba gigabeat MEGF20 $329
2.5 x 4.5 x .625 inch, 5.375 ounces · gigabeat.com
Target iPod photo
Memory 20 GB (10-, 40-, and 60-GB models also available for $279, $399, and $449, respectively)
Formats supported MP3, WMA, WAV, JPEG photos
Secret weapon By the numbers, the gigabeat's 2.25-inch (diagonal), 240 x 320-pixel LCD screen straight up outdoes the iPod photo's 2-inch, 220 x 176-pixel display. And those specs don't lie - I haven't been this impressed by a screen on a portable since I saw Sony's PSP. Fine details in photos - like eyelashes and clothing texture - were clear and colorful, although darker areas sometimes appeared pixelized. The display goes horizontal in photo mode to maximize the amount of screen used (which means you have to turn the player on its side to view your pictures), but it unwisely stays that way for vertical pics, and there's no way to flip them back. At least slideshows are simple to set up, though unlike its iPod rival, the gigabeat can't spit digital images out to a TV.
Extra ammo The Plus Touch - that's the plus-sign control on the front - is a so-so spin on the iPod's scroll wheel. It's a little finicky, and I would have preferred a "hard" button in the center, but it's easy enough to use. And you can bookmark individual songs to create a playlist on the fly.
Weak spot The gigabeat's music- and photo-managing software, dubbed the "gigaroom," is terrible! Not only do you have to first tell the player which software you're using (something it should figure out on its own), but the onscreen interface is almost completely icon-based, so navigating it for the first time is like ordering dinner in a foreign country - just start pointing at stuff on the menu and hope something good happens. In lieu of the gigaroom, you can use Napster's somewhat more intuitive music manager, or Windows Media Player 10, which makes transferring tunes to the player only slightly less difficult than piloting the space shuttle.
Mission report The Toshiba's great-looking screen draws first blood in this fight, but its lousy software saves the iPod photo from being totally gigabeaten.
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