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Today's DAP headlines:

Creative comes to terms with itself by sneaking in the Zen Sleek Photo—too little, too late? Meanwhile, LuxPro has altered its already-updated-before shuffle clones (the "EZ Tangent" & "Top tangent") and redubbed them "EZ/Top Square". Although LuxPro will remain king in shuffle-cloning land, others are trying to jump on the bandwagon as well - RCA and Wolverine included. Personally, we like the look of i-Bead's upcoming 700 model a lot better because, you know, it's square and all. Nice screen on that one too, although not as nice as Archos' 4-inch screen as found on their AV530, a portable video recorder that has been put to the test by our French buddies. Finally, Dell realized that their DJ Ditty isn't going to do much damage unless the company actually starts promoting it. Luckily enough for us, they've decided to do it the insane way.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

In a not-so-shocking turn of events, Creative is planning on sneaking in the Zen Sleek Photo. That's right - a Zen Sleek that comes with an OLED-type color screen. Not a bad move, given the rather compact size and decent look of the original Zen Sleek... but isn't this a bit late by now? We've seen the Sleek Photo being offered (on a pre-order base) at some 330 Euro here and there, which isn't exactly cheap for a 20GB DAP. Apple already had color screen iPods available for purchase months and months ago, only to baffle the audience by coming up with the flash-based nano. Creative will release the Micro Photo (8GB, color screen version of the regular Zen Micro) within reasonable time as well. Question being, will the general customer prefer "excellent screen quality" over Apple's design-technical achievements?

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Speaking of Apple's designing skills - LuxPro never made it a secret that they "liked" the iPod shuffle. Some facts: LuxPro (based in Taiwan) introduced the so-called "Super shuffle" during this year's European CeBIT (Hannover, March 2005). They changed the name to "Super Tangent" shortly after that, while also redesigning the navigation wheel. Somehow, a few Super Tangents made it to the outside world before the product disappeared from LuxPro's website... only to make way for the "EZ" and "Top" Tangents. These were basically iPod shuffles with OLED screens mounted inside their respective casings - said players also got to see the light of day, albeit not for too long. It looks like Apple's lawsuits still weren't satisfied with the whole situation, and so LuxPro went to work and redesigned both Tangents *again*. They're now equiped with a "navigation square", rather than the aforementioned "iPod wheel". And so, the LuxPro "Ez Quare" and "Top Square" were born, with little to nothing having changed in terms of specifications. Both players offer extras like an FM tuner and voice recording but a suggested battery life of 8 hours per charge is far from impressive. The term "unimpressive" would characterize the company's "truly new" DAP, the Square Mini (what's in a name), as well.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Some will lead, and others will follow. Whereas LuxPro used the Apple iPod shuffle as its main source of inspiration, it seems as if other manufacturers have chosen LuxPro to be their own personal stimulator. Take the Wolverine Syllable-II, for instance. It's an iPod shuffle with a (simple-profile LCD) screen - how very original! It's not exactly expensive though, at $99 a piece (1GB solid-state flash memory). The same can be said for RCA's M100 series, although this will require you to drop an additional 10 bucks prior to obtaining a 1GB unit. There are 256MB and 512MB versions available as well (starting at $60), if anyone cares.

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Well, we prefer something like the i-Bead 700 over all that cheap imitational bogus any day. This slick, square-shaped black box not only looks hot like molten lava, but also offers quite a few nifty features here and there. Despite its miniscule size (1.2 inch diameter), the unit's TFT LCD is able to display 160 x 128 pixels and 262k colors at any time. Translated to human language, this means "one mighty fine-looking animated stamp perking up your DAP". All in all, the i-Bead 700 isn't exactly huge in terms of size either: measuring 45 x 45 x 16.5mm and weighing some 38 grams, this thing will fit in most pockets without too much of a fuzz. Supported formats include MP3, AVI (movies! yay!), WMA, ASF, OGG, JPEG and TXT, while the 700 also comes with a built-in FM tuner and a voice recorder. Capacities are said to be 512MB and 1GB, with a 2GB edition coming up. The estimated battery life of 20 continuous hours for audio playback (and 3 hours for video playback) isn't that bad either. Plus, it comes with an alarm clock slash stopwatch and some deadly-sharp corners to impress your enemies.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Just a quick heads up on the Archos AV530 again: our French colleagues over at generationMP3 have taken the effort to review this juicy Video Recording Brick. All in all, they liked it very much... calling it a "true evolution compared to the AV400" (AV500's successfull predecessor).

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

The initial reception for Dell's new DJ Ditty was far from "overwhelming", really. This flash-based, screen-equiped 512MB DAP really bored the crap out of most of us. Dell acknowledged the situation for what it was and came up with the wonderful idea of ridiculing the whole thing quite effectively. The company's so-called Ditty-O's are weird videos of some weird guy doing weird stuff while briefly mentioning the ever-so-boring DJ Ditty now and then. Hey, whatever works for them, right? Pretty funny stuff to look at while recovering from the occassional space cake, really.

Alright, that was it for today, boys and girls.