Find Your Musical Center

IPaq's Music Center offers an easy way to organize your music

By Melissa J. Perenson

When you own more than 500 music CDs, a little disorder can become chaos. Compaq's IPaq Music Center is an appealing fix: All your music lives digitally on its hard drive, so you can access any track with the click of a button--either on the remote control or the unit's front panel.

Organizing up to 5000 songs doesn't come cheap: The Music Center is $800--about twice as much as a typical 400-CD jukebox. Still, for a first iteration, this shipping unit is a well-thought-out consumer device. You connect it to a TV to see setup screens, playlists, songs, and album covers. Playlist info also displays on the unit's LCD panel.

Copying music is easy--just insert a CD, press the Record button on the remote twice, select individual tracks or the entire CD, and go. In my tests, generating 128-kbps MP3 copies of all the tracks on a typical CD took 7 to 10 minutes, and I generally found the sound quality to be good.

The unit connected to my ISP via a built-in 56-kbps modem; it then accessed Gracenote's CDDB, an online CD database, and imported the track and title information for each album (it did have trouble with non-English characters such as accent marks). This import feature doesn't work with America Online or free ISPs, but it does work with Home PNA networking. The most tedious part is using the cramped buttons on the unit's remote control to enter your text information.

There's a lot to like about the IPaq Music Center. But its high price, as well as its lack of a CD-RW drive and a bundled USB keyboard (which would eliminate having to enter data through the remote), makes me want to wait for the next version.

From the October 2001 issue of PC World magazine