Rio car MP3 player hits the road

Rio, a division of SonicBlue, unveiled the Rio Car player at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. It's now selling the Rio Car through its Web site store with a range of configurations and prices.

The unit that holds 10GB of tunes costs $US1199; the 20GB model, $US1349. The 30GB unit is priced at $US1599, and for 60GB you'll pay $US1999. All models ship with a mounting tray, software, AC adaptor, USB cable, serial cable, serial adaptor, and wireless remote control. With the 60GB unit you can store up to 1000 hours of music and enjoy a soundtrack as you drive across the United States without listening to the same song twice, according to Rio representatives.

You can assemble your own mix on your PC and transfer the files to the Rio Car player using the software that comes with the unit. The player also provides controls so that you can sort the music by title, artist, genre, album, and year. You can assign playlists an ID number so that you can find them easily.

Plugs into car, stereo, or PC

The device integrates with your car's tape deck, AM/FM radio, CD player, and amplifier using additional in and out ports. You can even slide it out of a standard car stereo slot and attach it to a home stereo system via standard RCA connectors, so you can play your mix at home as well.

You control the player with the wireless remote or with the buttons on the unit's faceplate. The display shows the album and track names, the artist, and the song length. Rio also provides about two dozen animations that display on the player's faceplate, ranging from graphic equalisers to patterns that dance in time with the music.

Rio is the first to ship an in-dash MP3 player, although numerous vendors are developing devices to take your MP3 collection portable, from handheld players to car stereos. For example, FullAudio released this month a development kit for its hardware and content partners to prepare devices that accept its MP3 subscription service, scheduled to ship this year.

The mobile MP3 market is expected to be a lively one. Market researchers at IDC say that more than 10 million compressed-audio devices will be sold by 2003, including portable players, car devices, and units that can plug in to your existing sound system.

Rio's parent, SonicBlue (formerly called S3) has said that it will repackage the Rio player in many forms.

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