Dell DJ vs. iPOD: Comparing the 3G iPod, iPod Mini, and Dell Pocket DJ

  July 08 2004
Please note: this post was originally published on 7/8/2004. I've since updated it to include the Dell Pocket DJ and iPod mini. This does not cover the 4G iPod, 2G iPod Mini or the Video iPod.

Dell has since discontinued the hard drive-based Digital Jukebox line, including the Pocket DJ reviewed here.

Chris compares the Dell DJ to the iPOD. On paper, Chris says there are some advantages the Dell unit has over Apple's iPod.

Size Does Matter

Of course, there's a glaring omission in this comparison - physical size. With the Dell, what you gain in technical features you also gain in size. The image below shows the size difference between the original Dell DJ and the 3G iPod. The 4G iPod is of course a bit smaller (the 40GB model is about the size of the 20GB model there).

As you can see, it's a bit wider and thicker. It may not seem like much, but that bulk definitely makes a difference when you put it in your pocket.

The Pocket DJ, on the other hand, is quite small. Here's a picture of the Dell Pocket DJ, the iPod Mini, and a 3G iPod side-by-side:

I'll try to get a few other pictures up here, with other players as well. As I mentioned, the 4G iPods are a bit smaller than the 3G models.


The 3G iPod will charge when connected to a powered FireWire Card. (If you own a PC, note that many PCMCIA FireWire cards are not powered). The 3G version does not charge with USB 2.0, but subsequent models (the 4G and mini) both do.

The Dell Pocket DJ does not charge over USB. Actually, that's not entirely true. If you turn off the unit and disable any sync software, it will charge over USB, but it won't charge as long as it is "Docked". In other words, it won't charge while you're transferring music.

The interface

Of course, the iPod sets the standard with its simplicity. The UI is extremely intuitive and very easy to use. One of my biggest complaints has always been the ability to create custom playlists on the go. This is fixed in the latest version of the firmware, although you still can't give them a friendly name.

The Dell interface is very similar. Definitely not as polished, but it adds a few nice touches.

First off, you can create multiple playlists on the go. Actualy, I prefer their system for playing music. You can browse in the same ways as you can with the iPod - by artist, album, genre, etc. However, instead of just playing, you can "select" music into the Now Playing list. Basically, when playing music, it acts like the On-The-Go playlist on the iPod. The big difference is that you can actually save the current selection to a true playlist. You can also remove individual tracks from the list, instead of only being able to clear the playlist and start from scratch.

The Dell also has a hard button to return to the home screen, something the iPod sorely needs. On the other hand, the Dell uses hard buttons for adjusting volume... the iPod's scroll wheel is definitely better suited for this.

The iPod turns on and off instantly (or, rather, it 'sleeps'). By comparison, the Dell (at times) takes almost a half a second to start up and nearly two full seconds to shut off.

The Dell also lacks the ability to browse by Artist/Album when you initially select the Genre - the only option is to view all tracks. This works fine when you go to Artist - you can then browse to their individual albums, but sadly not with Genre, which is how I use this most often. Oversight?

Construction quality

Apple definitely puts out a well-made product. The iPod mini in particular is extremely sturdy. The Dell is sturdy, but aspects of it feel cheap by comparison, particularly the plastic scroll wheel.

Sound quality

The iPod sounds a bit richer than the Dell, but it's not a big difference... barely noticeable on my Sony MDR-EX51LP Fontopia Headphones. It's a bit more noticeable with my Ultimate Ears. The difference was a bit more apparent when hooked up through my receiver, but again, nothing major.

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