RCA Launches Gem Digital Media Players

RCA is hoping to ignite some competition in what’s euphemistically called the “value segment” of the personal digital media player market with the launch of its Gem line of digital media players. The players aim to offer features most consumers want at prices which won’t strain their budgets: audio, video, and photo playback; expandable memory; USB mass storage; and rugged cases which can handle being tossed in a bag or put through their paces at the gym.

“Since its launch eight years ago, the portable music player has become a must-have gadget,” said Dan Collishaw, RCA Audio/Video’s COO, in a statement. “In a highly competitive environment, we at RCA are focused on developing unique options to differentiate us from other MP3 devices. With sales of portable music players expected to stay strong throughout the rest of the decade, we know that there will be a growing market for targeted and affordable products and the new RCA Gem Line fits that bill perfectly.”

First up, the RCA Opal is available in 1GB and 2 GB configurations and handles audio (MP3, WMA, Windows Media 10 DRM, and Audible formats) along with JPEG images and “video” on its 1.5-inch OLED display. According to RCA, included transcoding software will convert video for playback on the Opal, but there’s no word on what formats are supported. RCA claims the Opal gets up to 15 hours of music playback on one charge of the built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery, and the device is compatible with “many” music subscription and download services; although RCA doesn’t actually say it’s a PlaysForSure device, it ships with Yahoo’s Music Engine. The 2 GB edition of the Opal carries a suggested price of $75; RCA plans to roll out other Opal versions throughout the year.

Next, the RCA Pearl is designed to function as both a music player and a USB thumb drive, and offers microSD expansion so users can boost its capacity by as much as 2 GB. The Pearl also features a voice recorder. As a music player, the Pearl supports MP3, WMA, Windows Media 9 DRM, and Audible formats, and RCA says the unit offers up to 15 hours of music playback on one AAA battery. The Pearl is available now in a 1 GB configuration for $49; RCA says additional models (like the 2 GB version on their Web site) are coming this year.

Finally, the RCA Jet is designed to the bumps and thumps of workouts and outdoor activity, offering a splash-resistant case, integrated stopwatch, and a body mass index calculator (although, unless it also includes a scale, we’re not sure how that’s useful). The Jet features an OLED display which can rotate 180 degrees for viewing when, say, strapped to your arm, and boasts an integrated FM tuner with recording capability. The unit supports MP3, WMA, Windows Media 10 DRM, and Audible formats, and should eke 15 hours of music playback off a single charge of its lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The Jet is available now in a 1 GB model for $69; again, RCA is promising different configurations over the course of the year (like, again, the 2 GB model on its Web site, we presume).

What’s kind of interesting is what RCA has left off its Jet music player: the company is already promising a future version of the player with integrated Kleer wireless headphone technology. Users won’t be able to use the Kleer system with Bluetooth devices, but for workout fiends who struggle with headphone wires, any cord-free solution is usually welcome.

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