At the time, these products were nearly unique in the marketplace. Since then, however, the number of choices have multiplied. Pop over to Crutchfield.com and you'll find no fewer than nine head units capable of playing CD's full of MP3s. Clearly, the market has expanded rapidly. (See my review of one such unit from Aiwa.)
But Xeenon hasn't exactly sat still in the meantime, and I recently received a sample of their latest work: a device called MPire. In what's becoming typical Xeenon fashion, they've once again brought something fairly unique to the table, this time in the form of video.
Shuttle II and then some
The MPire has a lot in common with the MP Shuttle II, and many of the features and issues are similar. If you are unfamiliar with the Shuttle II, you may want to read my review of that product.
I'll briefly summarize the idea behind both the Shuttle II and the MPire. The units come with two drive bays and a caddy that fits in the bays. One of the bays is pre-installed in the main unit, the the other is user-installed into a computer. Then, the user installs a (separately purchased) hard drive into the caddy. The caddy and bays enable the drive to be easily switched between the computer and the MP3 player, allowing files to be added and deleted in a convenient manner.
Although there are many similarities between the Shuttle II and the MPire, there are also some glaring differences, and the most obvious one is external appearance. The Shuttle II's black, plastic/metal casing has given way to a bright, all-metal case for the MPire. Indeed, the only externally visible plastic you'll find on the main unit is the drive caddy.
Another improvement involves the remote control. Although the number of buttons and their function is basically the same, the layout has changed and the entire remote has been redesigned. The result is a piece that not only looks much better, but has much improved button feel and feedback, as well.
The MPire also features some improvements that are supposed to eventually make their way into the Shuttle IInamely, support for drives up to 137 GB, as well as a playlist function. The advantage of the former is obvious, and I'll explain the latter feature soon.