Toshiba announced today they its latest version of the Gigabeat U, the U202, is now available in the United States through direct order. Crave reported on an earlier, Japan-only version of the Gigabeat U (the U201) back in March, when we marveled at its high-quality 1-bit DAC and built-in FM transmitter. This latest version of the Gigabeat U has an updated look, but it seems to have dropped the Gigabeat U201's nifty built-in ability to broadcast playback over FM. We're kinda bummed.
Sure, Toshiba was able to shave about $50 from the Gigabeat U's price, but the Japan-only U201's FM transmitter seemed like such a unique method for sharing music to other FM-tuner equipped devices.
I think it's also fair to assume that Toshiba's silence on the type of audio input converter used on the latest U, means that it's probably not the same high-end 1-bit DAC advertised on the U201. [Correction: Despite my earlier guess, it does look like Toshiba held onto 1-bit DAC line-input recorder afterall, so users looking for a device capable of making high-quality direct recordings should be pleased.]
Regardless, a $99, 2GB, color screen Gigabeat U with an FM receiver and line-input sounds relatively tempting, but still pretty "meh" compared to the product Toshiba could have given us. To add insult to injury, the U.S. version of this Gigabeat U comes in only two colors (black and silver), while the Japan version comes in 24 colors! Then again, does the world really need a mauve MP3 player?
I'll reserve judgment until an actual review unit comes across my desk.