Just last week I bought a Finis SwiMP3 for $138 from SwimOutlet.com with 128 MB of storage, which is used for playing music while swimming. Now I see that there is a new version with 256 MB of storage for $180. It appears that the hardware is the same, however.
I should note I am NOT an audiophile. This is my first MP3-playing device (and in fact I'm militantly opposed to wearing iPods, etc., while running or cycling on the roads or trails). I just wanted something to ease the boredom of lap swimming a little bit. Get in harmony with the water, become a mermaid, and all that.
The device comes with big rubbery goggles, which are okay, but not my favorite type. It did not come correctly mounted on the goggles, though, and when I took the straps out of the goggles to assemble it, I couldn't get them back in for love nor money. No big problem because I plan to use my own Speedo Vanquisher goggles with it anyway, but it was still annoying to unsuccessfully fight to reassemble the goggles that came with it.
The unit is kind of weird and bulky and ugly to wear. It seems like it really should be smaller, considering the small storage capacity, but perhaps that will happen in the next generation of hardware. The wires attached to the cheekpiece speakers seem flimsy and probably easily broken. It also uses an old 9-pin type connection (covered with a rubber plug which is not completely watertight) for connecting to the computer, which also seems like a strange choice and an easy place for hardware failure to occur. The directions say to dry out the unit completely before plugging it in.
The music software that comes with it (MediaMonkey 2.5.4) is available as freeware, and it was also annoying to immediately get solicited to buy a software upgrade when I installed it. The interface seems fairly cluttered and cumbersome to me, too, compared to the iTunes program. But I was able to get it to work and sorted out some music to listen to and downloaded it into the unit without too many problems.
It held about 1:45 worth of songs, I believe, which should be plenty to get me through all my planned swim workouts. However, if I want all new music, I'll have to reload it after almost every swim. That may be a big reason to pay the extra $42 for the 256 MB version, to have to reload it with fresh tunes every 3 swims or so. Personally, I find sorting through music on the computer a fairly tedious process.
It uses the plug into the computer to recharge (not separately into an outlet). The battery life is supposed to be about 4 hours. The red charging light switches from fast blinking to slow blinking when fully charged - I'd like to see a green light or something a little more definite.
First tryout at the pool: It fit a little tight and pulled my goggles hard against my eye sockets - I need to loosen them a bit! I didn't really notice the back-of-the-head unit, but perhaps I might if I did flip turns. I occasionally hit my shoulder against the cheek pieces, but it wasn't really an issue. At least you always know the unit is securely on your head, since it's attached to your goggles.
The sound is tinny and hollow out of the water. But IN the water, it's nearly perfect. Doing freestyle you always have one ear in the water, so it's perfect for that. In breaststroke, with both ears coming in and out of the water, the sound is kind of choppy.
But the bottom line?
Swimming with music is a THING OF BEAUTY. It is INFINITELY BETTER than just staring at the black line and getting bored out of your skull. Especially when you hit a song that has just the right tempo for your stroke and you can really swim along with the music, it's just like skating. Or dancing.
If you find lap swimming excruciatingly boring, buy one. The $138 model gets you plenty enough tunes for swim workouts of an hour or more. Load it with happy music. No Jaws theme.
I suspect that prices on the 128 MB model may go down from $138 after Christmas when retailers try to unload their stock, now that the 256 MB model is available. If you're in doubt, wait a few weeks and see if you can find a more tempting price.