Something interesting and unexpected: a second-hand iPaq 5450 plays MP3s with much better quality than a dedicated Dell DJ MP3 player. Played through the same set of headphones, the stereo separation and dynamic range are noticeably better from the iPaq. I thought with dedicated hardware the Dell would perform at least as well as the iPaq, but not so.
I wonder where the difference lies? I guess the iPaq 5450 was a pretty hot piece of hardware when it first came out, so they didn’t skimp too much on parts like the headphone plug. Plus it has a 400MHz processor, versus whatever 50 cent embedded Taiwanese chip the Dell uses. But surely the decoding process is no different if you’re using hardware versus Windows Media 9? I’d love to know what makes such a huge difference.