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Hopefully it's clear that in this review I'll just be looking at one aspect of Play.com, it's music download section. I hope this is inkeeping with Ciao rules and suchlike, if not, silly me.
The music download section of Play.com 'PlayDigital' is something that I have been overlooking for a very long time, and I regret that very much, considering the amount of money I've spent on iTunes' broad but flawed download store.
I recently began really shopping around for digital downloads rather than just, quite lazily only using apple's itunes store. I suppose the reason I mainly used this store was that it's built into the music player that I use, a very handy advantage that iTunes have in this market.
I soon found that there were a few other online retailers that were selling tracks either cheaper than iTunes or at a much better bitrate for the same cost. The retailer I was most surprised about the quality of was Play.com. I'm not really sure why I was surprised, I'd used Play.com many times before, and often found that they had pretty good value. I think it's mainly because Play.com hasn't yet really established a big reputation in the digital download business, something I feel it probably deserves.
PRICE was the first thing that really struck me about the Play.com download store, of the three digital retailers that I use (the other two being iTunes and 7digital) Play.com has regularly been the cheapest. For example today I watched the video for the song "Over It' by Dinosaur Jr. I liked it so much I wanted to download it, so I checked all three of these retailers and found that iTunes was charging 79p, 7digital was 99p and Play.com was only 70 pence.
So what do you get for your money? Well you all of Play.coms downloads are in Mp3 format, which is mighty useful as it's compatible with all (you've guessed it) Mp3 players. But you get a Bitrate of 320Kbs, for those not familiar with what this means, roughly speaking the higher the bitrate the better the quality of the sound. iTunes uses 256kbs in it's own AAC format, which is compatible with a lot of Mp3 players and phones, but not all. You also don't get any DRM (digital rights management) that would lock your file from being used on different machines or devices, but most download stores don't have this nowadays, even iTunes has done away with it.
So, essentially, you're getting a better quality sound for less money, sounds great doesn't it? 7Digital uses the same bitrate as play.com but is a bit more expensive.
Albums are equally as reasonably priced on Playdigital, with some charting albums only £6.99. I just had a quick check and Kings Of Leon's 'Only By The Night' is at £6.99 on Playdigital whereas it's £7.99 on iTunes and on 7digital it's the same.
The Playdigital store is also really quite easy to use too. If you're familiar with Play.com and have an account it's even easier, if not, it's a snap to set up.
Once you have you can explore the selection of songs and albums by searching for something specific or recommendation and new releases organised by different genres. When it comes to actually downloading the tracks or albums you want you're provided with a list of your recently purchased songs and you can simply click to download which it does right inside your internet browser. If you're downloading an album it gives you the option of downloading as a whole ZIP (compressed) file rather than having to download each track, which is a nice touch.
Something I don't like about the store though, is the re-downloading, if for example you lose or delete your file Play.com says you can come back to your account and download again, but there is a limit to the amount of times you can do this, and you are not aware of that limit as it changes from record label to record label even band to band.
This is a shame, although this service isn't even offered by itunes, there is a very useful 'download locker' on the 7digital store that let's you re-download at any time.
So all in all, the Play.com download store, 'Playdigital' is a great, good-value and high quality alternative to other download stores, give it a go next time you want to download a track or album.