Napster to Go - long term test review

Napster’s to Go service offers you all the music you can download for one single monthly fee, but is the subscription model something that we should all sign up for, or should you stick to pay-as-you-click? Pocket-lint has been testing the Napster to Go service for the past three months against Apple iTunes to see how the systems differ.

Working from the same software as the standard Napster service (reviewed here), the Napster to Go interface is identical in everyway. This has its pros and cons, mainly that the software is geared to adding on the sale. Find a whole album to download and you are prompted to pay. Attempt to burn a CD and you are prompted to pay. Even certain track automatically give you that prompt to pay.

Get past the prompted to pay element and you’ve got free reign on 1,000,000 (yes that is six noughts) songs. The service has been broken down into a number of areas and search methods - artist, album, genre etc and even official charts for the last 50 years.

With whole album downloads out of the question (yes you guessed it - prompted to pay) you will have to fill up your chosen MP3 player one track at a time. To make this easier you can stack up the downloads and once you’ve had your initial splurge it isn’t that bad as you a la carte your way through the choice of songs available.

We’ve been testing the service with Creative’s Zen Micro, which holds about 1200 songs and over the three months we’ve yet to fill it up although we have been slowly adding new tracks each week.

Once transferred to our Micro the drive became invisible to other computers - all part of the stringent Digital Rights Management system in place and this extends to burning CDs. The option is there, but then so is the prompt to pay for the tracks you want to burn. This music is staying on your PC’s hard drive or that lone MP3 you’ve opted to store them on and going nowhere else.

Forgive the lack of transferability and you’ve got a rather good service that allows you to experiment with what music you listen to without the fear of wasting your money on something you don’t like. Over the course of our three-month test we’ve listen to some pretty interesting tracks that we admit we wouldn’t have perhaps tried had a 79p price tag been attached.

Additionally because you are not restricted in how many tracks you download, rather like an all you can eat breakfast buffet in a Vegas hotel, if you don’t like something you can simply throw it away and grab another something else.

Verdict

So how does it fair to iTunes Music Store (iTMS)? The software itself is easy to use and as Apple doesn’t offer a subscription service (yet) we can’t really test like for like.

Downloading and organising tracks is a similar process in both services. Where it differs is that once you’ve bought your track from the iTMS you can do with it as you will - transfer it to multiple devices that are paired with the machine or burn it to a CD, but then you’ve paid the extra to do that.

For the person still making the transition to a complete digital experience the subscription service may still jar. The inability to burn the tracks down to a CD will become annoying.

However we believe those who have embraced a digital music world won’t find this a problem as they are used to either listening to tracks on their MP3 player, or their computer. Even there friends have embraced the digital lifestyle and are fully prepared for them to come around and plug in their MP3 player into an amp to share the love. Of course, none of these digital lifestyle embracers still have a CD player - that’s so last century.

So where does that leave the Napster to Go service? If you’re ready to sign up to the Buddhist belief then it’s for you as you never get to own tracks tracks merely borrow them on a long term basis. With this choice, you promise to become a Napster to Go subscriber for life as the moment you stop your monthly subscription the moment your music collection will disappear and become unplayable.

Napster to Go isn’t necessarily a better option, its just another way of thinking and different ways of thinking always take time to catch on.

If subscription is the way forward for music and other areas of our life, and for the most part it probably is then Napster To Go will be just the start of things to come.