after all these great replies, i'm starting to think the clip is the way to go. the main advantage of the i9 for me would just be battery life. also i can pick up an 8gb original clip for about 5,000 japanese yen delivered. an 8gb i9 would have me looking at 10,000 (16gb is 13,500). a clip+ is basically unavailable in japan or prohibitively expensive to get online.
if i go for the original clip, what are the main advantages of rockboxing? i read that the version is still not 100% supported, and the audio quality is supposedly excellent already.
i'm tempted to get a teclast/s:flo2 as well, just as a stay-at-home beast that i can potentially hook up to my cmoy. if it could stream mp3s over SMB then we'd really be talking. ^ ^