MP3 Player Buyer’s Guide
MP3 players are portable digital media devices that can store and play audio files from a variety of sources including music converted on a PC from CDs, as well as downloaded music from online music stores.
There are numerous MP3 players available on the market; some can only play music which has been transferred onto the device, while others include features such as an FM tuner; or the ability to store and playback video.
In this expert guide the different types of MP3 players are explained; important features to consider during your review process, as well as what type you can expect within the different price ranges.
Available types of MP3 Players
The wide array of MP3 players can make choosing the most suitable quite difficult. To start your search, decide on the type of MP3 player that meets your requirements.
- Flash memory players
These compact MP3 players are the most inexpensive of all player types. They store the digital audio files on built in, or removable flash memory cards. Generally integrated with a memory stick, they are charged through a PC’s USB port. The storage capacity ranges from 64 MB to approximately 1 GB.
- Hard drive players
Hard drive MP3 players offer greater storage capacity than memory flash players as they use built in hard drives. The capacity range is typically between 2GB and 40GB. These players can often be played through a car’s radio system, or through add on travel speakers. Most of the hard drive MP3 players have a small screen which helps the user navigate through the menu options. Although larger than flash memory players, they are still pocket-sized.
- Advanced multimedia players
These MP3 players also use built in hard drives to store files, but they have a greater storage capacity of up to 160GB. In addition to storing and playing audio, they can also store other digital media files including photographs and video clips
The following specifications are important to consider during the MP3 player review and selection process.
- Memory capacity
The larger the memory capacity, the more songs the MP3 player will be able to store. High capacity players are quite expensive and therefore it is important to determine how many albums and songs you want to transfer to the device before deciding on the right MP3 player for you to avoid unnecessary expense.
- Audio Formats
The MP3 music format is the most common, however many online stores use WMA or AAC. If you intend buying music online then check that your MP3 player is compatible with these additional formats.
- Battery life
Some MP3 players, especially in the flash memory range, have relatively short battery lives – lasting for a few hours only. This is fine for a daily commute or for gym use, however if you intend travelling and are not sure when you will be able to recharge your MP3 player then it is best to look at a range of MP3 players that offer longer battery lives.
- Recharge source
Most MP3 players are charged through either a USB port or a Firewire connection to a PC. Some flash memory MP3 players use disposable or rechargeable batteries, while others can also be charged through the electrical mains.
- Additional features
Some MP3 players offer additional features such as an FM tuner, the ability to be connected to external travel speakers, as well as the ability to download video clips and photographs. Determine whether you need any of these features before buying an MP3 player as the more features it has, the more expensive it is going to be.
Entry level budget
It is very possible to buy a decent, but basic MP3 player for under $50. Generally they are flash memory players and have a maximum storage capacity of 1 or a couple of gigabytes.
Many of these MP3 players are really small and therefore perfect for use when jogging or working out. Many of them come with a FM tuner and voice recorder built in. There are truly many manufacturers of this type of MP3 player so we will not give any specific product advice. Our recommendation is to look for as much memory capacity as possible and be sure the player has an easy “drag and drop” interface for copying files.
If you are looking for more storage capacity; better sound quality or additional features then be prepared to spend between $50 and $100.
In this segment you can expect a little more from you MP3 player, it should come with a display and a little more memory. There are even some players in this segment which can displays video and photos. These players are still very portable and excellent for use when working out or jogging.
For top of the line MP3 players with the largest storage capacity and has all the features you could ever want in an MP3 player expect to pay over $100.
Of course it’s hard to write a guide without mentioning the Apple iPod and we really think that the iPod is a great device. However there are many other manufacturers of excellent MP3 players which are just as good and have the advantage of no iTunes (the program Apple uses which many find very annoying).
The wide variety of MP3 players can make shopping around for one a confusing task. The first question you should ask yourself is what you are going to use your MP3 player for, is it for listening while working out or will you use it on the bus or the train to work. This should set you up for doing the best choice.
Once you have decided on the size and features you want, then head over to testseek.com to compare different models and find out which products have received the best scores in expert reviews from all over the world.
Disclaimer: This guide was written in late 2008 and the specific product recommendations may be outdated. However the basic discussions in this buyer's guide may still be of great value.
Written by; TestSeek staff