Are you looking for an MP3 player but am not sure which type and model to buy? There is a wide variety of MP3 players out there, from flash memory based players to hard drive based players. Choosing a good player from the market is no easy task. What features should you look for? What are the key considerations? This article aims to answer those questions and more. Now, let’s see how we can pick the perfect MP3 player.
Types of MP3 player
There are essentially four types of MP3 players in the market today. These include flash-based players, hard-drive based players and MP3 CD players. Let’s look at them in turn.
Flash-based MP3 players
Flash-based MP3 players have a flash memory chip built-in. They tend to be very tiny, ultra-portable and have no moving parts. As a user, you can do all your sports activities without worrying about your music skipping a beat. The downside to flash players is their high cost per megabyte. These players range from 32MB to 2GB, and the most popular models tend to be those from the Creative Muvo line, the iRiver iFP series and more recently, the Apple iPod Shuffle.
Hard-drive based MP3 players
Hard-drive based MP3 players use a 1.8-inch hard disk drive to store your music. The hard disk can hold large amounts of music – we’re talking about 10GB and above. If you have a large music library and want to store tons of music, a hard-drive based MP3 player is the way to go. The cost per megabyte is very low. The downside? Well, due to the hard disk drive, which has moving parts, these players are not suited for rough physical activity or extreme sports. One of the most popular MP3 players in this category is the Apple iPod, which is selling like hot cakes out there.
Micro hard-drive based MP3 players
More recently, manufacturers have come up with micro hard-drive based MP3 players like the Apple iPod Mini, Creative Zen Micro and Rio Carbon. Featuring a smaller hard drive (which still gives ample storage space of about 4 to 5 GB), they have a much more compact design compared to full fledged hard disk players. The few models mentioned above are selling like crazy too.
MP3 CD players
MP3 CD players are another type of MP3 player. These units look and feel like regular CD players. You can burn up to 150 MP3 songs to fill one CD-R disc, then play it on the unit. The disadvantage of such players is their large size and their tendency to skip if jostled.
Key Features of MP3 Players
Having looked at the different types of MP3 players, let’s look at the key features of an MP3 player.
Size and weight: If you’re looking to bring your MP3 player on trips or on sporting activities, a small compact design is very important. In such cases, you should go for a small flash based player or one of the micro hard drive players.
Storage capacity: This is an important factor too. If you need to store your whole music library into the MP3 player, then you probably need a hard drive based player with 10GB of storage or above. If you only want a few select songs to listen to on the subway, then a flash based player would suffice. Do take note that some players offer expansion slots in the form of CompactFlash or SD cards.
Battery Life: This is often overlooked. Battery life is a very important consideration, especially if you’re out with your player and have no way to recharge. Hard disk players tend to have lithium-ion rechargeable batteries while some flash players offer AAA battery support. I personally own a Creative MuVo Micro N200 which uses AAA batteries. This is great for me because once it runs out, I can just pop in a new one – no hassles about finding some electrical socket to recharge.
Connectivity Options: The way the MP3 player connects to your computer is also an important factor. The latest models tend to support high-speed USB 2.0 transfers. The better ones like the Apple iPod also give Firewire support.
File Format Support: You will most likely be wanting to play MP3 songs on your player. However, if you want to listen to a wider variety of music files, like WMA or OGG Vorbis, then make sure you see it in the player specs.
Many of the latest players also include features I’ve not covered in the above. For example, some players come with a built-in FM tuner, which is very useful if you get tired of your MP3 music. Other have a built-in voice recorder which allows you to record audio as WAV files.
As you can see, there are many considerations to think about when purchasing an MP3 player. To get the most suitable player, you want to think about how you will use the player. Usage should drive your purchase decision. The other thing to take note of is to shop around, both online and offline – compare prices before shelling out the cash. Good luck hunting for that MP3 player!
Gary Hendricks runs a hobby site on digital photography. Visit his website at http://www.digital-music-guide.com for tips and tricks on selecting MP3 players, music services and music software.