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Types of MP3 Players


There are four types of MP3 players:


Hard Drive Players

Hard-drive MP3 players, such as the iPod and Toshiba Gigabeat, are largest in both capacity and physical dimensions.

Hard-drive MP3 players, also known as jukeboxes, are generally larger and heavier than flash-memory or micro hard-drive players.

Most of these hard-drive MP3 players can also be used to store data (other than music) from your computer.

Hard-drive MP3 players include:

  • Toshiba Gigabeat - 30GB (30GB, *est. $195) and 60GB models (60GB, *est. $230). Editors at PC Magazine call it their favorite non-iPod player. CNET placed in higher than the iPod, so it takes our number one slot in the top 3.
  • Apple iPod -
  • Creative Zen Vision - 30GB, [*est. $200] - best features are the quality of the screen, the GUI, and its video playback capabilities.
  • The Cowon iAudio X5 (30GB, *est. $205) - plays video and is compatible with music-subscription service but the interface is confusing.
  • Microsoft Zune (* est. $230) - in a 30GB capacity, has some extra features over the iPod, including a larger 3-inch screen and an FM tuner.


Flash Memory MP3 Players

The best two features of flash players is the small size, and the fact they have no moving parts, making them the perfect exercise accessory. However, the payback is that their storage capacity [up to about 2G] is signicantly less than Hard Drive MP3 players. A 256MB flash MP3 player holds about 60 tunes; 512MB - 120 and so on.

Standard capacity for new players is rising, with more expensive models up to about 8GB.

Flash-memory MP3 players are the smallest models.

  • Cheapest models have a basic 128MB of memory [ 2 hours of songs].
  • Most models have 1GB, 2GB, 4GB or 8GB capacities.

Flash players have no moving parts and are smaller and lighter than other types of MP3 player; making them the best option for jogging.

Flash Memory MP3 Players include:

  • iPod Nano - 2GB, *est. $150; 4GB, *est. $195; 8GB, *est. $240 - reviewers claim the Nano as "the most successful flash player".
  • iPod Shuffle - 1GB, est. $80 - a basic featured, clip-on wearable design, with a storage capacity of 1GB.
  • iRiver Clix - 2GB, *est. $160; $200 for 4GB.
  • Creative Zen V and V Plus -
  • SanDisk's Sansa e-series - including the 6GB Sansa e260 and the 8GB Sansa e280.
  • MobiBLU DAH-1500i - tiny size and easy navigation, with average audio quality and exceptional performance. Battery life is only 8.5 hours.
  • MobiBLU US2 - iG, *est. $100 - rated in top 5 flash-based MP3 players for delivering top-quality audio and plenty of features at an affordable price.
  • Cowon 2GB iAudio U3 [*est. $115] - this tiny player plays MPEG-4 video on a 260,000-color, 160 x 128 LCD screen and supports text and lyric (LDB) files, FM radio and voice recording, with a line-in jack for recording from external sources.

Micro Hard Drive Players

Micro hard-drive players use smaller hard drives, making the overall player lighter and smaller, but with less capacity. Since they still use a hard drive, they can also be used to store other data from your computer, acting as a portable hard drive.

Memory capacity is usually in the range of 4GB to 6GB.

Now that flash players have broken the 8GB mark, micro hard-drive players are becoming somewhat obsolete.

Micro hard-drive players include:

  • Creative Zen MicroPhoto - 8GB, est. $200 - less expensive and not as small as the Nano. Weighs just over 4 ounces, [iPod nano - 1.5-ounce]
  • Cowon iAudio 6 - holds 4GB of music or video files in all the major formats (except Apple's AAC), and it has a 260,000-color, 1.3-inch OLED screen.


Combo Devices

Other devices, such as mobile phones, satellite radios and CD players, have an embedded MP3 player. Even the Victorinox SwissBeat Swiss Army Knife claims to have an MP3 Player!!! Most combo options have limited storage, normally up to IG, with expansion slot memory cards.

Flash-based MP3 players are so small that they can easily be embedded in almost any other portable device.

One drawback is battery drain. For example, The Nokia N91 phone, rated at eight days of standby time, only gives ten hours of MP3 playback.

MP3 players included with GPS navigation units are powered by the car, meaning battery drain not a problem.

Portable CD/MP3 Players

Portable CD/MP3 players have no onboard memory and can play only what's stored on the CDs, including MP3 files burned on CD-R and even CD-RW discs, athough they may not be able to read and display the ID3 tags giving the track and title info.

The size of these units is limited by the dimensions of a CD, so they are not as small and light as an MP3 only player.

Music Phones

Market researchers predict that music phones will make up 27 percent of global phone sales in 2007; reaching near 70 percent by 2010.

The added MP3 electronics adds little to the size and weight of the phones. The major player is the Apple iPhone, currently a vailable only to Cingular subscribers.

Cell phones with MP3 players - available from Sony Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, LG and others.

NEXT: Key MP3 Player Features

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