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MP3 Player Buyer’s Guide

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010 by | Filed Under: Hardware & Peripherals
 
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Do you want to listen to music while on the go? Watch videos and play games? Or, maybe even surf the net? If the answer is yes, consider getting yourself an MP3 Player. Before you do, however, read this tip to get insight on what to look for in MP3 players. Since the prices of MP3 players vary from $25 to over $200, this guide will help you decide on what to look out for.

So, how do you go about buying MP3 players? Let’s start by first asking questions.

How do you intend to use the MP3 player?


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Some MP3 players have basic features, while others have a variety of high-end features. Usually, the features of the MP3 player drive up the price. The features you need in the MP3 player are dependent on how you intend to use the MP3 player. For example, you might want to use the MP3 player for listening to music only. Alternatively, you might want to use the MP3 Player to listen to music, watch videos, and even play games.

How you intend to use the MP3 players dictates the features and storage capacity necessary.

How much storage capacity?


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After you’ve decided on the use, look for the most suitable storage media. There are two storage media types, Hard Disk and Flash Memory. Make sure you go for one with Flash Memory, because Hard Disks are prone to wear and tear and are bulkier. Nowadays, it is common to get MP3 players that use Flash memory with a capacity of over 16 GB. To get a feel of how much you can store with a 16 GB MP3 Player, consider the following:

– 4000 songs, or…
– 20000 pictures, or…
– 24 hours of videos in standard definition.

Note: Not all MP3 players have the ability to play video files.

How important is the screen?

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The screen determines what you see while viewing a video. The larger the screen, the clearer the pictures and video screening. Also, the larger the screen, the bulkier the MP3 player. If you intend to use the MP3 player just for listening to music, then the screen size would not matter too much to you. However, if you have problems with your eyesight, a larger screen is always better.

Tip: Use the MP3 player to navigate to songs and download music. Some MP3 players, such as the Apple iPod, require you to use special software such as iTunes. While other MP3 player manufacturers, such as Sony, can download music using Windows Explorer.

What Audio and Video Formats should the player support?

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This is often left out of a buyer’s checklist. I bought an MP3 player and realized it would not let me watch movies recorded in MPEG4 and I couldn’t view pictures in BMP format. The tip here is to get a player that supports as many recording formats as possible. You never know when it’ll come in handy. The audio and video recording formats that players support can be:

Audio: AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless, ASF, Audible, FLAC, MP3, MPEG4, OGG, WAV, WMA, and WMA Lossless
Pictures: BMP, GIF, JPG, and PNG
Video: DivX4, DivX5, H.264, Motion JPEG, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, WMV, and XviD

Why is Battery Life Critical?

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MP3 Players are meant to provide people with access to music, videos, pictures, and Internet. This access takes battery power. If you have a hard drive based player, the movable part in the hard drive chew battery life even more. Flash-based players are much more efficient providing between 20 to 40 hours of life before recharging.

If you are on the go for long periods, such as during long haul flights or during transit, battery life might be a critical consideration for you.

What Features Should You Consider?

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Like I said earlier, there is a lot more to MP3 players than simply playing audio files. The list mentioned below provides a few features:

Bluetooth Connectivity: Useful for seamless transfer of files to and from your computer
FM Radio: Useful if you enjoy the radio.
Internet Browsing: Nowadays, it is quite common to download music from a subscription site, such as iTunes. Some MP3 players allow you to download straight to the MP3 player. Traditionally, you would have to download the songs first to your computer and then transfer them to your MP3 Player. Some high-end MP3 players, like the iPod Touch, even have a touch QWERTY keyboard so that you can surf the net.
Games: The MP3 player is now more than just for listening to music and watching movies. Some MP3 players now come with gaming capability.

What Accessories Should You Consider?


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The list below provides a few accessories that are worth the extra buck:

Headphones: Spend extra money and get yourself a good pair of headphones. The quality of music you hear is highly dependent on the quality of the headphones. If you have the money, go for noise canceling headphones.
Docking Station: In my room, I have a Bose system that only takes in an iPod. My decision to buy an iPod was based not on the features of the iPod, but the fact that the Bose docking station on supported iPods. If you intend to use the MP3 player in your room, then consider taking a look at the possible docking stations available.
Jogging Kit: A very useful accessory for fitness freaks. The MP3 player fits neatly into an arm band, hence you can focus on jogging.
Car Adapter: This accessory is an essential element. Your car is usually a great place to listen to music.

Does brand really matter?


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You’ll notice that the prices of similar specification MP3 players vary with the brand. Brands give a sense of credibility and security to a product. Therefore, in an ideal world, a branded product is usually better than a MP3 player from a yet-to-be-established brand. Though this is usually true, it is not written in concrete that branded products are indeed better. It is best to go for a branded product if it gives value and you have heard rave reviews about it. Reviews are an excellent way to determine the quality of non-branded product too. Trust me, there are many MP3 players from unheard of brands that give excellent value. They are also usually cheaper!

The most popular brands in the MP3 world are: Apple iPod, Sony, Zune (from Microsoft), and SanDisk.

Are there any “great” Mp3 Players out there?

There are many! It all depends on how you answered the preceding questions and what your budget is. Here are some with a 16 GB capacity. You’ll also notice how the price differs for the reasons listed above. You might want to consider the following:

Zune HD 16 GB Video MP3 Player: Approximately $ 170
Sony Walkman NWZS545RED 16 GB Video MP3 Player (Red): Approximately $ 110
Apple iPod Nano 16 GB Black (5th Generation): Approximately $ 150
SanDisk Sansa View 16 GB Video MP3 Player (Black): Approximately $ 90

~Rupen Sharma

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