A Review of MP3 Players: From the Sony Psyc Network Walkman to the Apple iPod Mini

One local reviewer gave me three top picks in three categories. He noted that prices for these picks are pretty reasonable but that www.overstock.com may have remarkably better prices now for these models.

Top Three Flash-Memory Players
1. iRiver iFP 790
2. Sony Psyc Network Walkman
3. Creative MuVo TX FM

Top Three Microdrive
1. Hard Disk Players Apple iPod mini
2. Dell DJ
3. Creative Nomad MuVo2

Top Three Hard Disk Players
1. Samsung YH-920 GS
2. Apple iPod M9282LL/A
3. Rio Karma

These picks are personal choice only; the reviews vary from reviewer to reviewer. The trick is to know what you personally are looking for.

The nifty thing about the digital age is that most digital devices perform on the high end of the scale. I won’t go quite so far as to say flawlesslyâÂ?¦.but they perform their designated key tasks very well indeed. Flash-memory players come in the convenient, small, light and economical variety and give you the MP3 music on the run. (Major Brands are Apple, Archos, Creative Labs, Dell, iRiver, Panasonic, Rio, Samsung and Sony. There are other brands out there also, but these are the best known brand names) The tough little flash-memory units are not likely to break if accidental bumps occur which puts them a step ahead of their next of kin, the hard disk players. Hard disk players can hold hundreds or thousands of songs, and provide somewhere around 4 to 6 Giga-bytes of storage but they are vulnerable to bumps and drops.

If you are looking for really small, light, and low in price check the iRiver. It sells for about $130 dollars and has very good signal quality, is easy to use, and the head phones are good quality. (It does not play online music). The Creative is another really small unit that is light and low in price at about $85 dollars. The Creative has awesome signal quality but is not quite as easy to use as the iRiver unit. It does play online music. You will want to choose the iRiver to rip your own CD collection but if you do not have all your favorite stuff on CD remember it does not play music bought on the online store venue. Another good lightweight and very small unit is the Sony Psyc Network Walkman NW-E105PS priced at around $100 dollars. This little jewel has excellent signal quality, is pretty easy to use, and also has really good headphones. Its about the size of an Oreo cookie and has a good long playback time.

The iRiver, Creative, and Sony Psyc are all Flash-memory players. These solid state players have the advantage of not having any moving parts. That feature ensures the output doesn’t skip no mater how hard your morning jog. They are totally light and tiny which makes them convenient to carry with you. These units are very popular with bicyclists, and avid joggers.

The players that can handle the storage and playback of all day nonstop music are a bit bigger and are hard drive models. The big capacity and still low price picks are the Apple iPod mini at $290 dollars, and the Creative Nomad at $230 dollars. Hard disk units typically hold hundreds of songs some even hold thousands of songs. There are enough GB’s for around a thousand hours of music. The tradeoff is the larger size and heavier package. Even these smaller micro-drive ones which are only about 9 to 10 centimeters or the size of the palm of your hand can weigh about a quarter of a pound. In this group you will also find the Dell DJ at about $250 dollars and the Rio Carbon at $200 dollars. These four Microdrive Hard Disk Players have consistently good signal quality and head phone quality. The Rio and the Creative are a bit clumsier to use.

Shopping for MP3 players can be such a heady experience that you sort of forget what the features that count most for you are. It’s important to remember a few basics. Music management software to convert your own CD’s into the playback format for your MP3, an ability to work with the windows PC format, and hopefully ability to support the Macintosh platform are pretty standard stuff. But be sure you know if the MP3 player you are considering has all those features. Upgrades are an important financial consideration so the player should have what might be called up-grade-ability. Some MP3 players do not have the LCD screen. For some buyers this is not an issue but most want to view the song title and track number of the current output. It also lets a person view the amount of memory remaining, and monitors functions such as battery life. Some MP3 players even sport the ability to let you view videos or text files on the LCD screen.

The iRiver iFP-790 (256 MB) is this tiny little thing that has great controls and an LCD screen, an FM radio, a built in microphone, and lets you scroll your playlist to find the perfect song for the occasion. The thing it does not do is play music from online stores. This inconvenience is no big deal for people with an extensive CD collection; but if you want the ability to play online music, go with the Creative MuVo Tx FM (256 MB). This little comparison indicates why you need to know what features are a “must have” for you personally.

It is important to check different review sources for information because they do not all agreeâÂ?¦this is a bit more of that personal subjectivity at work. For instance Consumer Reports: Electronics Buying Guide for 2006 rated the iRiver iFP-790 (256 MB) their top flash-memory player but http://www.pcmag.com rated the Apple Ipod Nano their Editors choice. Again it’s a matter of which features in a player are most important to the individual.

Three places to find reviews are:
1. http://www.consumersearch.com
2. http://www.reviewcentre.com
3. http://search.ecoustics.com

Best buying advice for MP3 players is:
1. be sure it has your favorite features,
2. be sure your computer is compatible with the unit you are considering,
3. think about whether you prefer long play capabilities over lighter weight,
4. look for a player that can be upgraded as the new technology comes out,
5. be aware of power issues (battery life),
6. check to be sure the player is easy for you to work with one hand and fits where you will carry it (hand, pocket or belt pack).

Doing your homework before you buy the device is incredibly important to the satisfaction you will experience with using it; but don’t agonize to much about the homework part. I actually found the reviews, the personal comparisons of sound quality and pricing, and the chatting with other users a very pleasurable way to do homework. Since MP3 players are going to be the ubiquitous device of music delivery for the foreseeable future, learning all about it is the activity that you do on days you can’t jog or work out at the gym.

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