How to choose an MP3 player? Seems like an easy question, right? Well there are many factors to be considered when asking this question, ultimately there are dozens of models to choose from and when it comes down to it is what you are looking for as a user.
When figuring out what to purchase ask yourself the following questions:
1) How important is Convenience and Ease of Use to me?
Personally I find convenience a major factor, as I want to spend my time listening to music not figuring out how to navigate the unit’s menus or how to upload my favorite tunes to it. If convenience is important to you make sure you go to a store where they have several units set up, for example, Best Buy. This will allow you to play around and decide which navigation menus you prefer. If the learning curve of a poorly designed menu isn’t a concern then you could find better deals online or at a Walmart, but you wouldn’t get to ‘try it out’ before purchasing.
Another important convenience issue is how songs get onto the unit. Some players offer drag and drop via Windows (or even Linux/Mac). Some like this option, I find it hard to keep songs organized and prefer to use a well organized software program, my personal favorite being iTunes. Unfortunately, the biggest negative to iTunes is you are limited to iPod player support (though it is possible to find a few work-arounds for this it would make the process ‘less convenient’). Another good choice is Windows Media Player, though I traditionally despised the program it has evolved a lot in the last several years and has many features that are very similar (if not better) then iTunes. The biggest positive to WMP is that it supports almost every MP3 player on the market. To figure out how your MP3 player uploads songs and what software it will support you can look it up via the internet or it is often right on the box.
2) How much am I planning on using this? And for what?
This is very important as if you only plan on using the unit on a rare occasion it is probably a better option to find a solid but highly affordable MP3 player that won’t break bank but won’t break down either. Some units that fit this bill are Sandisk Sansa and Sony Walkmans (generally anywhere from $40-$150+ depending on the unit and features).
If you have the cash and want the very best I still personally stand behind Apple’s iPod. I will say that the Zune is starting to be a worthy competitor and honestly so is Sony.
Remember that if you are just using the MP3 player in the car, you don’t car about it being bulky and maybe even a featureless old-school b&w iPod would do the trick (on ebay for $50 or less anymore!). If you are using it for your morning jog a Creative Zen Stone or an iPod Shuffle is a great choice. Just remember there is no right unit, its all about what fits into your life.
2) Am I storing my entire collection or just a few favorites? Video or not?
If you want to have tons of room for your collection to grow you will likely want a larger capacity unit like a Zune or iPod Classic. Do you have video clips you want to take with you? Once again you are looking for high capacity. If you only have 50 songs you want to keep at a time and rotate your songs out then you can easily find a great player for $30-$60, such as a Apple Shuffle, Zen Stone, or a Sandisk Sansa Clip.
Ultimately, remember, there is no right or wrong. You might be very happy with a $20 Philips if you only use it once a month while taking a trip and hook it up to your car, etc. You might prefer a cheaper brand MP3 player to an expensive one just because you like its menu and buttons better. Thats okay. One nice thing about MP3 players that as long as you take care of them they will often last a long time and if you no longer wish to own a particular model they sell well on the net, especially if its a major brand like Apple or Sony. Finally, once you think you’ve found the perfect unit, log into the net and look for reviews. Chances are someone else out there owns it and wants to tell the world how great or how horrible it is! Good luck, happy shopping!