MP3 players have become the de facto personal audio player, replacing personal tape and CD players almost entirely. The internal hard drive requires little room, enabling these MP3 players to fit easily into the palm of one's hand, a pocket or a purse. MP3 player shopping can be overwhelming because there are so many models and brands, but a few stand out as the top-rated MP3 players.
Apple's iPod family of MP3 player receives high reviews from consumers and professionals alike. Websites such as CNET, PC World and Laptop Mag consistently list the iPod as their highest rated players. Users can choose from a variety of models and designs, including the best-selling iPod Touch that is similar in appearance to the iPhone, with its touchscreen and application support. There is also the iPod Classic, which supports audio, picture and video playback and, at up to 160-gigabytes in capacity, can store 40,000 songs. The iPod Nano is a small and sleek player, available in several colors, that sports a touchscreen while the iPod Shuffle is a tiny, clip-on player that is perfect for active music fans.
Although Microsoft may be better known for its computer software, its electronics line includes the Zune MP3 player. This player integrates with Windows Media Player/Center on Windows computers, without requiring additional software. The user can also enjoy Zune content on Microsoft devices including the Xbox 360 and Windows mobile phones. As of February 2011, Microsoft offers a touchscreen player, the Zune HD, with capacities up to 64-gigabytes. In addition to this, consumers may consider the customized Zune Originals line, which features artwork on the back of the player and free text engraving. Most Zune MP3 players are available in multiple colors, including red, pink and blue, and sport physical buttons for users who prefer these over touchscreens.
Sony has successfully brought its Walkman audio players into the digital age with MP3 players. Walkman MP3 players integrate with multiple software solutions, including iTunes, Windows Media Player and Rhapsody. Starting at $399.99 (as of February 20011), the X Series offers 32-gigabytes of hard drive space and an OLED touch screen interface. Thrifty consumers may opt for the Walkman S Series, available in both 8- and 16-gigabyte capacities and pink, blue, purple, black and red finishes. The 8-gigabyte models offer up to 42 hours of battery life when playing music.
The Zen is manufacturer Creative's most recent, successful MP3 player. The players, including the Zen MX, X-Fi and Touch, rely on proprietary software to transfer music to the player. However, the software is also able to rip music from CDs onto the user's computer. The inclusion of a GPS feature, FM radio, WiFi and two-megapixel camera on the Zen Touch 2 makes it a viable alternative for consumers who want a player like the iPod Touch. In addition to this, users can expand the hard drive on the Zen MX SE and X-Fi by using the integrated SD card slot. This feature provides additional storage that many MP3 players do not allow.
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