Finding the perfect MP3 player is harder than you'd think. Considerations of size, color, capacity, features, price, and compatibility, all need to be weighed before making a decision. Unfortunately, there's no perfect MP3 player for everyone. Even the most popular MP3 player option, Apple's iPod, is offered in a dizzying amount of colors, sizes, and configurations.
In this buying guide, we'll broadly define the two types of MP3 players on the market, and spend the following pages explaining what features to look for, different uses to consider, music compatibility, and the kinds of accessories you may want to purchase in addition to your music player.
First, let's look at the differences between hard-drive MP3 players and Flash-based models.
Most likely, a high-capacity player can accommodate every song you've ever purchased or ripped from a CD. Hard drives run from 20GB on up, and large players such as the 120GB Apple iPod Classic can hold about 30,000 songs.
Hard drive MP3 players such as the Microsoft Zune can hold a luxurious amount of music and video.
Pros: They store all your music on one device. They also tend to have more features and larger screens and are overall easier to use. High-capacity players give you the best bang for your buck in terms of price per gigabyte (for example, $250 120GB iPod versus $200 for 16GB iPod Nano).
Cons: These players are usually built around a 1.8-inch hard drive; thus, they are larger and heavier than the others. Also, hard drives have moving parts, so these players aren't ideal for strenuous physical activity. Finally, most use rechargeable batteries (usually lasting 9 to 45 hours per charge) that you can't replace yourself, so after several years, you might have to pay for a new model or pay to get the battery replaced.