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The MP3 Player Buying Guide

11/01/2006 10:59AM ● Published by Brandi Barnett

With somanyMP3 players on themarket, finding the perfect model can be difficult. Because each person needs different things, you must consider various options before you make a buying decision.

And sinceMP3 players can cost a few hundred dollars, you want to buy the right model the first time: one that you can enjoy for years without problems or frustrations. Here are the most important things you should consider and research before you dish out your cash.

Standalone versus Integrated Players
StandaloneMP3 players basically play music. They aren’t extra features that come with your
cell phone or USB flash drive. These are more expensive, but are good options for many people.

One of the biggest advantages is that the standalone players generally hold more songs. integrated players, however, make your waistline, purse or backpack less crowded. If you buy
a cell phone that can playMP3s, you only have to carry one device. This option is usually less
expensive than buying both devices separately.

Compatibility Check
If you use download services like iTunes, you need to make sure that the player you buy will be
compatible. If not, you must be willing to change a few small things so that you can easily
transfer files from your computer to your new player.

If you use iTunes to rip your CDs to your computer’s hard drive, or buy tracks through this
service, you won’t be able to transfer them to a non-AppleMP3 player without making a few
changes, (though there is something to be said for iTunes commanding share of the US legal
download market). You’ll have to convert the file types: most players recognize .wma and .mp3
extensions, not the .m4u type that iTunes uses.

Another option is to use a different program to rip your CDs. This way, they’ll already be in .mp3 or .wma format, making them easy for almost everyMP3 player ever made to recognize.

ManyMP3 players are labeled as being compatible across the boards. Look at this information carefully before you buy. If the download service that you use is part of this agreement, their logo or name will be listed on the packaging. If not, you should assume that you’ll have problems with that particular player and the music service you use the most oen.

Different Battery Types
Many players use disposable batteries. This is an advantage because you can buy replacements almost anywhere for just a few dollars. The big problem is that you might not get much battery life. Some models suck down juice even when they’re turned off because they remember the place they were at when you shut them down. But even if your player actually shuts off completely, the disposable battery can only provide so much power before it dies.

Some players have rechargeable batteries designed specifically for those devices. You should check these models out before you buy to make sure that you can buy replacements without too much hassle. If you have to order new batteries directly from the company, you might have to spend a few days without your music. But that won’t happen anytime soon.These batteries must be recharged on a regular basis – sometimes every day, depending on how much you use the player – but you can expect them to hold solid charges for months, if not longer, before you see any significant decline in performance.

You can also use rechargeable or lithium batteries to get more power for less money.

New versus Remanufactured
Buying a usedMP3 player isn’t a good idea unless you find one that has been refurbished by the maker. Otherwise, you don’t have warranty coverage or any guarantee that your device will work.

If the manufacturer offers a solid guarantee with its refurbished products, you can save quite a few bucks on your new player. You can even find the latest models in some cases.

Extra Features
FMtuners, built-in microphones and video capabilities are just a few extra options that you’ll find on different MP3 players. All of these features will increase the device’s cost. If you don’t really listen to the radio very often, you probably won’t need that option. If you could not care
less about watching music videos on a screen that’s roughly the size of your palm, you can certainly skip the models that offer this capability.

You should also look at the capabilities of each player. Do you have a display screen, or do you have to guess at what you’re trying to do? If you get the FMradio, does the player remember station presets? Does the player remember the song’s position when you turn the power back on?

Easy to Use versus Poorly Planned
Some makers didn’t put much thought into things like button layout. Visit a store that has various players on display and experiment with them before you buy. Are the buttons easy to reach?How complicated is changing basic preferences? Do you have trouble figuring out how to get the player out of “repeat all” mode? Is the battery-power indicator easy to read?

Optional Accessories
Before you buy, you need to know what accessories you can get for yourMP3 player. You don’t want to invest two hundred dollars in a player, only to learn that the protective case or belt clip you were admiring in the store isn’t compatible with that model.

If you’re still having trouble with your decision, here are a few other things that you can do to help figure it out:

• Read product reviews written by everyday consumers. An Internet search will reveal dozens of reviews and ratings.

• Talk to friends and family members about theirMP3 players. In most cases, these people will be honest. If there’s something that they don’t like about their devices, they’ll tell you. If you’re very lucky, somebody might let you try his model out so that you can get a feel for it before you buy your own.

• Visit the manufacturer’s website. This is the best place to get system specifications, information about the different models and the baseline retail price.

When you know what you need and want, you can buy with confidence. You’ll know that your newMP3 player is compatible with your computer, your budget and your everyday lifestyle.

November 2006

In Print, Life+Leisure november 2006 mp3 player buying guide
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