Just about a year ago, the first portable MP3 players appeared on the market. Today, many more players are available, and trying to decide which is right for you can be overwhelming. To root out the wanna-bes of the MP3 player market, we tested seven players that were ready in time for our roundup.
We found that sound quality didn't vary noticeably among these devices. Instead, the players vary in storage capacity, supported storage media, and the type of connection used for transferring music files from your PC to each MP3 player. Ease of use, additional features like voice recorders and radios, LCD quality, and the general design of the players are also important.
Of the seven products here, all but two rely on parallel-port connections, which are inconveniently slow compared with the USB connections offered by the Diamond Rio 500 and the HanGo Personal Jukebox. We expect USB to catch on in this market quickly. In fact, several new USB-based playersthe Creative Nomad II, Samsung Yepp, and Sony Vaio Music Clip and Memory Stick Walkmanjust missed our roundup.
As for storage media, most players use one of two competing formats: Smart Media or CompactFlash. Smart Media cards are smaller, but the largest-capacity CF card stores at least twice as much as the biggest SM card.
With its generous storage space, USB connectivity, and industry-standard SmartMedia, the Rio 500 runs away with our Editors' Choice. The Sensory Science raveMP 2100 earns an honorable mention for its excellent feature set and is a great choice for those who have older PCs that lack USB ports.
In coming months we expect to see players that support copy protection. Also look for players that support additional music formats such as Microsoft's Windows Media.