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I Want My MP3

How Do They Squeeze Oh-So-Many Features into Oh-So-Tiny Doodads?


By Eli Spalter & Kevin Reylek

With the holiday season just around the corner, we approach the difficult task of trying to figure out which gifts are the best choices for you and yours. To help simplify the process we've compiled a list of one of today's most-wanted gift categories - MP3 players.

iPod Classic

iPod Nano

The first name that comes to mind when talking about MP3 players is, of course, the iPod. Most of Apple's iconic players still use the scroll wheel and user-friendly interface that helped the iPod to rocket its way into the hearts of music lovers everywhere. Plenty of new features, such as video playback, have been added making the iPod an even more formidable force in the MP3 market.

The iPod classic is the direct descendent of the original iPod. Featuring a slim chassis and slick new menu system with added graphics, the iPod has never offered so much in such a small space. Playing both audio and video, the classic is available in both an 80GB model and an astounding 160GB version, with the latter storing up to 40,000 songs or 200 hours of video! Its impressive storage capacity makes the iPod classic a great choice for anyone that wants to carry their entire music collection wherever they go. Other handy features include the ability to display notes, calendars, contacts, set an alarm, play games, and so much more. The iPod nano offers all these great features in a body that's a fraction of the size of the classic. Available in capacities of 4GB and 8GB, the nano may just be the ultimate stocking stuffer this holiday season.

On the wee end of the spectrum, there is the iPod's baby brother, the iPod shuffle. A favorite of exercise enthusiasts and commuters everywhere, the shuffle is all about convenience. This music-only player lacks the screen that's found on all other iPod models, and Apple encourages users to listen with the random "shuffle mode", hence the player's name. With a sturdy clip, this tiny MP3 player attaches to just about anything for a hands-free and unobtrusive music experience. Instead of an internal hard drive, the shuffle uses a skip-free 1GB internal flash memory chip with no moving parts for better reliability and a longer battery life. The shuffle comes in a variety of colors to match your lifestyle.

SanDisk, a company well-known for their flash memory cards, has a great little MP3 player to consider. The C150 is a slim 2GB flash-based player with a color screen that will display song information, album artwork, and photo thumbnails. The Windows-only player is compatible with a wide variety of music file formats, including Audible, a popular format for audio books. The C150 provides FM recording via its built-in tuner as well as voice recording with a built-in microphone.

Sitting on the verge between MP3 player and Swiss-Army Knife is the Archos 605 WiFi family of portable media players that offer Wi-Fi capability for surfing the Web, streaming YouTube, and downloading movies without a computer. You can also transfer music, photos, and video from a computer via USB cable. The 605 sports a massive 4.3-inch (wide) touch screen. Available in various storage capacities, the Archos 605 WiFi models offer plenty of room for all of your digital media. With this device, you can even record audio and video when used with the optional DVR Station! A wealth of optional add-ons such as helmet-cams, FM tuners, voice recorders, and more make the 605 one of the most versatile media players on today's market.

For the more budget-minded, Archos offers the 404; which has many of the same features of the 605, minus the WiFi capability. Sporting a 3.5" color LCD and a 30GB internal hard drive, the 404 also has audio, photo, and video playback, and optional DVR recording. A built-in microphone lets you make voice memos easily.

Sony, which pioneered the field of portable music with their Walkman cassette player in 1971, now offers a Walkman for the 21st century. The NWZ-S616FBLK has 4GB of flash memory, a 1.8" screen, and a built-in FM tuner so you can listen to music other than the songs you've stored internally. The slim design slips easily into a pocket for great portability.

These have been a few ways to say "MP3" when trying to please a portable music lover. Check out the B&H Web site for many more models.

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