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Monday, December 3, 2007

Picking the Perfect MP3 Player


photo by oliver lavery

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Well, it's a fact, lots of people like to exercise with MP3 players. I have one, rarely use it on a run, but in the event that I find myself needing to workout in a gym, or need the distraction in a long race, it is an invaluable tool to mentally keep me going. There are lots of models available to choose from. Some of the basic features that you must consider:

Storage Space

All MP3 players have a certain amount of storage space to store songs. Using Apple's numbers (4 MB per song), you can get approximately 250 songs per GB of storage space on the device. Some models have small amounts of storage space and will need to be loaded frequently if you want to listen to new songs, but some models have space to store you entire music collection. I honestly don't think I could fill up anything more than 4 or 8 GB, much less a 160 GB IPod! Consider how much storage capacity you really need before you are seduced into buying a top-of-the-line model. The caveat to this is video. More and more of the new players are coming equipped with small video screens and the capability of playing videos and movies. If you get one of these models and want to store movies, then make sure you get one with plenty of storage space because movies really take up lots of space on the device.

Battery Type

  • Built-in Lithium Rechargeable
    • Pros: Very low on the hassle scale. Just plug the device into a computer and let it charge up.
    • Cons: What if you take your beloved MP3 player on a trip where you don't have access to a computer? You may need to buy an additional accessory to charge it up on the go. Another con is that those lithium batteries eventually begin to lose their charging ability and need to be replaced. You will need to send in your device to be "repaired" or try to replace it yourself.
  • Standard battery
    • Pros: Easy to replace the batteries, and they are available everywhere.
    • Cons: You will be replacing the battery very often, especially if it has an LCD screen. MP3 players tend to chew through batteries at a phenomenal rate. You can partially offset this disadvantage by using rechargeable batteries, which I recommend.
Accessory Availability

Without a doubt the Apple line of MP3 players has the most available accessories. It is the most popular MP3 player around and many companies are trying to sell products to users of the device. Everything from armbands and docking stations to...ahem...personal massage accessories. That might explain their popularity. Just make sure you investigate what accessories are available before you buy the device. You don't want to find out that you can't charge it up any other way than connecting to a computer once you've purchased it.


Consider how you will be getting music to fill your player. All players will allow you to "rip" your CD and put the resulting MP3 files on the player. Other options include buying your music online, or paying for a music subscription service.

Ripping CDs

For those unfamiliar with the MP3 "lingo", ripping CDs means copying music from a CD to your computer in a form that can be placed on the player. All players will have some facility to do this, and you will be able to put any music that you currently own onto the player.

Buying Songs Online

The undisputed king of online song sales is iTunes. But there are others, such as Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, Rhapsody and many others that also sell music online. Make sure that your player works with the service from which you intend to purchase songs.

Music Subscription Service

Another option for acquiring music is through a subscription service, such as Rhapsody or Napster. These services generally charge a set monthly fee, and you can download as many songs as you like as long as you continue to pay for the service. This option has the most potential for snags with certain MP3 players. If you intend on using a subscription service, make sure that the player you purchase works with your chosen service.