The push to make music truly portable really took off with the original Sony Walkman. The market was flooded with portable cassette players but the problem was that your music was still limited to cassette tapes. CDs may have offered better quality sound but they didn’t help to make music any more portable and even mini discs failed to have a big impact. The digital revolution changed everything and Apple led the way with their iPod range.
The ability to store music tracks digitally on a drive, coupled with the advances in drive technology led to an explosion in MP3 players. In actual fact, these devices play various formats but the term MP3 has stuck. Over the last few years the technology has improved, devices have become smaller and video functionality has been thrown into the mix. You can take a huge music collection with you everywhere you go and expect top notch audio quality. Now your only problem is choosing the right device.
Let’s check out the top 10 MP3 players. All these examples offer a minimum of 8GB storage and they all have some form of display. There are a lot of devices out there but these are the cream of the crop, the top 10 MP3 players money can buy.
10. SanDisk Sansa Clip+
This is one of the smallest devices on our top 10 MP3 players list. It comes in 2GB and 4GB varieties but we’ll take a look at the 8GB offering. You can get it in black, red, white, blue or indigo. It has a 1 inch OLED display which is perfect for navigation or track information but you won’t be watching movies on it. There is a memory card slot for microSD or microSDHC cards and if you slot in preloaded cards then you won’t have to plug this into your computer for USB transfer.
It supports a good range of audio formats. It also has an FM radio tuner and voice recording capabilities. You should get around 15 hours of music from a fully charged battery. You can pick up the 8GB version for just $56.95 at Amazon right now.
Check out our full SanDisk Sansa Clip+ review.
9. SanDisk Sansa Fuze
This is pretty similar to the Sansa Clip+ except that it offers video functionality. Once again there are 2GB, 4GB and 8GB versions and it comes in black, red or silver. This time you get a 1.9 inch display and there is the option to boost the memory with a microSD/SDHC card, which is just as well if you want to watch videos on it.
It has the same FM radio and voice recorder functionality as the Sansa Clip+ and file transfer is via USB, unless you preload a memory card. You can get the 8GB version for $69.99 at Amazon right now.
8. Creative Zen X-Fi
You can get the stylish Creative Zen X-Fi in 32GB, 16GB or 8GB varieties and it comes in black and silver. It features a 2.5 inch TFT LCD screen with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. It supports a wide range of audio, video and even photo formats. It also has an FM radio, voice recording capability and you can expand the memory with SD or SDHC memory cards.
There is also an external speaker and this device comes with decent earphones. Audio quality is very good and you’ll get up to 36 hours of music or 5 hours of video from a single charge. Not everyone will like the controls on the right, and file transfer is via USB but you can pick the 8GB device up for $69.99 on Amazon right now. In terms of features for your cash the Creative Zen X-Fi definitely earns a place on the top 10 MP3 players list.
7. Samsung YP-P3
This minimalist MP3 player from Samsung comes in 8GB, 16GB and 32GB varieties. It sports a 3 inch TFT LCD touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 272 pixels. It has a built in speaker, a microphone for voice recording, an FM radio (which you can also record from) and it supports games and movies. It comes in black or silver.
There are plenty of options for file management so finding the track you want should never be a problem. It also supports a wide range of formats and it has Bluetooth functionality for wireless file transfer. You’ll get up to 30 hours of music from a fully charged battery or around 5 hours of video playback.
The 8GB version is going to cost you around $150.
6. Cowon J3
You can get the Cowon J3 in 8GB, 16GB or 32GB varieties and it comes in black or white. It has a 3.3 inch AMOLED touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 272. It supports Bluetooth for file transfer, packs a voice recorder and an FM radio. It also has a built in speaker and a microSD card slot. As an added bonus you can hook it up to your TV to watch videos.
It supports a wide range of formats and you should get up to 11 hours of video playback or 64 hours of music playback from a fully charged battery. The audio quality is superb and the battery life is pretty impressive too. You can get the 8GB version for $181.99 at Amazon. The Cowon J3 offers the best battery life out of all the top 10 MP3 players.
5. Apple iPod Classic
The iPod Classic comes in black or silver and offers a whopping 80GB or 160GB of space. It has a 2.5 inch LCD with LED backlight which supports a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. It supports a good range of audio formats and through iTunes you can also access movies, TV shows and games.
It is still an attractive design but it does feel a little dated surrounded by touchscreen models. The big attraction here is the amazing size. You will be able to fit all of the content you want on this device with ease. Of course you will have to plug it in via USB and use iTunes to sync your content up.
It comes with earphones and the battery life offers up to 36 hours of music or 6 hours of video playback. It is a bigger device, partly because it contains a hard drive instead of flash memory but with so much space it could easily double up as an external hard drive. The 80GB model will cost you $228.54 at Amazon.
Check out our full Apple iPod Classic review.
4. Apple iPod Nano
Let’s shrink things down now with the highly portable iPod Nano which comes in 16GB or 8GB varieties. It is offered in blue, green, orange, pink, silver and graphite colors. The touchscreen is 1.54 inches, TFT with a resolution of 240 x 240 pixels. It has built in FM radio and also doubles as a pedometer making it perfect for people in training. There are some other nifty features too, such as shake to shuffle and the Genius music mixer which makes playlists for you.
It is a big departure from the old iPod Nano and clearly aimed at people who want a portable MP3 player for music above all else. With up to 24 hours of music playback from a single charge the battery life is decent. On the downside there is no video support. The iPod Nano can be ordered for $143.54 at Amazon.
Learn more about this MP3 player by reading our full iPod Nano review.
3. Sony Walkman X Series
Having done so much to launch the idea of portable music it was sad to see the Walkman brand fade. Hitting back with a series of different MP3 players carrying the Walkman name Sony are serious contenders and the X Series Walkman is definitely one of the top 10 MP3 players out there.
Only available in 16GB or 32GB sizes the X Series boasts a stunning 3 inch OLED touchscreen display with a resolution of 432 x 240. It supports all the major audio and video formats and you can also view JPEG image files on it. The audio quality is top notch and it comes with noise cancelling earphones.
The big selling point that sets the X Series apart is the Wi-Fi connectivity for fast wireless file transfer. It even supports a web browser (though it’s not the greatest) and you can connect directly to YouTube to view video content. Battery life is also great with up to 33 hours of music or 9 hours of video from a single charge. You always pay a premium for quality and the 16GB model will cost you $266.99 at Amazon.
2. Zune HD
The Zune HD comes in 64GB, 32GB or 16GB varieties in black or platinum. It measures up pretty well against the Sony Walkman X Series as it also has Wi-Fi support for web browsing and file transfers. The touchscreen on the Zune HD is slightly bigger at 3.3 inches, it is also OLED and it supports a resolution of 480 x 272. You also get HD radio and support for HD video at 720p.
There is an FM tuner and it supports a wide range of audio and video formats as well as JPEG images. The Zune HD also an accelerometer and as a bonus you can download apps and play games on it. Microsoft has put a lot of work into developing services and support for the Zune to make it a real iPod competitor. The sound quality is good and there’s a big range of Zune accessories but they aren’t cheap.
You’ll get a maximum of 33 hours of music or 8 hours of video but the Wi-Fi will drain the battery faster. You can get the 16GB Zune HD on Amazon for $157.54.
1. Apple iPod Touch
There can be only one winner and it has to be the super popular Apple iPod Touch which comes in 8GB, 32GB or 64GB varieties. It has a 3.5 inch touchscreen with a 960 x 640 pixel resolution. You can watch videos, listen to music, play games and surf the web with this device. It is also equipped with a video recorder with built in editing and there’s a secondary camera for Face Time video chat.
You have access to a wide range of content via iTunes. The new Game Center app allows multiplayer gaming, you can shoot and edit HD 720p video, you can watch TV shows or movies, send email and surf the web and even use voice controls. Hold on a minute though, what about the music? Well the MP3 player capability has almost been relegated to the background with all the new features on offer but the same iTunes service you are used to with the iPod range is still there.
The battery life is great too with up to 40 hours of audio or 7 hours of video playback from a single charge. The downside, since we are talking about the top 10 MP3 players here, is that the earphones that come with it aren’t great and it doesn’t offer the best audio quality on this list. For true audiophiles the Sony Walkman X Series cannot be beat. However, when you look at everything else the iPod Touch package offers and consider that the 8GB model is still cheaper than the Walkman at $223.99 on Amazon right now, then you can see why it continues to outsell the competition.