There is no shortage of choice when it comes to shopping for an MP3 flash player. But with so many options and such a wide price range, what features are really important? The answer of course will be subjective, but features can be broken down to a handful of options. Knowing what’s available is half the battle in deciding what you want or need.
Capacity: The first consideration is memory. If you prefer to keep your entire music library on your MP3 flash player, you should consider spending more money to get a greater capacity player with a larger LCD screen. The typical MP3 flash player is about the size of a pack of gum and for all of its pluses, it is not the easiest device to use to navigate through oodles of files and folders. Most players feature a one or two-line backlit LCD screen. Larger players with bigger, color LCDs typically also feature the ability to view photos and navigate through folders in a Windows-like environment.
External flash memory cards: With removable flash memory cards a music library can be loaded and stored on flash cards rather than on the MP3 flash player. In this case the player never runs out of memory and the music library is potentially safer being stored “off site” from the player. You can also use a flash card to create a “playlist” without the MP3 player having to support the playlist feature. A potential disadvantage of having external flash card memory is having to get a card reader for your computer, and the fact that your music library and/or playlists will be spread across several flash cards.
Ability to create playlists: This feature allows the user to program the MP3 flash player to cycle through specific songs from within the resident music library. Without the playlist feature the MP3 flash player treats the entire library (or its contents) as one huge playlist.
File compatibility: Most MP3 players also play Windows Media Audio (.wma) files. Generally speaking, more expensive players often support more file formats, including wave and Ogg Vorbis. Apple’s iPod@trade; supports a proprietary format known as Advanced Audio Coding (.aac), Audio Interchange File Format (.aif), and MP3/.wav files by converting them to the AAC format.
Custom EQ EQ (equalization) settings normally come prepackaged on MP3 flash players. Users can typically cycle through preset sound contours such as “normal,” “pop,” “rock,” “jazz,” “classical” and “bass.” Audiophiles might find these choices limiting. Some players feature a custom EQ option which allows the user to adjust frequency bands manually to taste.
Advanced system options: Some players offer advanced configuration screens that allow the user to set parameters like how long the LCD screen will stay lit before turning off, how fast or slow the player should scan forward or backward through song tracks, and if the auto-play position should start at the beginning of the last track played, or at the last stopped position. Other features might allow the user to delete files directly from the firmware of the player, rather than having to connect to a computer.
LCD window size: The smaller the MP3 flash player, the smaller the screen. Single-line displays make navigation more difficult but save battery power, while a three-line displays (or greater) provide more information at a glance but will consume more power. MP3 players with large, color screens generally cost 4 to 8 times more than their humbler MP3 cousins.
FM tuner: The average MP3 flash player has an unusually clear FM tuner. This is handy when you tire of the music on your player, and when bundled with a digital recorder can be a good source for new music.
Voice and FM recorder: The digital voice recorder function is great for note taking, lectures, journaling and reminders. This feature comes with the ability to record FM music straight from the tuner to the MP3 flash player.
Rechargeable battery vs AAA: Rechargeable batteries require charging by plugging the MP3 flash player into a powered USB port on the computer. A full charge might deliver 12 - 16 hours of operation on a healthy battery. Other players use a single disposable AAA battery which might provide 6 hours of operation. Some users prefer the rechargeable battery as it is less expensive. Others prefer the disposable battery because it can be changed on the spot for continuous operation when camping, hiking, backpacking, or boating, for example.
Whether looking for something simple or a multi-purpose gadget, there is an MP3 flash player suited just for you. MP3 players can be found everywhere electronics are sold and range in price from under $20 US Dollars (USD) to over $200 USD.