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Top 10 Portable MP3 Players Guide

Guide Picks

Portable players let you take your MP3 and other digital music anywhere. They've come a long way in the past couple of years, and the choices can be confusing. Here are some of the better ones.

1) Rio Carbon

My top pick is a "mini" hard drive player with 5GB of space to hold up to 2,500 songs. It's the lightest in its class and is the best choice for general portability. However, if you plan to jog or do other strenuous activities, you should buy a flash memory player instead. Key features include 20-hour battery life and support for WMA files so you can load it with music purchased from Napster, MSN Music and WalMart.

2) Apple iPod

The iPod line of players sets the benchmark for all hard drive portables. You can't beat Apple's styling and ease of use. These models support MP3, WAV and AIFF, but not WMA. The full-size models come with 15-, 20-, 30- 40- and 60GB of memory, and the much smaller "mini" has 4GB.

3) Zen Micro

This is Creative's best portable player so far. It looks and sounds great, and holds 25% more music than the similarly-priced iPod mini. Weighing 3.8 oz. (108g) and holding 5GB, it fits comfortably in the hand or shirt pocket. Includes an FM and voice recorder and syncs calendar, address book, and task list data from Microsoft Outlook. Plays MP3 and WMA files.

4) Creative MuVo TX FM (256MB)

This ultralight (1.1 oz or 31g) digital player and voice recorder includes an FM tuner. It supports MP3, WMA and ADPCM audio formats and records up to 16 hours with its built-in microphone. The small size makes it very suitable for jogging and other physical activity. The "Compare Prices" link is for the 256MB version, but the player is available in 128MB, 512MB and 1GB versions, too.

5) Rio Forge Sport

This player is designed for sports use and fits comfortably in the hand. Plays MP3 files as well as protected WMAs used by online stores such as MusicMatch and WalMart. It includes an FM tuner, stopwatch, alarm, and earbuds designed for athletic use. It can also be used to store data, since it shows up as an extra drive in Windows. Runs for up to 20 hours on one AAA battery. Available in 128MB, 256MB or 512MB, and memory can be expanded with SD/MMC cards.

6) Panasonic SL SV570

If you want to carry your digital music around but don't have much money, consider this CD model. The SL SV570 plays regular, MP3, and WMA CDs. If you have a computer with a CD burner, you can create MP3 or WMA disks that will play as long as 10, 20 or more music CDs. This unit packs a lot of features for the money and includes a digital tuner with 30 presets. Unlike most units, it plays AM as well as FM.

7) iRiver iFP-790T

This versatile 256MB flash Player from iRiver can play MP3, WMA and ASF files, and is one of the few to support Ogg Vorbis, a popular open-source alternative to MP3 and WMA. You can record from the FM radio, the built-in mic, or through a line-in jack. That's a lot of features for a 2.2 ounce (62g) device.

8) Archos

Archos isn't as well known as most brands, but was actually the first manufacturer to make portable hard drive players. This link takes you to their full line, ranging from a basic 6GB model to a ones which can record pictures and video.

9) Rio Nitrus

The first MP3 player to feature an integrated 1-inch hard drive instead of the 1.8-inch drive found in devices such as the Apple iPod. This makes for a very compact and light unit. Its 1.5GB capacity is far smaller than other hard drive players, but its price makes it very attractive.

10) RCA Lyra RD1080

This lightweight player comes with 128MB of flash memory and a built-in FM radio tuner. Memory can be expanded with SD/MMC cards.

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