When the first MP3 digital music players hit store shelves, portable CD and cassette players seemed bulky and archaic in comparison. And since its debut, digital music has enjoyed dramatic popularity within the entertainment industry. As technology rapidly advances, however, MP3 players are constantly being replaced by more ambitious and innovative models. In 2009, companies like Sony and Microsoft decided that, in order to stay competitive, their portable players should not only play music perfectly, but also offer users more options and applications. Yet while dozens of products boast impressive features, other than the iPod, only a handful stand out as winners for both quality and value.
- Microsoft Zune HD: Available in a wide array of models, the Zune is sleek and refined. A 3.2-inch multi-touch navigation screen offers quick access to content and crystal clear images. Wireless connectivity lets you stream, update and purchase music, as well as download free games; simply connect to your home computer for syncing or tap into Wi-Fi networks when you’re out and about. And if you love to surf the web, then you’ll appreciate the Zune’s tap-to-zoom technology, built-in accelerometer and touchscreen QWERTY keyboard. Use the Zune to tune into local radio stations at no extra cost, and watch movies either on your Zune or by connecting it to your HDTV.
- Cowon iAudio S9: Winner of the 2008 Good Design Award, the Cowon S9 keeps getting better and better every year. As reviewer Stuart Andrews writes, “If you want sleek, stripped-back and stylish, it doesn’t get much more so than this.” Indeed, the S9 is a head-turner––weighing in at 77 grams and boasting an innovative curved shape, it begs to be explored. Fortunately, to go along with its lightweight, artsy form, this Cowon delivers the goods when it comes to function as well. Users report that sound quality is phenomenal, and the AMOLED screen display boasts a “lightning-fast” capacitive touch interface. For those looking for more than just music, the iAudio S9 offers Bluetooth audio, FM radio, voice recording, text reading and a Flash media player.
- Samsung P3: Samsung didn’t skip a beat when it came to creating their newest MP3 player. The P3 features an extra-wide touchscreen that contains a HAPTIC sensor – dragging your finger across the screen will produce a light click, and you’ll feel a “mild rumble” while scrolling. Love the heavy beat of good bass? Sync your music and videos to the Vibe Woofer for some serious sound. Another extra that sets the P3 apart from competitors is its ability to support DIVX videos, which often take just minutes to download.
With a wide variety of MP3 players on the market today, it pays to do your homework before you buy: Are you a gamer? Do you need to store large amounts of photos and videos? Is Bluetooth a must? Once you’ve found the perfect gadget, you’ll enjoy choosing from the bevy of colors and extras that come with most players today. As manufacturers continue to compete, the result is a better, more technologically advanced product for you! And in 2010, it looks like the race to be the best continues full speed ahead.