The Most Reliable Tech Gear

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No Stars in MP3 Players Reliability

MP3 Players

Reliability and service data for 13 MP3 player manufacturers based on our 2008 reader survey. For each measure, the company's rating is identified as Better than average, Average, or Worse than average.
As a class, MP3 players are very reliable. Less than a sixth of our readers who responded to this part of the survey reported having one or more problems with their music players. With fewer parts to break or wear out, the devices are a lot more dependable than desktops, laptops, printers, or routers.

Though the iPod may dominate the market for digital music players, it isn't superior to other MP3 devices across the board, our readers told us. Readers praised the iPod's ease of use and its reliability, but they also reported a higher-than-average number of problems on arrival and of severe problems that rendered the device inoperable. Apple's schizophrenic ratings constitute a step down from its showing in our survey last year, when it earned two better-than-average marks for reliability and usability, and no below-average grades. Nevertheless, the iPod remains wildly popular: About 40 percent of our MP3 survey respondents said that they used one.

One reason for the iPod's popularity may be its acclaimed usability. A surprisingly large number of MP3 players--nine in all--earned worse-than-average grades for ease of use. The iPod was the only player rated better than average in that category.

The news was both good and bad for Panasonic as well. Problems with its MP3 players appear to be minor, but readers wish that the devices' usability and reliability were better. Panasonic appears to have improved its process for fixing severe problems, though, as readers bumped its score up to better than average in that area.

Creative earned three subpar grades, down from just one last year. Readers reported that the vendor should make its players easier to use, and that it should reduce the number of serious problems and out-of-box glitches.

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