After DVD players, one of the biggest recent success stories in consumer electronics is the portable MP3 player. The new players are available in just about every size and shape, they can handle multiple file formats, and they provide much more storage than before.
In this story, we highlight the newest MP3 players on the market and discuss some of the most interesting features you'll encounter. Check out our chart showing the latest entertainment-system MP3 players in "Listen to Digital Music in Your Living Room."
If you already own an MP3 player, you've come to the right place. Follow our suggestions to make the most of your player's features. We offer tips on file format and size, and we also point you to the best spots for downloading music--for free and for a fee.
A Bounty of Players
These days, you might be surprised to find out where some MP3 players are hiding. You can wear some of them around your neck, such as Philips' $150 128MB Audio Key Ring, Key006. Its volume and track-navigation controls are woven into the neck strap. You can wrap other players around your arm, such as Rio's $200 256MB Cali 256. This sports-oriented MP3 player is well suited for listening to music while running or working out at the gym.
Other MP3 players are hidden in devices you may already carry with you. These might include a wristwatch, such as Meritline's $140 Musix 128MB 5 in 1 MP3 Player/Recorder USB Watch, or a cell phone like Sony Ericsson's $550 P800. You can also expect to see MP3 players tucked away inside a mini camcorder, such as Panasonic's $1000 SV-AV100, or a PDA--including just about any Pocket PC. As you might guess, the (physically) smaller MP3 players tend to have a restricted storage capacity (usually flash memory), so they're limited in the number of music tracks they can hold at one time.