If you've just decided that the time is now right to buy an MP3 player then you might well feel completely confused about the choices you have to make. It doesn't matter whether you have a big budget or whether you want to keep it cheap and simple - there are a bewildering number of different players out there to choose from. Like any purchase if you buy the right MP3 player then you'll spend your money wisely - buy the wrong model and you'll end up having to spend more money in the long run.
The key thing to think about first of all when you look to buy an MP3 player is the type of player that will suit you best. There are two primary choices for you here. The first type of portable player you can look at is one that uses Flash memory. Players that use Flash memory have no moving parts - they work on an embedded memory chip. So, these models will be small and won't skip or jog even if you're training for a sprint or working out at the gym.
The downside here is that you won't get a huge memory capacity with a Flash player - but, if you're only using the machine to listen to music for short periods while you exercise or while you are out and about for a few hours then this won't be an issue.
The second type of MP3 player to consider is one that works on a hard drive principle. These machines hold their memory in a hard drive just like a computer - so they can hold more memory as they will have larger capacity than Flash drive models. Nowadays it's perfectly feasible to buy a player with a massive 60GB of built-in memory which is enough to keep the keenest music fan happy for a long time!
This does mean that these kinds of players will be larger than Flash based models - but with today's technology this won't mean a huge increase in size. And, you will find that a player with a hard drive is that bit more fragile in terms of skipping/jogging. Basically these models are not designed to let you listen to your audio while undertaking strenuous exercise!
Your choice here really comes down to what you want to buy an MP3 player for. If you have a vast CD collection that you want to rip to a player or hanker after using a download service to build up your music collection then you'll probably end up opting for a player with a hard drive to get a decent memory capacity. But, if you simply want to take your player out while you exercise or while you commute to work then you may well opt for a Flash based player instead.
It is vital to get this choice right as - if you get it wrong - you'll probably find you end up upgrading sooner rather than later. You cannot add memory to the majority of MP3 players - you have to buy a new one if you need more capacity as time goes on. There are however some players that come with memory card capacity slots which could be an alternative solution but this won't allow you to store all of your music on the player and you'll have to keep a library of memory cards as well.
For many of us the MP3 player of choice is the Apple iPod. This player has become a 'must-have' fashion accessory as well as a great MP3 player. There's nothing wrong with going with an iPod because it looks good and you'll score some points with your friends - but, if this isn't so important to you, then do shop around and look at other models before you make your final choice. Many manufacturers have made great moves to make their players look just as good as Apple's products (take a look at the Creative Zen Micro range as an example) and many will even give you features and benefits that you won't get from an iPod.
Many of us buy an MP3 player on impulse but this really isn't the way to go. If you want to make the right choice for your needs you should do dome research first and the easiest way to do this is to go online and read some reviews or guides - ideally those written by other consumers like yourself as well as the official literature produced by the manufacturers. These kinds of consumer reviews will give you a great idea of how a digital player will actually work 'in the field' so you'll get an instant feel for the best player for your needs.
For example, if you read reviews on particular players you'll learn all kinds of stuff that you wouldn't otherwise be able to find out without buying and using a player. There are all kinds of issues associated with finding the right player that don't get covered elsewhere. A good review, however, will tell you all about stuff such as:
Downloading compatibility You may be able to find out if the player you favor works with specific MP3 music download services or not. Don't assume that all players work with all services as this isn't the case.
Battery life Some players have a built-in battery that you need to recharge and others work on standard batteries. In either case you need to get a feel for how long a battery charge will actually last - if your batteries only last a couple of hours then your player will be expensive to run and not as truly portable as it should be. The actual battery time can be a lot less than the time quoted by manufacturers in their marketing literature.
Software issues Most MP3 players come with their own software to help you manage your audio ripping and downloads. If you take some time to look at reviews you'll get an idea for how the software works and how useful it actually is from people that have already used it.
Sound quality One of the biggest issues with MP3 players is the sound playback quality of the players. A good review will tell you what you need to know here.
Ease of use All MP3 players are not equal and some are not as easy or as convenient to use as you might think. Again, consumer player reviews will give you an insight into this.
Finally, the best way to buy an MP3 player is to make sure that you get it at the cheapest cost possible. Prices in the sector are extremely changeable and it's always possible to get a good bargain if you shop around a little. Online price comparison sites are always very good at digging out the lowest cost with major stores both on and offline and could help you save a lot of money.
By Carol Finch of http://www.mp3-players-n-reviews.com