iPod still tops, but other players have their advantages
Published Wednesday, December 9, 2009 9:59AM EST
Let's get right to it: if we've got to talk about mp3 players, we've got to talk about iPods.
Since its release in 2001, the iPod has pretty much defined the mp3 player market. Tell-tale white earbuds have become a codeword for cool - to the point that they've become a codeword for clich�. But they're not pass�. Not by a long shot.
iPods are still huge sellers. According to one estimate, Apple has sold 24 million iPod Touches (starting at $220), which is really a handheld computer disguised as a music player. And no wonder. One draw is that most iPhone applications (those not needing a cell connection, a camera, or a gps) can be installed on the Touch. The Touch is also thinner than the iPhone, and can hold more memory. I own one, and I love it.
Attempting to nip at the iPod's heels is Microsoft's Zune. There are various models available, but the only one of note is the Zune HD, a multi-media player that Microsoft has not made available to Canadians (so they're pretty easy to avoid).
The French manufacturer Archos has consistently manufactured gizmos that are technically, and some would argue aesthetically, superior to anything else on the market. They have, however, completely failed to capture the imagination, which is really too bad.
The Archos 3 Vision is a very good entry. At $100, you get enough space for thousands of songs or dozens of movies, as well as an FM radio. Not bad for a stocking stuffer.
Probably the best value you'll find is the SanDisk Sanza Fuze (about $65). It's cheap, holds tons of music, and can play movies on its relatively small screen. You'll have to compromise on screen quality, though, and there's no way you'll get any cool applications to run on it. But for the price, this is a great little device.