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Jordan's Unbiased MP3 Player Guide Okay, so. You want to buy an MP3 player? And its pretty obvious that you want to buy something thats logical and you don't want to spend more than you have to. There are three main companies that make MP3 players, they are: Apple (with the iPod series) Creative (with the Zen series) and iRiver Part One - Apple Written by CVD Apple effectively revolutionized the mp3 world with the introduction of the original iPod. Since then, there have been newer, sleeker models for those wanting more (or less) from their mp3 player. The original has evolved 3 times with alternative models such as the mini and photo available depending on what youâ€™re looking for. iPod: The original iPod is now in its third form and now comes solely in a 20GB version for a hefty price tag of Â£209. It comes in one basic colour of white/grey and boasts the ability to store up to 5,000 songs with a starting battery life of just 12 hours, which will deplete as time goes on. However the iPod can do much more than play music. It boasts 25 minutes of job protection (it will never â€˜jumpâ€™), customized play lists â€˜on-the-goâ€™, audio book compatibility, feature to use iPod as a hard disk (where you can store any file you wish), games, alarm clock, sleep timer, calendar, to-do lists, contact cards etc. iPod U2 Special edition: All of the above, only it features a red and black design, has autographs of all members engraved on the back and comes with a money off voucher for the â€˜Complete U2â€™: Over 400 U2 songs which can be legally purchased and downloaded via Appleâ€™s own music store: iTunes. Oh, itâ€™s 40 quid more too, at Â£249. iPod Mini: The mini comes in a vast selection of colours and is now available in 2 versions: 4GB (Â£139) and 6GB (Â£169). It has the same basic features as the iPod, but has a longer battery life of 18 hours and has some unique accessories such as armbands. iPod Shuffle: Itâ€™s the smallest (and cheapest) iPod of the whole range, coming in at Â£69 for the 512MB (max 120 songs) or Â£99 for the 1GB version. It doesnâ€™t do much other than play music, although it only weighs 22g. Only for those wanting to play a few albums on the way to work and wanting nothing else but music playback and no display screen. iPod Photo: The daddy of the iPod family, the Photo boasts a colour screen, photo playback with customized slideshows accompanied with music and comes in at huge 30GB (Â£249) or 60GB (Â£309) versions. Does everything the iPod can do, and then some. You can view pictures on your TV, it has a longer battery life of 15 hours and can carry up to 15,000 songs or 25,000 photos on the move. Thoughts: Iâ€™ve only got the current iPod original, but in general, I love it, I canâ€™t go anywhere without it. Sure, the battery life sucks, but a quick recharge when your going to bed (via mains adaptor or USB cable) and when you wake up it will be fully charged, waiting for you to use it for the day. The software, iTunes, is pretty decent too with a relatively expansive and cheap music store if thatâ€™s the way you like to download music. Thereâ€™s literally hundredâ€™s of accessories to choose from too, from additional battery power, in car cables to surround speaker systems for the home. The iPod is great for those wishing to spend that little bit more on something more stylish and mainstream than the average mp3 player. Part Two - Creative Written by Jordan Creative have been making MP3 players since the word go, back in '98. At the moment they have two main MP3 players. One that competes with the iPod Mini and the other competes with the iPod. They are: Zen Micro and Zen Touch. Zen Micro: This player has a 5GB capacity ideal if you only wish to store a small amount of music. However it has a hefty price tag of Â£135 (Checked 29th May 2005, Dabs.com) so is about Â£30 less than its 6GB iPod Mini rival. It comes in like 9 colours, so you can get whatever suits your taste. Its an extremly small player and very light. Zen Touch: The Zen Touch comes in 20GB (Â£150) and 40GB (Â£200) flavours. It only comes in one colour and is the same size as a standard iPod. Zen Neeon Yes its spelt right, it has two E's. I honestly don't see the point of this thing but: Neeon is all about customisation. It has a tonne of random clip on covers known as "Creative Stik-on"'s. Wow Creative really can't spell.Anyway it again has 5GB capacity like its older brother the micro. But has a longer battery life at a nuts 16 hours. Thoughts: I've tried/owned 3 Creative MP3 players. The old Jukebox 3, the Zen Xtra and the Zen Touch. I like Creative, they use small and light designs, coupled with great features, fantastic sound quality and functions for quite a small price tag. If you wish to spend a little less to get a little more, then Creative is the company for you! Part Three - iRiver Written by Piro RoadKill iRiver are a major MP3 player manufacturer, and have long been considered the viable alternative to the likes of Apple's iPod. iriver iFP8xx: The small, f|ash based player from iriver. Comes in capacities up to 1GB, which is likely plenty for casual users. Like it's bigger brothers, it supports MP3, WMA, ASF, OGG, and has an FM tuner, which you can even record from. It also has voice recording and playback. They claim 40 hours of battery life from a single AA battery! iriver H10: I haven't got one of these, but they are the new, cute version of the bigger brother, the H3xx series. They've got a colour screen, and 5GB of HDD space. As with the iPod, it uses a touch sensitive scroll as it's primary interface (although this is vertical, whereas the iPod is a circle). It's similar in size and can also show photos and text on the screen whilst playing music. It also has an FM Radio tuner which you can record from, and voice recording too. They claim 12 hours of battery life from a full charge. iriver H3xx: I also don't own one of these, but as far as I understand, they are very similar in function to the player I do currently own, the iHP-140. They are slightly chunky, and the interface is not the most intuitive, so a definite RTFM is in order. But look at the functionality: MPEG 1/2/2.5 Layer 3, WMA, ASF, OGG, JPEG, BMP, TXT, FM radio. I read on the iRiver site that it can even connect to a digital camera to display and store photos directly from it -- if you have a low capacity camera, this may be a very useful feature indeed. As the others, it has voice recording. Thoughts: I personally have had two iriver iHP-140's, and if you can get it, don't be put off by it's slightly chubbier design than the Ã¼ber sleek iPod, it comes extremely feature packed. The main things about the irivers are that they usually come with many features and although not a great deal cheaper, usually have support for many codecs. They all also have upgradeable firmware (so you can download the newest OS for your player off the internet and update it yourself!). One feature about the older, iHP-1xx series that I did love was the inline remote. You can control EVERY function on the player using the remote, which has a small screen which can show all the information necessary. A nice touch. I also like the fact I didn't need any special software to be able to transfer files to my iriver. Plug it in, drag the files across, and you can play them straight up, don't need to install anything. If you do want to use the iRiver software on your PC, all it does is scan all the MP3s you put on the player, and makes a database so you can go through the menus and find things a little easier. However; it is far from essential. As long as you have a pretty neat music collection, you'll have no problems.