Being an MP3 player these days isn’t easy, without a shiny apple logo on your back most people don’t notice you, but there’s still a few impressive choices around for those willing to take the time to look.
The times of a countless range of brands and models is gone – you can thank Apple for narrowing the market – but the brands to look out for are Creative, Phillips and the grandfather of mobile music – Sony.
The Walkman was first released back in 1979 as a handy tape player, before it became a ‘Discman’ in 1984, and now the brand continues to keep a hold on the market with A, S, E and W series. The E series, which comes in 4, 8 and 16GB models (take a look), is probably the most comparable to Apple’s shiny iPod range, but on top of that it boasts kareoke and easy-peasy drag and drop music organisation. It might not be packed with features but it does the job reliably, none of this style-over-substance nonsense.
From Phillips comes the Muse MP4 player, complete with FullSound – a fancy bit of tech which decompresses MP3s and ‘enriches and enhances’ the sound. Also it contains Songbird, a useful music player which you can also get on your computer to organise and transfer music.
The real champion of the flock though is Creative, who have embraced Bluetooth technology in everything they are producing, making them the most adaptable units around.
Sure there might be one or two iPod compatible docking stations on the market, but Creative reinforces the sublime Zen Touch 2 with speakers and home entertainment surround sound systems all free from troublesome wires. Plus you can get a USB Bluetooth adapter to make anything compatible with the system and so you can stream your music across your room or even through your entire house.
The Touch 2 itself has WiFi and the Google Android operating system, meaning you can download lots of shiny and useful apps. There is even a version available with GPS so you can use it as a sat nav system. The inclusion of a MicroSD card slot means you can beef up the storage capacity as high as you like, though you need to be a bit careful when you insert or remove the card since like all technology if you don’t use it properly – it complains.
The music interface is easy to use and simple, again not stylish to the extreme like Apple. MP3 players like this are functional items, not fashion accessories, and with the Touch 2, Creative have created one of the most versatile pieces of handheld technology around.
So, there are plenty of alternatives to Apple, the only decision you need to make now is which path to righteousness will you choose?
James Michael Parry