Apple’s iPod is internationally known as the industry standard for MP3 players. But what if you want something a bit different? Perhaps you want an MP3 player that plays both video and audio, such as the iPod, but costs a bit less. Maybe you want something that isn’t Apple-branded, and is easily Windows- or PC-compatible. There are a variety of good alternatives to the classic, traditional iPod and even to the newer models of iPods that have come out over the past few years. Some of these alternatives may even be better than the iPod, depending upon what you’re looking for in an MP3 player. Digital music and video players have come a long way since the first iPod was placed on the market in October 2001. Once the benchmark of MP3 players, iPod is no longer the only, or necessarily the best, of the choices that are available to savvy electronics consumers.
1. Archos 605 WiFi portable media player
160 GB, $270
If you’re looking for an iPod alternative that plays a myriad of media choices, this versatile portable media player is for you. The Archos 605 plays back MPEG-4, AVI, and WMV formats. (Support for additional formats can also be purchased). Featuring wi fi for easy download of movies, television, music, photos, and PDF files, its wireless network also allows you to stream content from your PC or from the Internet directly to your television. This is one portable media player that does more than its name implies.
2. Microsoft Zune HD digital media player
16 GB, $190
The Zune is a member of the newer class of HD digital media players, playing music and video. The Zune allows you to buy, stream, and play music, HD video, podcasts, games, and more. With an HD radio tuner and subscription music integration, the Zune almost has it all. Its capacity holds up to 4000 songs, 24 hours of standard definition video, or 5 hours of high definition video. However, the Zune is PC-compatible only, as Microsoft hasn’t yet bridged the gap for Mac users. If high definition functionality is important to you in a digital media player, the Zune HD might be your best bet.
3. Ibiza Rhapsody Wi Fi media player
30 GB, $132
Made by Haier America, the Ibiza Rhapsody provides Bluetooth capabilities and wireless operation without a PC. It includes preset FM stations, free AOL videos on demand, access to 1000 podcasts,and a basic Web browser. The Ibiza comes with a free 30-day trial of Rhapsody to Go, with access to Rhapsody’s 4 million song library, using its WiFi capabilities to make your Rhapsody account portable without the need for a PC. Unfortunately, the Ibiza works with Windows XP and Vista only. For those who are Rhapsody subscribers, however, the Ibiza Rhapsody makes sense if you want to take your Rhapsody with you wherever you go.
4. Creative Zen Portable Media Player
32 GB, $180
As wide as a credit card, with the capacity for 120 hours of videos, up to 8000 songs, and hundreds of photos, the Creative Zen offers a user-friendly alternative to the iPod. The first portable media player to support the unprotected AAC format, it allows you to listen to music and watch video ripped through iTunes software on something besides an iPod. It also comes with FM radio, a voice recorder, and support for subscription music and video services. If you like to download via iTunes but don’t necessarily like the functionality of the iPod, the Creatize Zen is for you.
5. Cowon A3 Portable Media Player
60 GB, $250
The Cowon A3 plays all of your digital entertainment choices, including movies, television shows, photos and music. It can record video from a variety of sources, including camcorder and television. It records audio as well, with an FM tuner with record capability and a voice recorder. The Cowon A3 also provides line-in recording to MP3. The Cowon A3 supports video formats including AVI, WMV, ASF,MP4, MATROSKA(MKV), OGM, MPG/MPEG, VOB, DAT,MTV, DivX 3.11/4/5/6, XviD, MPEG-4 SP/ASP, WMV 9/8/7, H.264 MP, M-JPEG, MPEG 1/2 and audio formats including MPEG1 Layer 1/2/3, WMA, FLAC, OGG Vorbis, AAC/AAC+, AC3, BSAC, True Audio, WavPack, G.726, CM The video display on the Cowon A3 is outstanding in its quality, and its audio quality is superior as well.
6. Creative Zen Vision M MP3 and Video Player
30 GB, $425
This multimedia device holds a high capacity of WMA files, tens of thousands of photos, up to 120 hours of videos, or 15,000 songs. The Creative Zen Vision M supports many video formats, including s AVI, DivX 4 and 53, XviD4, MPEG-1, -2, -SP, WMV9, and Motion-JPEG. It also sports an integrated FM radio and recorder and a voice recorder. Support is included for a variety of online music stores and subscription services. If you’re looking for a portable media player that plays back a wide variety of video files without the need for conversion, and don’t mind the steep price tag, you might want to check out the Creative Zen Vision M.
7. iRiver Spinn
The iRiver Spinn features built-in Bluetooth connectivity, plays photo and video, has an FM tuner, and a voice recorder. It supports a variety of audio codecs, including ASF, MP3, WMA, FLAC, Ogg, Vorbis, and APE (Monkey’s Audio). Video support is good, but capacity on this player is smaller than some others that are priced the same. The Spinn does feature an easy-to-use user interface, and is worth the extra money if you’re looking for a player that supports a wide variety of audio formats.
8. Samsung P3 Palm Theatre Plus MP3 player
16 GB, $200
Samsung’s P3 Palm Theatre Plus MP3 player is designed for the user looking for a good portable audio player. Although it doesn’t play video, it plays a variety of audio formats, including MP3, WMA, OGG, AAX, FLAC, WAV and ASF. It also sports a test viewer and is PC compatible. With its built-in FM tuner and Bluetooth 2.0 connecitvity, the Samsung P3 makes it easy to take your music on the go. If you aren’t looking for wifi capability or podcast support in a portable audio player, check out the Samsung P3.
9. Sandisk Sansa View Video MP3 Player
16 GB, $95
Sandisk’s Sansa View provides a good, inexpensive iPod alternative that plays both audio and video. Users can listen, watch, record, and store digital media. It supports most audio formats, including MP3, protected and unprotected WMA,WAV, and DRM-free MP3 downloads. The Sandisk Sansa View’s built-in FM radio comes with 20 digital presets. An expandable MicroSD/SDHC card slot is also included for additional storage capacity. The Sandisk Sansa View is the least expensive of the higher-quality, fully functional iPod alternatives.
10. Sony Walkman MP3 Player
16 GB, $130
Sony’s traditional Walkman isn’t so traditional anymore, as it’s available in a 16 GB MP3 Player that plays music, movies, and digital photos. Many digital formats are supported ,including AAC, MP3, MPEG-4, H.264/AVC, L-PCM, WAV, WMA (DRM), WMV (DRM) and JPEG. The Walkman also features an FM radio, tuner, recorder, and voice recorder, and is PC compatible. The ease of use makes the Sony Walkman a popular choice among MP3 purchasers.