Best MP3 player overall:
The iPod nano is only about ¼-inch thick and weighs just 1.5 ounces. In reviews, the iPod nano tops all other MP3 players when it comes to style, sound quality and ease-of-use. Since it uses flash memory instead of a hard drive, it has no moving parts, making it a better choice for the gym than the full-size iPod; it even includes a lap counter. The 2GB nano, which stores about 500 songs, is PC and Mac compatible. Despite the universal raves for the iPod nano, reviews and owners say it scratches too easily, and that using a protective case is a necessity instead of an option.
Budget MP3 player:
The Zen Nano beats the iPod Shuffle in this price class and sounds great, say experts. It comes in eight different colors (including pink and orange) and doesn't skimp on features, with an FM tuner, LCD display, voice recorder and line-in recording -- all features missing on the competing iPod shuffle. It runs 19 hours on a single AAA battery. Experts say the Zen Nano Plus is the best inexpensive lightweight flash player -- it weighs just 1.3 ounces. Its 512MB memory holds about 60 songs.
Best large-capacity MP3 player:
The iPod dominates the market among hard-drive players, and it's still an overwhelming favorite in reviews. The latest iPod plays both photos and video on its color screen, but reviews say the 2.5-inch screen is too small for extended viewing. If you don't need room for 7,500 songs, the iPod nano and Zen Micro Photo are smaller and lighter than the 4.8-ounce iPod. The Creative Zen Micro Photo doesn't have the iPod's easy interface, but the Zen Micro does have an FM tuner and voice recorder, and it's compatible with the latest music-subscription services The iPod has none of these features. A 60GB iPod sells for $400. The iPod is both Mac and Windows compatible.
The Zen Micro Photo, which comes in one of ten colors, is the best iPod alternative for those with Windows-centric music collections. It can play copy-protected WMA songs purchased from online stores like Napster, and it's compatible with the latest music subscription services, which let you 'rent' music for a monthly fee. The Zen has an FM tuner and a voice recorder, both missing on the iPod and iPod nano. The Zen, however, is heavier (4 ounces) and bulkier than the much-sleeker iPod nano, and it's not as easy to use as either of the iPod models above. Sound quality, say reviews, is excellent. The Zen is only compatible with Windows XP.
Smallest MP3 player:
The MobiBLU is about the size of a caramel candy -- about a one-inch cube. But amazingly, reviews say it's also a pretty good player, with a lot of features crammed into its tiny body. It has a tiny OLED display, an FM tuner and a voice recorder in a .63-ounce case. The MobiBLU is simple to use, and though sound quality is good, reviews say it's not up to the level of iPod and Creative. At about 8.5 hours, battery life is a bit short. The MobiBLU works with both Windows and Mac computers. The MobiBLU comes in six colors and is also available with 512MB.