Digital music or MP3/MP4 players have evolved over the last decade to the point where the latest models provide an intuitive interface and a simple, effective way to get music from a computer into your pocket.
Most of the models tested are flash memory devices, using either removable cards or internal storage, supporting memory sizes from 4GB to 32GB.
Apple still dominates this market, with the Nano and Touch devices still available. While the Nano is quite basic, the Touch offers multiple functionality via apps. Following requests from some members, we’ve included some devices that only play audio in this test, and at the other end of the spectrum, we’ve also looked at two popular smartphones, the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy III, to see how they compare with dedicated MP3/4 players.
For a device that in many cases does only one or two things, you shouldn’t expect to pay more than $300 for a decent MP3 player, and much less for a no-frills player.The smartphones included will cost a good deal more - but they pack more features in.
Apple iPhone 4S
Apple iPod Nano
Apple iPod Touch
Archos 24b Vision (A)
Coby MP800-4G (A)
Cowon iAudio 10
Cowon Z2 Plenue
Creative Zen X-Fi 3
Philips GoGear Ariaz MP4 Player
Philips GoGear Connect 3 (A)
Philips GoGear Raga
Philips GoGear SoundDot (A)
Philips GoGear Vibe
Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6 (A)
Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2 YP-G1C (A)
Samsung Galaxy S III
Sony NWZ-F806 (A)
(A) These players are not directly distributed within Australia, but can be ordered online.
Ease of use Our testers check instructions, how easy the players are to set up, play music and video and rip and transfer music and video files with the software provided or, if none is supplied, using Windows Media Player (or iTunes with Apple products). They also evaluate how easy each player is to navigate and its basic functions and how much sound leakage there is from the devices.
Sound quality Our technical experts listen to each player through both the supplied headphones and a high quality pair of headphones. They listen to a variety of types of music.
Video quality They watch the video and assess it for colour, clarity and accuracy of rendition, as well as assess display size, compatibility with video formats and battery life under video.
Battery life The media players have files loaded and are played until they no longer function - this is done for audio files. They are also tested for charging time.
Durability We put the media players through a tumble test, letting each model rotate over 80cm for a minute, or around 20 falls. We also subject both the face and body to a scratch test.