Sunday, May 18, 2008

MP3 Players Review

MP3 players are getting more and more popular. They come as small as a matchbox. You can still buy the original iPod, which is about as big as a small brick. Today I will be looking at a few different players, one match box sized Clip player from San Disk, another nicer Sansa e260r player from San Disk, and finally a Sony Walkman model NWZ-A818. The prices for the players range from under $40 for the Clip player, $120 for the Sansa e260r player, and $200 for the Walkman from Sony.

Starting off with the small Clip player from San Disk, it is a 1GB player with a built in clip on the back making it perfect for joggers. You get a big bang for the buck. It has a built in FM radio, voice recorder, and music player. In the settings you can choose a shuffle option that mixes all of your songs, as well as a repeat feature for repeating a song over and over. You can also listen to audio books on it. The player also has a graphic equalizer with 6 different settings to choose from including a custom setting that you can make your own adjustments to its 5 band graphic equalizer. For the music player you can look up your music under all, artist, albums, songs, genres, playlists, my top rated, recordings, and audio books. The controls are quite simple, and on the display you can change it from artist and title to a spectrum analyzer. The sound quality was very good.

Next in line we have the Sansa e260r. For a little more money, you get a nicer looking color graphical user interface (GUI), 4GB of storage, a microSD memory card slot for additional storage capacity, an FM tuner that also records, and video playback. The EQ has 11 different settings, you can set a photo slideshow to music, and it also supports the Rhapsody music service. You can transfer TV shows and even movies that you have recorded or ripped to your hard drive onto your Sansa player. Video can be transferred to the player thru the included Sansa Media Converter, or through Windows Media Player, which is also used to transfer music and photos. The back of the case is metal for extra scratch protection.

Last but not least we have the Sony Walkman, not a cassette or CD player, but a video MP3 player. More money gets you more features and a little better quality, including what appears as an all metal case. It has a lot of the same features as the Sansa player, only it is thinner, lighter, and does not have an FM tuner or a memory card slot. I have to admit, I was a little bummed not having the memory card slot and the FM tuner. It does up the internal storage capacity to 8GB, and if you do not listen to the radio a lot this could be all you need. The Walkman also had some additional features that I thought were pretty cool. If you are looking to listen to something from a specific period of time, you can do a Music Library search by release year. It has 6 different equalizer settings (2 of them are user settable), and surround settings which simulate the sound fields of different venues (studio, live, arena, etc.), and a clear stereo mode that enables individual left and right processing of the sound. It has a DSEE (sound enhancer) which helps to correct the sound lost in the high range of the music due to compression.

With the players video playback it had its drawbacks. The picture looked “ok” on the Sansa but I had an audio sync problem – meaning when you saw somebody speaking you had already heard what they said before their mouth started moving. It was not bad early in the video but progressively got worse the longer the video was. For a short half hour TV show, by the end of the show the audio would be a couple of seconds off. On a 2 hour movie it could be off by as much as 30 seconds. The problem was with using the included Sansa Media Converter program. I was able to transfer a TV show onto the player using Windows Media Player and doing it this way there was no audio sync problem. The extra money for the Sony player appeared to pay off when it came to video. The quality of the video took a big step forward. The Sony Walkman felt really nice in your hand, and I really like its GUI. It was not as colorful as the Sansa e260r’s GUI, but it looked really sharp none the less. Both of the players sounded really nice, but the video playback of the Sony was really nice! The picture was great, and playability was superb.

With the Sansa, video was broken up in about 30 minute increments, so a two hour movie would usually have four different chapters to it. I could hit the forward button and go to the next chapter, but if I wanted to fast forward to somewhere in the current chapter I had to keep my finger on the forward button. That could get tiring. The Sony Walkman did not break up movies or long shows into chapters that you could skip ahead to. Instead, it had 3 fast forward speeds. With each press of the forward button it would change from speed 1 to speed 2 to speed 3, and you can see the video as you sped through it. You did not get to skip the chapters like on the Sansa player, but the third speed on the Sony was pretty fast and you also did not have to keep holding the button down with your finger – very nice! This also worked the same way in reverse with the Sony Walkman. With the Sansa player, trying to rewind was more like slow motion. The video kept playing forward, but it was in like a slow motion. Both players did have their issues however in getting the video into the player. The included software with the Sony would transfer video to the player, but did not convert video to a format that would play in the player. You would need a third party program for that. I used a program called Nero Ultra, that included a program called Nero Recode (it is also an awesome CD/DVD burner program). I was able to use it to convert the video I had, even full length movies, to work with the player. Then I would use the Sony Media Manager program to load the video onto the player. The video looked great and no audio sync problem, not even after 2 hours. Both players only supported certain types of video, and the Sansa player was compatible with more types of video.

Well I have told you what they can do, but not what I thought of them. I really liked the little Clip player. It was just a basic audio player, but packed a lot in its small size and gave you a big bang for the buck at under $40. The Sansa e260r was a very nice player. I liked the fact that it had a nice looking color GUI, could record from the FM tuner, had a memory card slot for extra storage, and also played video for $120. But the Sony’s video quality and usability I thought was so much better. For video, Sony was king. And with 8GB internal storage, that may be all the need for internal storage and without the need to juggle around extra memory cards. At $200 it may be worth it for you, especially with the fact that Sony includes with it EX grade earbuds. With the Sony, you may not feel the need to buy better earbuds or headphones.

You may want to get some accessories for your player. A very cool product is the Skull Candy Link Street pack for $150 – the backpack of backpacks. It is not your ordinary backpack. Not only does it have a lot of pockets and compartments, it also has iPod or MP3 or cell phone controls built into one of the arm straps. On iPods, MP3 players, and cell phones you can control the song volume, with cell phones you can also answer or disconnect a call, on iPods you can also control the next or previous tracks. It also has a connector on an arm strap to plug in your headphones. If you opt not for headphones, it has two built in waterproof speakers (one in each arm strap) that are powered by an internal amplifier that runs off of 4 AA batteries. The amp also doubles as a battery charger. Included with the backpack are several different connectors for different brands of cell phones.

If you like to carry your player around, you may also want to look for a case. For players like the Sony that are not as popular, you may have to go directly to the manufacturer for the case. Companies like SanDisk and their Sansa players are getting more popular, and companies like Speck make nice rubber cases for them in-case they get dropped. If you have an Apple iPod, there are even more options for cases. If you have an iPod and like to listen to your tunes around the pool, or take it on the construction jobsite at work, a company called Otterbox makes waterproof and shockproof cases. I actually have one for my PDA, and it works great. Otterbox makes cases for iPods, cell phones, and PDA’s. As you can see, there are a lot of nice products out there in the way of MP3 players and accessories for them. Most of the features are simple enough to figure out and use. If you are one who wants the ability to do portable video, I would be more careful. Getting the video to play back right is trickier, and you may have to get third party software. I would also make a mental note of the return policy of the store where you purchase it at. If you have problems, you may want to be able to take it back. The Sony worked great with video, but I had to use some 3rd party software to get the video to work right. And do not forget headphones (covered in their own product review on our site). If you are looking for a premium backpack, the Skull Candy Street Link rocks! For more detailed product specs, you can find them at:,,,,, and