How to buy the best MP3 player

MP3 players

How to buy the best MP3 player

by Ben Stockton

Whether you're going for a run or sitting at your desk, travelling or just at home, you should never be without your music. This expert guide will help you decide which MP3 player is best for you.

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The best MP3 players combine portability, long battery life, ease of use and, of course, great sound quality. Apple is a big player; its range of iPods - from the tiny Shuffle to the powerful Touch – dominates the market. But brands such as Sony and other lesser-known brands continue to compete, releasing MP3 players geared for fitness or for top-quality listening.

Take a look at our MP3 player Best Buys to discover which models we recommend.

How much should I spend on an MP3 player?

MP3 players can cost as little as £30 and as much as 10 times that amount, but how much you should spend depends on exactly what you’re looking for. The cheaper models tend to be small and simple music players, possibly with no display at all. The ones capable of playing video with Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity are generally much pricier, with more power and larger memories for these extra functions.

What makes a good MP3 player?

Depending on what you’re looking for, a good MP3 player may be one that is perfectly suited to use while running or one that has a big memory for playing music and video. But regardless of what you want from your MP3 player, they must always balance portability, ease of use and sound quality. That being said, it is possible to vastly improve the sound quality of the device simply by replacing the supplied headphones with a Best Buy set.

Read our Best Buy headphones reviews to complete your perfect listening experience.

Battery life

Battery life varies widely between MP3 players. Some can play nearly 65 hours of music on a single charge, while others run out after just five hours. The worst offenders are hard-drive-based players, especially those that play video, while flash- memory MP3 players are relatively energy-efficient as they have no moving parts. Which? tests MP3 player battery life so you’re not caught out.

Size and capacity

MP3 players are designed to be portable. Some are so tiny and lightweight you can clip them to your clothing, while others are slim enough to slip easily into a pocket. Hard-drive MP3 players are larger and heavier than flash-memory players and can store more music. They can hold up to 320GB - around 80,000 songs. However, cheaper flash-memory MP3 players can store up to a respectable 64GB (about 8,000 songs).

Easy to use

One of the biggest frustrations is being landed with an MP3 player that's hard to use and has limited controls. If you want to see what’s playing and be able to move through your music collection to select a song, you’ll need a player with a screen and a good interface. Some MP3 players, such as the iPod Shuffle, have few physical controls and no screen.

Now find the perfect MP3 player for you by checking out our MP3 player reviews.