MP3 players: How to choose the best iPod iPods for music, video and games

The iPod family

The Apple iPod range - Touch, Nano and Shuffle

Apple’s iPod range dominates the MP3 player market, selling more models than all other MP3 player manufacturers put together.

When you look at the Apple iPod range, it’s easy to see why they’re so popular.

The latest line-up, which includes the iPod Classic, the fourth-generation iPod Shuffle, fifth-generation iPod Touch and seventh-generation iPod Nano, offers something for everyone, with capacities ranging from 2GB to 160GB

And that's not the only reason for their huge appeal. The synchronisation of iPods and iTunes makes downloading music incredibly easy, plus there's an enormous range of iPod accessories available to buy.

However, Apple iPods are not the cheapest MP3 players. By choosing another brand, such as Creative, iRiver, Cowon, Sony or Samsung, you're likely to get more features for your money. 

You can read expert verdicts on around 75 MP3 players, including all the latest iPods, on our Which? MP3 player reviews page.

Questions to ask before choosing an MP3 player or iPod

Apart from price, important things to consider are portability, capacity and functionality:

  • How big and heavy is it?
  • How many MP3 music tracks, videos or photos can it store?
  • Can it play music, video, view photos, play games or surf the web?
Apple iPod Touch

The large screen on the Apple iPod Touch makes it a good choice for playing games and watching movies

iPods: music

When choosing an iPod, you'll need to consider how and where you want to listen to music.

For example, if you want to carry your entire music collection wherever you go, you'll probably want one with at least 64GB of memory – either an iPod Touch or iPod Classic.

If you're happy to have only a selection of your MP3s on your iPod at any time, then a 2GB iPod Shuffle or a 16GB iPod Nano should be fine (16GB holds around 4,000 tracks).

When considering which iPod to choose, also think about how portable it is – as its storage capacity increases, so can its weight. The Shuffle weighs just 8g, but the iPod Classic is 137g, largely because of its 160GB hard drive.

iPods: video

If you want to be able to watch videos, the iPod Touch has a large 4-inch screen that's ideal for movie-watching on the move. Alternatively, for occasional videos, the 2.5-inch screens on the iPod Classic and Nano may be sufficient - the iPod Shuffle doesn't have a display.

However, a large screen doesn't guarantee that the MP3 player is a great choice for watching videos - that's why Which? tests the screen quality in different viewing conditions. When you're choosing an MP3 player, check the viewing angle, look at how easy it is to use and add new videos and note the different video formats the model can read.

You can find the best video player and read our expert verdicts using our MP3 player product selector.

If you want to be able to use your iPod to record videos, then you have just one option - the iPod Touch can capture HD video clips at 30 frames per second. The fifth generation iPod Nano could also shoot videos but Apple dropped this feature from later versions.

iPods: games

If you want to buy an iPod that lets you play games and browse the web wirelessly, the iPod Touch is ideal. It has built-in Wi-Fi and a huge variety of games available to download from the iTunes App Store.

If you want an iPod that lets you view photos, all iPods apart from the Shuffle can display most common photo formats (including Jpegs) on their screens.