Choosing a new MP3 player – dilemmas, dilemmas…

It’s time for a new music player. I got a Creative Zen Micro a couple of years ago, and it’s been a good little player but the headphone socket has now developed a loose connection and it’s getting a bit annoying. It’s time to start choosing a successor.

Things I liked about the Zen Micro, which help to shape the criteria I’m using:

  • 5Gb is a decent amount of storage; I’ve got about 1200 tracks and 1% free space. I tend to put a few whole albums on it, and just sync playlists from Windows Media Player for the rest. That can sometimes be a bit frustrating, when I’d listen to one song in the playlist then think “oh, haven’t heard him for a while”, go to play the whole album, only to find that’s the only song I’ve synced from that album… so maybe more space would be useful, but is it worth the tradeoff in battery life and physical size that might bring?

  • It’s small enough. I certainly don’t want anything smaller than the Zen, and although thinner would be cool, it’s not a big deal – I guess I’m thinking I don’t want to go for anything much bigger if I’m going to use the device a lot. It would be cool to have a nice big screen, but if it means the device doesn’t live in my bag that I carry everywhere because it’s too big, then it means I won’t use it.

  • It’s got a mini-USB plug on the bottom. Say no more – when I’m travelling or on holiday (which is when the device is getting more prolonged use), I have a single charger or sync cable for the music player as for the mobile phone. OK, you could argue that’s the thin end of the inevitable convergence, but I’ve covered some of that ground already…

  • I don’t use the radio much, but every year when we troop down to Le Mans to see the 24h race, it’s really useful… so if I could get a new device with an occasional radio use, that’d be cool.

All my music is in WMA format and I can’t really be bothered with the idea of re-ripping it all or converting to MP3 (a process which would inevitably degrade the sound quality quite some), and I’ve bought some stuff from MSN Music so would like to be able to carry that forward.

Point 1 (WMA) rules out anything in the iPod range (why won’t Apple just get over it and put WMA support on the iPods??), and point 2 (DRM) rules out the Zune for the moment since (almost unbelieveably) it’s not compatible with Plays4Sure.

I suppose at some point I’ll get a Zune: maybe even when I’m Seattle early next month… but for the moment, I’m leaning towards the Sandisk Sansa range… I did love their “” viral advertising on the tube last year, and these devices seem to be getting decent write ups though there are some minor niggles (like no mini-USB, for example).

Buying the right technology and not ending up with an expensive dud or a short-lived manufacturer’s folly… it’s not easy, is it?


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