So I'm fickle about the vessel for my music.
December 11, 2007 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Let's play suggest-a-mp3-player!


- 20-30 GB ideally, 4 GB absolute minimum but it had better be absolutely amazing in other ways.
- Hiearchy/filing system for music absolutely necessary, think the Zen or the iPod system - sortable by Song, Artist, Album, Composer, Genre, etc., with sub categories as well
- by extension, screen absolutely necessary
- preferably no frills (colour screens, photo/video, etc.), but I recognize it might not be entirely possible
- long battery life! and by long, I mean 12+ hours, preferably longer

And the catch: Preferably not an iPod, due to bad experience with iPod battery life in the past, price range issues with models that fit the size requirement, and a hatred for the Nano (why did they discontinue the Mini??)

Does my ideal MP3 player exist?

I would prefer to stay around $200 Canadian, give or take. Open to refurbs, wary of used.
posted by Phire to Technology (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'd still recommend the ipod first... but have you checked out the Zune? It has a long battery life (excluding video), and has a built in FM tuner, which many people wish the iPods had. The original Zune got bad reviews, but they completely re-did it and many consumers enjoy the Zune 2.
I love my ipod touch though.
posted by boeing82 at 8:24 PM on December 11, 2007

Best answer: I'd go with a Zune 30 or 80. If equivalent Zune and iPod models had been released side-by-side, the Zune would probably have won. Here are some aggregated reviews.

I don't have one myself, but when my 5.5G iPod obsoletes I'm going with a Zune.
posted by Phyltre at 8:26 PM on December 11, 2007

Response by poster: Hmm. For some reason the Zune site isn't fully accessible to me. and I can't find it at or it's not an exclusive to US thing, is it? *confused*
posted by Phire at 8:28 PM on December 11, 2007 has all the info. unfortunately, it looks like you can't get it there now. that site should keep you updated pretty well, it looks like. maybe you're in store for a trip to seattle, detroit, buffalo, etc. good luck!
posted by boeing82 at 8:42 PM on December 11, 2007

I bought a creative Zen, 20Gb for $260 (australian dollars) a couple of years ago. It was the last one in the shop of its kind - b/w screen, no photos or video capabilities, but it does have fm radio and voice recorder. it was just when Creative brought out their players with colour screens and video etc, so the store was reducing the old b/w screen ones. mine was even cheaper as it was a demo model, had a slight chip on it. its worked beatufiully, crapped out a few times, but is easy to reset.

You need a bit of luck to find one like it these days though. You'd be hard pressed to find an mp3 player without at least a colour screen these days (is that why the batteries drain so quickly?) For me, it was just good timing. Got it from a big name electronics/dept store (Dick Smith Electronics) Not sure what the Canadian equivalent would be though, but that's where I'd look.
posted by robotot at 8:50 PM on December 11, 2007

8GB iRiver Clix. I end up suggesting it in every mp3 player thread :P
Switchable between MSC and MTP (i.e. both plug-and-play and syncable), large high quality screen, tactile feedback + everything you mentioned
posted by pantsrobot at 9:01 PM on December 11, 2007

I used to have a Zen Vision:M. I didn't like the controls at all, the software was only OK, and it died after a month. After that I lived MP3-free until I got one of the original 30 gig Zunes for $99 when the new ones came out. With the same firmware as the version 2 Zunes, I have to admit, it's a pretty good little machine. The software, on both the computer and player, is very good. The buttons are actual buttons that actually move when you press them! Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I can't stand touch wheels and touch screens, especially here in the Midwest where we tend to actually wear gloves sometimes.

Anyway, I'm very happy with the Zune.
posted by indyz at 9:34 PM on December 11, 2007

I still have an Iriver I40 which is no longer made (grrr) so can speak to Iriver's good quality.
posted by edgeways at 10:01 PM on December 11, 2007

These guys review things that aren't iPods.
posted by aubilenon at 10:23 PM on December 11, 2007

If you can find one, the Sony NW-HD5 is a fantastic mp3 player especially when paired with alternatives to the Sony software. Since it is discontinued you may have a hard time finding it but the prices seem to have lowered quite a bit (I paid around 250€ for it three years ago, seems to have dropped below $100).

It's got a black and white screen (can be used with white text on black, which is really sleek), quite small, 20GB, and I can get a good 30-35 hours out of it when I turn off the backlight and don't navigate through the menus too much.

There's a great plugin for Winamp that lets you transfer music to the player directly, which is a way to avoid using Sony's awful software.

I found a couple entries from aubilenon's previously mentioned blog:
posted by kepano at 11:09 PM on December 11, 2007

I recently bought a 8 Gb Sony NWZ-A818 and I really like it. Is has a battery life of 30-35 hours. I didn't actually verify this, but it was easily sufficient to last a recent round trip Europe-US. Though it plays video, the focus is ony music playback. As a bonus, the headphones that came with it were actually quite decent. File transfer is a breeze with either WMP (or any other media manager) or simply drag & drop.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 1:37 AM on December 12, 2007

There's a great plugin for Winamp that lets you transfer music to the player directly, which is a way to avoid using Sony's awful software.

I was delighted to find out that for newer models (as the one I described above), Sony ditched their software and switched to an open format.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 1:39 AM on December 12, 2007

C$290, but up to 35 hours on a charge
posted by rhizome at 2:08 AM on December 12, 2007

I should say, it seem that even 5G Ipods get 14 hours playback, so it shouldn't be hard to find something really no-frills.

6G, C$120, 32H
30G, C$120, 16H

But those are kinda n-1 generation and "no-frills" is getting harder to find. Flash players are still at <1G, so everything's pretty segmented. The battery life is almost a given!
posted by rhizome at 2:24 AM on December 12, 2007

Sandisk e280 is great, 8GB and you can add a microsd card up to 8GB.

$140 at BestBuy.

PS: you can use RockBox with this baby, so you can play lossless files :)
posted by zouhair at 3:46 AM on December 12, 2007

I have a Creative Zen Sleek and have been very pleased with it. How widely available it is now in general, and in Canada in particular, I don't know.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:49 AM on December 12, 2007

Zouhair: On the newer Sandisk e280, you can't use Rockbox since Sansa has looked the firmware with their latest firmware upgrade. You can't even use MSC without using an undocumented trick now. (The trick is to put the 280 on Hold, and then press Rewind while you are plugging the player into the USB port). It's still a fantastic player for the price however!
posted by Progenitor at 7:56 AM on December 12, 2007

looked = locked
posted by Progenitor at 7:56 AM on December 12, 2007

Hey mister, did you search first? I had a similar question, although perhaps the choices have changed since then. I appreciated the advice mightily and love my iaudio X5L. Not sure about the sorting system, but it definitely has everything else you want.
posted by equipoise at 8:32 AM on December 12, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far!! Will definitely look into them :)

equipoise, you realize that one of my specifications was that I absolutely need a screen, right? Cost is also a big factor for me, unlike for you. And I'm a girl. Just sayin'.

Zouhair: my friend has a 2 Gig Sansa and I've played around with it a bit... I really don't like the user interface, although I suppose it's somethign I could get used to.
posted by Phire at 9:48 AM on December 12, 2007

Boo. One choice above all--Creative Zen Vision:M. I've got the 30Gb one and I adore it. They were recently selling refurb ones at the Creative site for $99 shipped. I got my GF a 1gb SanDisk for $14 after GoogleCheckOut a while ago---she makes good use of that too.
posted by TomMelee at 6:10 PM on December 12, 2007

Check out the Cowon iAudio X5. Decent capacity, good battery life (and depending on how big a disk you want you have the option of choosing the X5L, with the larger battery). Works great as a UMS device, so there's no need to fanny about with iTunes or Windows Media Player if you don't want to. Will run Rockbox, too, if you want (though personally I've not found a reason to switch). Best of all, the X5 has the best sound reproduction I've heard on any portable digital audio player.
posted by kxr at 4:32 AM on December 13, 2007

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