Apple's iPods are unquestionably the most popular MP3 players on the market. But iPods can run hundreds of dollars. While they may suit your style, they might not fit your budget.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great players under $100. They allow you to listen to your music and podcasts on the go. You'll make sacrifices with budget MP3 players, of course.
You won't find large, vivid screens like that of the iPod Touch. Also, storage capacity is more limited. Budget music players generally feature 1 or 2 gigabytes of built-in storage. But you'll be able to store about 500 songs per gigabyte of storage.
Most budget players don't support videos and photos. Those that do can store about 10,000 JPEGs per gigabyte of storage.
Depending on your needs, these shortcomings may not matter much. Here are a few of my favorite budget players.
Yes, even Apple offers a player for less than $100. The shuffle is available in several vibrant colors. The diminutive player is about the size of a matchbook. Its clip lets you attach it to your clothes.
The Shuffle is available in two capacities. The 1GB model runs $49; you'll pay $69 to double the storage.
The Shuffle is a no-frills affair. There's no screen, so navigating your music collection can be tricky. Obviously, it won't play videos. Nor can you expand the storage capacity with a memory card.
The Shuffle is the only sub-$100 player that works with copy-protected music purchased from Apple's iTunes. If you've bought protected music from iTunes, this is the player for you.
SanDisk Sansa Fuze
SanDisk is a respected name in the flash memory industry. You may have a SanDisk memory card for your digital camera.
SanDisk recently started making MP3 players, which have been well received. You can pick up a 4GB SanDisk Sansa Fuze for $100.
In addition to music, the Fuze plays video files. You can also view photographs on the 1.9-inch color screen.
The Fuze has features you won't find on most budget MP3 players. It includes a recorder that can be used for voice notes. This is ideal for students who want to record lectures. There's also a built-in FM radio.
The Fuze works with copy-protected music from many popular online stores. It even works with subscription services such as Napster To Go.
Creative MuVo T200
Creative makes many popular MP3 players. The MuVo T200 is available in two capacities. The 2GB model retails for $50; the 4GB model costs $70.
The MuVo connects to your computer like a thumb drive, so transferring music is a snap. You don't need any cables. Just drag and drop your music onto the player.
The color screen helps you navigate through your music collection. Unfortunately, you cannot view videos or photos. But you can record audio and also listen to the built-in radio.
The T200 works with copy-protected music from popular online stores. However, it does not work with subscription services.
The Archos 105 has 2GB of built-in storage and sells for $90. The 1.8-inch screen makes it easy to navigate through your files.
In addition to music, the 105 handles videos and photos. There's no recorder or radio, though.
The 105 works with copy-protected music purchased from online stores, but it doesn't work with subscription music services.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet. To get the podcast or find the station nearest you, visit: www.komando.com/listen. To subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters, sign up at: www.komando.com/newsletters. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.