Mark Harris
GIFT GUIDE : MP3 PLAYERS - The Independent, 11 December 2004

Looks good, sounds amazing. New portable players can handle music, photos and much more besides, discovers Mark Harris.

Oregon Scientific MP120
If you find running on a treadmill or racking up lengths in your local pool tedious, hunt out this innovative waterproof MP3 player. It’s suitable for complete immersion in water and includes a FM radio for when you get tired of its 128Mb of digital tunes. While its battery life of 10 hours is less than some players, it should still be enough to see you through an entire triathlon. Sound quality actually improves underwater, although singing along while swimming isn’t recommended.
How much? £100
Where: Stockist details from ; 0845 601 3964

iRiver N10
As players get ever tinier and ever more powerful, they’re beginning to double up as jewellery. This miniscule 512Mb MP3 player can be worn as a necklace, flashing a variety of animated screensavers on its power-saving organic LED (OLED) screen. Weighing just 22 grams, the N10 can also act as a voice recorder and an alarm clock. It cleverly recharges its built-in lithium ion battery when you connect it to your PC and gives around 8 to 10 hours of high quality playback on each charge.
How much? £170
Where: Available from ; 01293 543555

Monolith II
If you don’t need to carry your music collection at all times, a smaller, lighter flash memory player is a good alternative to a hefty hard drive model. This brushed aluminium 512Mb beauty weighs in at just 65 grams and a has a built-in FM radio with record facility, so you can relive your favourite Archers episodes whenever you want. The advanced OLED display can show a choice of animated images and sound quality is excellent for a small player. A 1Gb model is available for around £35 more.
How much? £145
Where: Available from ; 0131 273 4388

Nex ia Plus
This solid-state MP3 player isn’t particularly sophisticated but it does represent stunning value for money. The ia Plus stores its music on standard, removable Compact Flash or Microdrive memory cards, such as you’ll find in some digital cameras. This makes it simple to load and swap files from any computer with a card reader, instead of using the complex software that some players require. Best of all, it ships with a huge 4Gb Microdrive card (usually costing £200 or more on its own) that’s large enough to store thousands of tunes and is perfect for sharing with a camera or PDA.
How much? £150
Where: Available from ; 0131 273 4388

iPod Photo 60Gb
Not content with swallowing the portable music market whole, Apple is now eyeing up the digital camera revolution. The iPod Photo boasts one of the largest hard drives on the market (60GB; enough for tens of thousands of songs) and can now store your photographic library, too. A glorious 65,000-colour LCD screen displays dozens of tiny thumbnails or full-screen slideshows set to your music, with the touch-sensitive click wheel making scrolling through hundreds of images effortless. Mac users will be fine with their iPhoto software but PC owners should consider buying Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 (£65) to make transferring pictures as simple as possible.
How much? £430
Where: Stockist details from ; 0800 039 1010

Sony NW-E99
While the rest of the world embraced MP3, Sony ploughed a lonely furrow with its incompatible ATRAC3-format music players. That’s all set to change with a new 1Gb flash memory player that finally jumps on the MP3 bandwagon. The E99 weighs just 40 grams and boasts an unbeatable 70 hours of playback from a single AAA battery. But Sony isn’t giving up on ATRAC3 completely, having recently launched an online music store called Connect offering 300,000 downloadable tracks (from 79p each) without an MP3 in sight.
How much? £170
Where: Stockist details from ; 01293 543555

iPod U2 Special Edition
You may not like U2. You may even think they did their best work 20 years ago and have been coasting on the stadium circuit for decades. But there’s no denying that this limited edition 20Gb iPod, with its jet black casing and bright red click wheel, is as cool as they ever were. Fans will appreciate the band’s signatures etched on the reverse side and a voucher giving £40 off a frankly terrifying 400-track U2 digital box set, available to download from Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Weirdly enough, the voucher isn’t valid in Eire.
How much? £250
Where: Stockist details from ; 0800 039 1010

Creative Zen Micro
Until recently, Apple’s biggest problem with the iPod Mini was making enough of them to fulfil demand. But at last it has real competition, in the shape of the Zen Micro. Not only does the Micro offer a higher capacity (5Gb to the iPod Mini’s 4Gb), it has neat features such as a removable rechargeable battery, an organiser that can synch with Microsoft Outlook and an integrated FM radio. The Zen Micro is available in a rainbow of ten different colours, from sober black or white to eye-watering orange or lime green.
How much? £180
Where: Stockist details from

Archos Gmini 400
Why settle for just music when you can watch movies on the move with this 20Gb multimedia jukebox? The 2.2-inch screen might not do widescreen epics justice, but it’s fine for viewing trailers or music videos stored in the new MPEG-4 format. Arguably, the colour screen is better suited to viewing album cover art or slideshows of digital photos downloaded directly from memory cards. Of course, the Gmini is a proper MP3 player as well, and there’s also a game or two to keep your fingers busy.
How much? £250
Where: Stockist details from ; 01264 366 022

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