Portable Multimedia Players

These days, portable media players are everywhere. Devices such Apple's iPhone manage to pack video and picture playback into common everyday devices, whereas units such as the Creative Zen Vision W offer a more dedicated media playback solution.

Games

Many modern players include some games packed in. Some, such as Apple's iPod, even allow you to download new titles such as Texas Hold'em through their iTunes download service.

General file storage

Some devices will allow you to store any kind of data files -- not just music, music or photos. This means you can use them to transfer your documents between computers.

To do this, the device must support two-way file transfer with external computers. In some cases, you will have to install software on each computer beforehand.

Computer connection

When you're copying large movie files and MP3 or photo collections, you're really going to want the extra speed that high-speed USB 2.0 or FireWire offers. The difference in transfer times can literally be hours.

PMP manufactures are looking into wireless file transfers, using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the emerging wireless USB 2.0 protocol.

Batteries and external power

The vast majority of PMPs these days will use rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries. While some older models utilised AA or AAA batteries, they have rapidly been superseded and lately it is rare to find a unit with any sort of removable battery,

With that in mind, the method of charging is extremely important. Some companies offer a barebones solution and just tell you to charge via the USB cable you use to connect to your PC. Others will provide a separate AC adapter to charge via a power point. If you are regularly on the road you may also want to look into car chargers which usually plug into the cigarette lighter.

Warranty

Nearly every PMP on the market comes with a one-year warranty. Just ensure that you are getting a warranty, and that it's applicable inside Australia.

Furthermore, try to make sure you won't need to pay courier or other charges, should you need to claim on the warranty.

What's in the box?

It may work out cheaper to buy memory cards and other accessories at the same time that you buy your PMP rather than separately -- unless, of course, you're prepared to wait for prices to drop.

Meanwhile, make sure you know exactly what is included in the quoted price - and what is not!

Also, be aware that bundled software can range from nasty bug-infested "crashware" to top-notch video/audiophile applications, so checking it out in detail beforehand can pay off.

Always keep an eye out for what accessories are bundled in the box and are available to expand your use of the product at a later date.

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