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.


The big issues

Price

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest issues when hunting down the right player is price. For smaller models, you're looking at around the $200 mark, while hard disk models can cost anywhere from $350 right up to $900, depending on capacity and features.

Display

A bright, large display on a standard MP3 player is useful because it makes navigating playlists and viewing track information a much easier task. The flipside is that the iPod shuffle proves you can get by just fine without a display.

However, when it comes to a Portable Media Player, the display is everything! A top display can make the difference between a good player and a great one and a bad display can limit the situations in which you're able to use your PMP.

There's a few display features to keep in mind, test and compare when you're shopping around for a PMP.

A wide viewable angle will allow you to view the display without leaning, adjusting or craning your neck and will even allow people next to you to view the device.

The display's size and maximum resolution are also important, as bigger screens are better to watch and a higher resolution allows for sharper images.

Ideally, you'll want the highest resolution available for a given display size. Some good examples include Sorell's SV-10 PMP with a 3.5in display capable of 720x480 pixels, and Hauppauge's Media MVP PMP with 7in widescreen display capable of 854x680 pixels. Most PMPs are going to have 2.5-3.8in displays capable of around 320x240 pixels.

There's also a screen's brightness and contrast ratio which affect the reproduction of colours, but can also eat into battery life.

Finally, some PMPs also feature a touch-sensitive screen (great for ease of use) or a glossy display treatment that can help reflect sunlight, or increase colour depth, or reduce glare. The display is where you're eyes will always be, so do yourself a favour and give this a high priority when comparing models.

The Hauppauge Media MVP PMP has a 7-in widescreen display capable of 854x680 pixels.

Design, size and weight

Let's face it, aesthetics go a long way and Sony's PSP has upped the ante in design. Apple's new iPod touch is also one of the sleekest around. Appearance aside though, a player's size and weight is a large part of its desirability. PMPs vary greatly in this area.

Batteries and removable accessories affect size and weight, as well as functionality. All these factors must be considered when choosing a player, whether you want to make a personal statement or just have a functional device.

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