Points out players that employ a hard drive, just like your PC. These heavier, more fragile machines have massive storage capacity for all sorts of dataideal for long trips where heft and portability aren't the primary concerns.
Denotes flash-memory devices with a small computer chip for file storage. These have no moving parts, which means they can be smaller, lighter, more efficient, and more durable. Want music with every workout? Plug into these.
No longer just miniature jukeboxes, the latest portable digital media players bristle with extras: Think FM tuner, voice recorder, stopwatch, waterproof case, plus storage for text, image, and movie files. But common to all is the capacity to gobble anywhere from 30 to 10,000 tunesor a bevy of larger audiobook files. What features suit you? First decide which type of memory you want, then listen to what these babies can do.Noah Robischon
The APPLE iPOD SPECIAL EDITION U2 comes with a $50 coupon for the "Complete U2" digital library, downloadable from Apple's iTunes online music store. That's 446 songs, including 40 previously unreleased tracks. And they'll hardly put a dent in the 5,000-song capacity of this Mac- and PC-compatible player. $349; 800-692-7753, www.apple.com » THE O FACTOR: The biggest advantage to the most popular MP3 player ever made is the number of peripherals and accessories designed for it. There are waterproof housings, studio-quality detachable speakers, specially designed earphones, car stereo systems, and more.
iRIVER's H320, a 20-gigabyte MP3 player (a gig holds roughly 250 songs), is also an audio multitool. The PC-compatible unit works with almost every music format: MP3, still the most commonly used; WMA, Microsoft's PC standard; plus ASF and OGG audio/video files. The iriver packs a line-in jack for recording straight from a CD player or other audio sourceor from its built-in FM tuner. $330; 800-399-1799, www.iriver.com » THE O FACTOR: The scrumptious two-inch color LCD screen lets you check downloaded digital pictures all day, thanks to batteries that stay charged for up to 16 hours.