Buying Guide: Simplifying Your Choice For Portable Media

Plain old MP3 players are yesterday’s news, and Portable Media Players (PMPs) are all the rage. These babies play a whole bunch of formats, both audio and video. The also have a whole lot of applications that can be quite handy. And I’m not just talking about iPods. Every major electronics company is investing time and money into making smaller, lighter, sleeker players with larger capacities. Every new PMP comes competitively priced, and with better features; so how do you know which one to buy. This buying guide helps you decide.

The first thing you should ask yourself is what you will be using this player for. How much media do you want to carry around with you? If you like video on the go like I do, a 2 GB PMP will be of no use to you. Even if you convert the videos to a much lower resolution, you won’t be able to store much on a player with limited capacity. You should look out for a 4 or an 8 GB player if you want to carry a lot of music as well as some videos around with you. But then again, if you are a true audiophile, and want uncompressed formats, you might want to look at something even bigger.


The Transcend MP860 4 GB - A great entry level PMP @ Rs. 4,230

A good option is to look for a PMP with expandable memory. This way you can get a 4 GB player with an extra 4 GB memory card, which will work out quite cheap. This way you can put all your music on the player and the videos on the memory card, or vice versa.

Player Size
When and where you use you PMP the most will dictate its size. If you like working out at the gym, a smaller, flash based player will be ideal, as a hard disk may get damaged with all that running and pumping. On the other hand, if you want a player with larger capacity, you will have to compromise a little on the size, as these are usually hard drive based, and are obviously larger than their flash drive based cousins. The same goes for players with large screens.

Display Size and Type
Ooh, it has a touch screen, you say? But don’t get carried away by that, as you also need to check a few more things before you fall for it. What’s the size of the screen? Up to what resolution does it support? This is what you should look at first. The display should be large enough to watch videos and images on, although PMPs with larger screens tend to be larger in size as well. Watching videos and images on a larger screen will be a lot better, but you have to keep in mind, that this also limits the players other uses due to its size. While the device will still be portable, it’ll definitely make a cumbersome workout buddy. 



Good audio and video playback apart, what else do you want from your PMP? There’s a host of options to choose from such as FM radio, a voice recorder, flash support for games, calendar, contacts, notes and even a camera. Also check to see what kind of audio and video formats the player supports; needless to say, the more the better. Other than that, expandable memory and a resume playback function for videos will also come in handy.


The Philips GoGear Cam - a great value for money PMP with camera

A good PMP will have more than just EQ presets, as you’ll definitely need more than that if you are an audiophile. A manual EQ is what you really want so you can adjust the player’s sound to give you the best output. Of course, there are other features such as Bass Boost, but certain manufacturers like to add their own little personal touch. One good example is Creative’s X-Fi settings, ‘Crystalizer’ and ‘Expand’, which makes the sound crisper and louder. And speaking of louder, make sure that the PMP you are buying is loud and clear enough. A lot of players tend to distort at high volumes due to cheap digital to analogue converters (DAC).

External Support
Converters and Managing Software
A lot of PMPs come with their own software that lets you do a bunch of things including creating playlists and converting files. And although these can be a bit of a pain at times, the good ones help streamline the transfer process too.


The Cowon J3 -sheer brilliance!


Just like in the features section, I say the more the better. But before we get to all the added goodies, the first thing you should take into consideration is the earphones. For instance, the iPod is my favourite player, but the bundled earphones are completely rubbish. I’ve always ended up buying better earphones with most MP3 players or PMPs, so make sure they’re the right fit and sound good.

The iPod Touch 4th generation - truly multi-faceted

If your player has a large screen, it’s not a good idea to carry it around in your pocket, so make sure that a pouch or cover is included. And even if it isn’t, you should buy one to protect the PMP. When it comes to cables, all players will have a USB and power cable included, but there are some that allow you to play out videos to the TV. If this is the case, the right cables should be provided with the player.

The Creative Zen X-Fi Style - a great little player with excellent battery life

Battery Life
This is a very important point that you must not ignore. If you travel a lot, getting a PMP with good battery life makes perfect sense. The latest players have really good batteries that last up to over 24 hours for audio and over 4-5 hours for video, such as the Creative Zen X-Fi Style. Don’t always trust what the manufacturer says, as they can be absolute liars. Read a review at trustworthy sites such as this one to see how long the battery actually lasts.

So there you have it! Follow these tips, and you will end up with the right PMP. There’s something for everyone, and we hope you get what you want.

Published Date: Nov 02, 2010 09:30 am | Updated Date: Nov 02, 2010 09:30 am