Holiday gift idea: the best non-Apple MP3 players

The Creative Zen X-Fi MP3 Video player from Sansa offers lots of features, ease-of-use and attractive price.
The Creative Zen X-Fi MP3 Video player from Sansa offers lots of features, ease-of-use and attractive price.
The Creative Zen X-Fi MP3 Video player from Sansa offers lots of features, ease-of-use and an attractive price.

For those that love music, an MP3 player is a perfect gift idea, and like a lot of electronics have dropped in price significantly this year. Most people think of the iPod and iTunes when it comes to music, movies, podcasts and Internet radio. It’s true, that Apple is the undisputed leader in the space with the largest market segment.

Fortunately, there are many other excellent choices besides the iPod. There are several reasons why you might want to consider a non-Apple MP3 player:

Sound Quality. Although Apple has been been getting better when it comes to sound quality, it is still considered average, or slightly better than average. For most people this could be fine, but if you are particular about clean trebles, and deep, thumping bass, there are far better sounding players out there from Cowon, iRiver and Sony to name a few.

Subscription Music. iTunes does not currently offer a monthly subscription service. The advantage with these programs is you can download as much as you want. This means unlimited access typically to over 5 million tracks from online music services such as Rhapsody and Napster. And there is also Microsoft’s well regarded Zune Marketplace which not only offers an unlimited subscription service, but also free 10 non-DRM tracks per month.

More Choice for Music Management Software. With iPod you must use iTunes. Again, the software is average. Users complain about bugginess and crashing. But it does integrate everything you’d want into one interface. However, there are other nice choices out there for users looking for stronger music library management, higher capacity for large music collections and advanced features such as tag management, recommendations and more. Leaders include MediaMonkey, JetAudio, WinAmp and, although due for a makeover, Windows Media Player.

My Picks for Top Non-Apple MP3 Players

  • Microsoft Zune – the flash players are especially well priced.
  • Cowon D2 – a portable touchscreen model, expandable memory card slot, and perhaps best sound quality on the market today.
  • Sansa Clip – very inexpensive and very small, great for the gym, but doesn’t sacrifice sound quality.
  • Sony S630 – attractive design, but uses proprietary cable.
  • Creative Zen X-Fi – easy-to-use and my top recommendation for all-rounder, non-Apple player.


What: Creative Zen X-Fi 8GB Video MP3 Player

List price: $149.00

Where to buy: Amazon $137.99

They’ll thank you: for a fun, attractive, easy-to-use on the go music listening experience.

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