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MP3 players

What's behind our MP3 player Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 20 models in MP3 players to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    Overall score is within types, in performance order. For music players, this score is based primarily on ease of use, headphone quality, audio playback time, and damage resistance. For media players, video and picture quality is also rated and included in the overall score. The displayed score is out of a total of 100 points. Tests were carried out by International Consumer Research and Testing, a worldwide group that includes Consumer Reports.
  • Ease of use
    Ease of use mainly covers player characteristics that aid in convenience, versatility, and portability. These primarily include navigation and scrolling features; the accessibility and readability of the controls; and the readability and breadth of the information in the display (such as music-track data and battery-life indicator); size and weight; and ease of use while walking or jogging. Some features and capabilities considered include the presence of an FM radio, built-in microphone, upgradeable firmware, equalizer, data storage, software assessment, and the player's ability to be recognized as a hard drive by the computer without the installation of additional drivers.
  • Headphone quality
    Headphone quality reflects judgments from a listening panel comparing the player and its supplied headphone to a test audio CD and a high-fidelity headphone. All uncompressed (audio CD or WAV) test music sources were ripped (encoded) to MP3 format (128, 192, and 256 kbps CBR rate) using a high-quality encoder.
  • Audio playback time
    Audio playback time (hours) reflects lab measurements of continuous playback time to the nearest hour, using a selection of music tracks encoded to MP3 format at a 128 kbps constant bit rate (CBR); fully charged rechargeable batteries; backlight at the minimum setting; with included headphone; and volume set at a reasonable level. For players that can use standard batteries such as alkaline, expect a bit longer playback time. Our measurements should not be compared with those stated by the manufacturer, which may use different testing methods and criteria.
  • Damage resistance
    Damage resistance mainly reflects drop-test results; scratch- and wipe-resistance results were also considered.
  • Still picture quality
    Picture quality is based on evaluation of the player in indoor and outdoor setting, plus the display's viewing angle.
  • Motion video quality
    Motion video quality is based on evaluation of the player in indoor and outdoor setting, plus the display's viewing angle.
  • Video playback time
    Video playback time (hours) reflects lab measurements of continuous video playback time to the nearest hour with fully charged rechargeable batteries. Our measurements should not be compared with those stated by the manufacturer, which may use different testing methods and criteria.
  • Height
    The player's height is measured to the nearest tenth of an inch, and listed the way the player would be oriented if you were viewing the screen.
  • Width
    The player's width is measured to the nearest tenth of an inch, and listed the way the player would be oriented if you were viewing the screen.
  • Depth
    The player's depth is measured to the nearest tenth of an inch, and listed the way the player would be oriented if you were viewing the screen.
  • Weight
    How much the player weighs in ounces, including batteries but not including accessories. For models with no internal memory, the memory card is included.

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Recommended MP3 players

Recommended MP3 players are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
The digital music player continues its evolution from simple audio player to complex multimedia device. Most MP3 players come with color displays and the ability to show digital photos transferred from your computer, sometimes with accompanying music. Many MP3 players also play back movies, music videos, and TV shows downloaded from the Web or videos taken with your camcorder. If you're looking for information about iPods and mp3 players, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ mp3 player reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our mp3 player buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased Ratings and iPod and mp3 player reviews to help you choose the best iPod or mp3 player for your needs.

Recently reviewed MP3 players

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iPod Touch (32 GB) (5th gen)
A 32 GB flash-memory MP3 player that includes photo and video playback, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a built-in microphone, equalizer, and volume limiter to protect hearing.

MP3 player buying guide

When shopping for an MP3 player, first decide how much you're willing to spend on a unit that you might want to replace in a year or two. Then decide whether you want an iPod or a less popular brand that might offer useful features iPods lack. (See our reviews of the latest Apple iPods, as well as some great alternatives, too.)

Most MP3 players can handle downloaded music videos, movies, and TV programs, but some are better at it than others. An increasing number of MP3 players now offer built-in support for optional wireless Bluetooth headphones for tangle-free listening, and even Wi-Fi capability for downloading or streaming music and other content from online sources.

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