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Apple and Samsung top our new Ratings of MP3 players

Consumer Reports News: December 21, 2011 10:48 AM

The fifth-generation Apple iPod touch and Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 4.0 are top performers in Consumer Reports' latest roundup of media players, edging out models from brands such as Cowon, Sony, and Philips.

The fifth-generation iPod touch ($400 for the 64GB model we tested, $200 for the similar 8GB version) earned the top spot in the media-player category. Identical in hardware to the previous model—including its ultra-sharp Retina display, two cameras, and fast hardware—this newest iPod comes preloaded with iOS 5, Apple’s newest operating system for mobile devices, including the iPad and iPhone. (The OS is a free upgrade for third- and fourth-generation iPod touch owners.)

We found many of the new IOS 5 capabilities to be as welcome on the iPod as on those other devices. Those features include the ability to use the iPod's Wi-Fi connection to sync with your iTunes account to share or load photos and other content with additional Apple devices on your account, as well as to back up text messages, e-mail, and Apple iWork documents (Keynote, Pages, and Numbers) to the remote-server-based iCloud service.

Samsung's 8GB Galaxy 4 player ($230) proved to be an excellent iPod alternative for Android fans. That’s due in part to its gorgeous 4-inch display, which offers excellent viewing angles and an impressive number of options for accessing its content from other devices—even wirelessly. Just as the iPod touch is an iPhone without the telephony, this Galaxy Player is an Android smart phone without the phone. But where the iPod's rear-facing camera offers less than a megapixel of resolution, this Galaxy Player's rear-facing camera is 3.2 megapixels.

As with the iPod touch, the Galaxy Player’s Wi-Fi connection gives you access to your calendars, e-mails, social-network accounts, GPS navigation, and ThinkFree Office, as well as multitude of apps and other downloadable content from the Android Market. But the Android Market still offers fewer apps than the Apple Apps Store.

Other notable media players include the 32GB Cowon D3 Plenue ($340), whose 3.1x1.9-inch display produced excellent-quality stills and videos, and the 8GB Sony NWZ-S764 ($150), which comes with great-sounding headphones.

The tiny Apple iPod nano, which measures 1.48 x 1.61 x 0.35 inches and weighs just 0.74 ounces, topped our list of music-focused players. Its square display, which measures a mere 1.54 inches, has been upgraded to a touch screen. Regardless, the nano is still inadequate for viewing photos. But its audio performance was among the best in its category. And we found it easier to handle while walking or jogging than many other players were.

for full details on these and other new media and music players, see our latest Ratings (available to subscribers) at

Mike Gikas

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