Most players plug into your computer’s USB port. Some can plug into a FireWire port or a parallel port, but these are much slower in transferring data. The MP3 files are saved in the player's memory.
Memory types include:
Internal Flash Memory
Compact Flash Cards
The advantage to solid-state memory is that there are no moving parts, which means better reliability and no skips in the music. However, MP3 players that contain tiny hard disk drives can store 10 to 150 times more than Flash memory devices can.
Songs for MP3 Players can be downloaded from various music services. Examples include iTunes, Rhapsody, Zune Marketplace, Amazon, WalMart and Best Buy Digital Music Store, etc.
Most MP3 Players will play a variety of song file formats, such as MP3, WMA, WAV, AIFF and others.
However, some song formats are encrypted, so that they will only play on MP3 players of their native brand. For example, while Apple iPods will play a variety of file formats, songs downloaded from Apple iTunes will not play on non-Apple players. iTunes songs are a proprietary, protected AAC file format.
To ensure compatibility between your songs and your MP3 player, be sure to check the file format of the songs in your collection or of those you intend to purchase. Then check supported formats on the product page(s) of any player you are considering.
If you want a lower price, smaller size, less weight, and long playback time, choose a flash-memory model. It will hold up to 1,000 songs. You will want a flash model that can accept external memory cards.
If you have a large music collection that you want to keep with you, a hard-disk player may make more sense. They can hold up to 15,000 songs. Hard-disk players can be more complicated to manage than a flash-memory player. Plus, they are more vulnerable to damage if dropped.
Microdrive players are about the size of a credit card, and a 4-GB model can hold about 1,000 songs. Most models with 20-GB hard disks are about the size of a deck of cards and can hold about 5,000 songs.
Some online music copy-protected sources are limited with some models. For example, Sony players only work with one online music store, while iPods are compatible with iTunes and Real.
Players that support the copy-protected WMA formats, like those from Archos, Creative, RCA, and Samsung, allow access to the greatest number of online stores.
Some players won't play music purchased from any online store.
Downloading "free" music from such online sources as peer-to-peer Web sites is another option. But you risk a copyright-infringement lawsuit by the music industry. You'll also increase your exposure to a host of nasty computer viruses and spyware programs.
Most players will allow you to record (rip) music.
You can use the software that comes with your computer or player, such as Apple iTunes, MusicMatch, Napster, or Windows Media Player, or download other freeware or shareware applications.
If the program has the software plug-in for your player, you can transfer the music to your player directly; otherwise, you'll need to use the program that came with your player to perform the transfer.
Batteries should be considered when purchasing a MP3 Player.
Depending on the player settings, some will run out of power after only six hours of play, while others can play music for more than 50 hours before their batteries give out. Playing videos can run a battery down in just a few hours.
Flash-memory players tend to have longer playback times than hard-disk players. They use AA or AAA batteries and can accept either standard or rechargeable batteries.
Other players use a rechargeable nonstandard "block-" or "gumstick-" shaped nickel metal-hydride (Ni-MH) or lithium-ion (Li-ion) removable battery, which is both more expensive and harder to find.
Many hard-drive players use a nonremovable rechargeable battery. When the battery can no longer hold a charge, the player has to be sent back to the manufacturer for service. This is a costly procedure if the product is no longer under warranty.