Best Cheap MP3 Players

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Our Picks

SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip Review

(From $39.00 Best)

The Sansa Clip Zip from SanDisk is an excellent exemplar of a cheap MP3 player. It's loaded with features and 4GB of storage, it's small and lightweight and the sound is lovely. This is the best player for your money for less than $60.

This updated model from SanDisk is an excellent alternative to pricier MP3 players and iPods, according to SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip reviews. An expert Sansa Clip Zip reviews at CNET extols the Clip Zip as a top value buy and gives it a 4 out of 5 rating. The reviewer likes all the extra features (e.g., FM radio and voice recorder) and support for more audio file types than the competition. Moreover, it sounds good. At Tech Hive, a Sansa Clip Zip review says the simple display interface is a snap to use but the included earbuds are uncomfortable. Minor flaws aside, the Tech Hive expert concludes that the Clip Zip is a better deal than the iPod shuffle.

Users' Sansa Clip Zip reviews also compliment the player for its high quality sound and small size. One parent who relies on the device as a listening therapy tool for her children says in a Sansa Clip Zip review at B&H that the long battery life and the clip, which she attaches to the headset to keep wires out of the way, are big pluses. Users also appreciate the expandable memory card slot, an uncommon feature in budget players; some reports at Newegg, however, say the Clip Zip is picky about which microSD cards it will accept. We also found a few rumbles in Sansa Clip Zip reviews about build quality and the bundled software.

The SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip (starting at $39, Amazon) boasts a 1.1-inch color screen that helps you navigate and displays images, such as album cover art. There's a built-in mic for voice recording, as well as an FM radio. The Clip Zip is available in 4GB and 8GB versions, both of which feature a microSDHC slot. The player's audio file support -- MP3, WMA, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis, and Audible file types -- is better than most budget MP3 players. Battery life on the Clip Zip extends up to 15 hours.

The Clip Zip stands out as a clear winner in the cheap MP3 players category. Other models can't match its combination of features, sound quality, and price. Its only weakness is that it's not the sturdiest player around.

Sony W Series Walkman Review

(From $50.00 Best)

The 2GB Sony W Series Walkman appeals to athletic types who want a hands-off player, although the headphone design may be a little awkward for some users. This Walkman also produces top-notch sound.

The Sony W Series Walkman is the most unusual budget player in our lineup -- it's built right into a pair of headphones. Experts' Sony W Series Walkman reviews indicate they like the design, but they're even more impressed with the top flight performance. A W Series Walkman review at Tech Hive declares it an Editor's Choice for the excellent audio quality, particularly the solid bass. Despite enthusiastic applause for the design, the expert notes that the controls, which are built into the side of the headphones, take some getting used to. An expert Sony W Series Walkman review at CNET praises the light weight, clear audio, and stellar, deep bass. At Men's Health, a W Series Walkman review gives a shout out to the quick-charge feature, which gives you 60 minutes of playback following a three-minute charge; the snug fit also merits a mention. Sony W Series Walkman reviews posted at B & H by consumers report that the headpieces sit easily, comfortably, and securely over your ears (even while running) and there are no wires getting in your way. Several users, however, lament the absence of a button for fast forward and rewind.

The W Series Walkman (starting at $50, Amazon) is a fairly basic player in terms of features and functions -- the headphone design doesn't leave a lot of room for extras such as a screen or voice recorder. For anyone who fears the 2GB of storage seems a bit skimpy, a 4GB version is also available. The W Series boasts good audio file support, with the ability to play MP3, WMA, AAC-LC, and L-PCM file types. A full 1.5-hour charge should provide up to eight hours of playback.

The headphone design of Sony's W Series Walkman will appeal to athletic types who need a lightweight, unobtrusive player for their workouts or to anyone bothered by dangling wires. Most budget MP3 players are small and lightweight and many can clip to your clothes, but that doesn't quite match the convenience of the W Series headphone design. Another point in its favor: this is the best sounding low-cost MP3 player of the bunch.

iPod Shuffle 4th Generation Review

(From $45.00 Good)

An iPod is the iconic music player, and the iPod shuffle 4th generation is the iPod writ small. Users like its simplicity and the durable, aluminum build, but the shuffle has few extra features and its audio quality is merely average.

Apple didn't invent the MP3 player, but it revolutionized it (and the entire music industry) with the iPod. Variations on the theme have resulted in a line of descendants that includes the 4th generation iPod shuffle whose simplicity and small, small size pull in legions of besotted fans, according to iPod shuffle reviews. Users rave about its ease-of-use, sleek design, and tiny footprint, which iPod shuffle reviews at Walmart proclaim as workout heaven. One consumer who posted comments at Target expressed surprise at how loud the shuffle can get despite its diminutive stature.

It's the earbuds, though, that give both users and experts pause. Some iPod shuffle reviews report they don't stay put and an expert from PC Mag asserts that they mar the audio experience. Sound quality is OK, the expert notes, but is far from beating out other players. The shuffle's voice-over feature, which identifies the track or playlist currently running, is one if its strengths, notes an iPod shuffle review at PC World, and largely compensates for the absence of a screen that would otherwise display this information.

The iPod shuffle (starting at $45, Amazon) is one of the simplest MP3 players you'll find. It has very few features and controls, which makes it a breeze to use, but may leave some users wanting more. This model comes with 2GB of storage and supports many audio formats, including MP3, MP3 VBR, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV, and Audible files. The shuffle is made of aluminum, so it's pretty sturdy.

This player is tiny and lightweight, though durable, and should be able to withstand more of a beating than others. Audio quality is average, at best, and some users may struggle to keep track of playlists and songs despite the voice-over function. This is the cheapest iPod available, making it a good choice for Apple devotees who want an iPod without spending big bucks.

Philips GoGear Vibe Review

(From $49.00 Good)

The GoGear Vibe boasts lots of attractive features, including 8GB of storage and a 1.8-inch color screen. Users laud the sound quality and multiple capabilities but some find its control scheme awkward.

The Philips GoGear Vibe appeals to music lovers because it provides lots of storage (8GB) and excellent sound for a budget price. In Philips GoGear Vibe reviews at Walmart, for example, users applaud the audio quality (suits audiobooks perfectly, one proclaims), capacity, and menu navigation. They also like the video playback and the FM tuner. Some GoGear Vibe reviews, including one at Amazon, contend that the player is awkward to use. An expert at CNET concurs on all fronts: the sound is impressive given the price, the feature array is ample, and the controls and navigation are counterintuitive (e.g., you press what looks like an "up" symbol to go back and a "down" symbol to move forward). The beefy battery also earns the expert's respect. Indeed, GoGear Vibe reviews conclude there's value to be had in the overall performance and wealth of features. However, we found a few GoGear Vibe reviews at both Amazon and Walmart reporting that the player stopped working after several months.

The Philips GoGear Vibe (starting at $49, Amazon) sports a 1.8-inch color screen and 8GB of memory -- a rarity at the budget end of the market. It can display JPEG or BMP photos on the screen and play MP4 video clips. The GoGear Vibe includes an FM radio and supports MP3, WMA, FLAC, and APE audio file types. The battery life is rated at up to 25 hours for audio, five hours for video, and 12 hours for radio. There's also a 4GB version with a slightly smaller screen.

The main selling point for the GoGear Vive is its rich functionality. More than a simple MP3 player, the Vibe can display photos and play video clips, although a 1.8-inch screen is a pretty small viewing space. The control scheme isn't as simple as what you'll find on other players, and some concern has been raised about durability. But the feature set, audio experience, and modest price make the GoGear Vibe a good deal.

Mach Speed Eclipse 180 Review

(From $16.00 Think Twice)

The Eclipse 180 has an attractive price but suffers from a few problems, most notably a confusing control scheme and performance snafus. Some users also say the sound quality isn't very good.

The Eclipse 180 from Mach Speed draws a host of criticism from users for a variety of reasons. The top two issues, according to Mach Speed Eclipse 180 reviews, relate to the controls and the navigation menu. Users who posted Mach Speed Eclipse 180 reviews at Newegg contend the controls are the opposite of intuitive and the interface is clunky and slow. Other users complain that tracks get corrupted, the player doesn't always recognize downloaded songs, and durability is questionable. In Mach Speed Eclipse 180 reviews at Staples users bemoan the poor sound quality and also gripe about the control scheme. Some purchasers who commented at Amazon like this model because it's so inexpensive, but many report the player simply cut out after a short period of use.

On paper, the Mach Speed Eclipse 180 (starting at $16, Amazon) looks pretty good. It features 4GB of storage, a 1.8-inch color LCD, and a digital voice recorder. The Eclipse 180 can display song lyrics and JPEG photos and play back AMV video clips. Its audio support is pretty basic, extending only to MP3, WMA, and WAV audio files.

It's hard to recommend the Mach Speed Eclipse 180 at any price given the problems users have experienced. If the controls were easier to manage and menus easier to navigate, it would be a decent, though not great, value. And while no one expects the sound quality of a budget MP3 player to rival that of a pricey home stereo, users still contend that the Eclipse 180 falls short in this dimension. These negatives, along with questions about reliability, overwhelm the model's greatest attraction -- its rock-bottom price.

RCA M6104 Review

(From $30.00 Think Twice)

The RCA M6104 draws a lot of ire and little praise from users of this audio/video player. The primary complaints involve problematic usability and poor build quality.

Shoppers can buy the RCAM6104 for a song, but many who took the plunge are dissatisfied with this MP3/video player. One consumer who posted an RCA M6104 review at Best Buy likes being able to record music from a radio with this player but complains that it doesn't support a wide array of video formats. Other RCA M6104 reviews knock the build quality, the navigation, and the low volume; one reports that downloaded songs are listed as "unknown artist". Similar complaints surface in RCA M6104 reviews at Amazon, where one user writes that the player's headphone port broke after just three months. It took just two weeks to arrive at the same result, according to a post at Walmart, where users also echo gripes about the difficulty of managing music with the bundled software. Installing additional software seems to be a common practice, but several RCA M6104 reviews say problems persist, including an inability to play WMA audio books.

The RCA M6104 (starting at $30) is a 4GB audio/video player that supports MP3 and (supposedly) WMA files. It can also display JPEG photos. RCA says the M6104 can play video, as well, without specifying which video files it supports; the user manual says the included EasyRip software will automatically convert video files into the right format for the player, but no further detail is provided. The M6104 features a 1.8-inch color screen and touchscreen controls. It also plays FM radio and lets you record FM live.

Based on the RCA M6104 reviews we read, this model seems to be an exercise in frustration for most users. We're wary of its unclear audio file support, problematic file organization, and flimsy build quality. The low price on the M6104's isn't enough to overcome its shortcomings.

Buying Guide

Dedicated MP3 players are becoming obsolete as smartphones muscle in as the audio player of choice for device-laden consumers. But don't give up on them yet. The cheap MP3 players on our list are designed for use in situations where playing audio on a smartphone would be impractical. They are tiny enough to clip to your clothing or slip into a pocket, making them ideal for exercising, travel, or just zoning out. Better yet, the best cheap MP3 players cost $50 or less.

Cheap MP3 Players Buying Guide

Dedicated MP3 players are becoming obsolete as smartphones muscle in as the audio player of choice for device-laden consumers. But don't give up on them yet. The cheap MP3 players on our list are designed for use in situations where playing audio on a smartphone would be impractical. They are tiny enough to clip to your clothing or slip into a pocket, making them ideal for exercising, travel, or just zoning out. Better yet, the best cheap MP3 players cost $50 or less.

Our favorite cheap MP3 players, and those preferred by consumers, are small, simple, and easy to use. First on the list is the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip (starting at $39), which features lots of audio file support and clips onto your clothing. Another top choice is the Sony W Series Walkman (starting at $50), which boasts excellent sound and an unusual headphone-only construct. Apple's iPod shuffle (starting at $45) remains popular; it's tougher and smaller than other cheap MP3 players but offers fewer features than the competition. And the Philips GoGear Vibe (starting at $49) is a good cheap MP3 player with plenty of storage and a small color screen.

We also found a couple of disappointments in the cheap MP3 player pile. The Mach Speed Eclipse 180 (starting at $16) has a confusing control scheme and a tendency to break down. The RCA M6104 (starting at $30) also lags on user-friendliness and durability.

The features stacked in cheap MP3 players vary from one model to the next. These are small devices so only some sport a screen. Those that do may display photos and perhaps even play certain video files, but the screen won't be any larger than 2 inches. Budget MP3 players typically come with 2GB or 4GB of memory, although the Philips GoGear Vibe model we like packs 8GB into its small frame. File support likewise depends on the model. A good cheap MP3 player should support MP3 and WMA files, and some also support AAC, the default audio format for iTunes. Other audio file types a player may support include Audible files, Obb Vorbis, and FLAC. MP3 players with screens usually support JPEG and BMP photo files and sometimes MP4 or AVI video formats. And finally, some cheap MP3 players also come with a built-in FM radio.

The expert and consumer reviews we found indicate that a small device with straightforward functionality is the ideal. Surprisingly, sound quality doesn't stand out as a top priority because users understand that a cheap MP3 player just won't sound like a home stereo. Still, they expect reasonably good audio and devices with noticeably poor sound routinely draw criticism. We also noted that users had little to say about the battery life of their MP3 players unless it was consistently very limited, as is the case with the Coby MP550 player (starting at $17), another model we researched.

MP3 players outside of the Cheapism niche are more likely to boast a screen and extra features, and contain more memory -- often up to 16GB. A version of the higher-priced Sony E Series Walkman (starting at $75 for 8GB), for example, includes 16GB of storage, a 2-inch color display, a voice recorder, and file support for several types of audio, photo, and video files. But if the primary purpose of a cheap MP3 player is to keep you entertained while at the gym, at work, or during a powerwalk around town, these frills aren't of much value to you.

Devotees of Apple should keep in mind that the vast majority of cheap MP3 players are designed to be compatible with PCs, not Macs. Although using them with Macs is possible, the syncing process can be lengthy and complicated.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

MP3 Players Review

Compared to any number of electronic devices, low-cost MP3 players are fairly basic. Consumers seem to prefer it that way -- who wants to fiddle with navigation options while running a lawnmower or pumping an elliptical? MP3 players reviews are likewise short and to the point. Most offer up a few words about sound quality, the interface, and features such as memory and file support. For the models on our list, reviewers are satisfied with the total package: MP3 player sound, functionality, and price. Note, though, that we came across a few reports of excessive moisture (i.e., sweat) interfering with the longevity of these models, so do take care.

MP3 Players Sound.

You'd think that high-quality sound would be the top requirement for plugged-in music lovers. But it's pretty clear from MP3 players reviews that thrifty shoppers have reasonable expectations about MP3 player sound from a budget device. Sound quality does matter, of course, but consumers who buy these devices are OK with audio that falls short of surround-sound standards. They often go out of their way in MP3 players reviews to praise models that deliver above-average MP3 player sound and unhesitatingly dismiss models that deliver subpar audio quality.

MP3 players reviews reveal that the Sony W Series Walkman (starting at $50) and its upmarket relative, the E Series Walkman (starting at $75 for 8GB), stand out for their excellent sound quality. An expert at Tech Hive gives the 2GB W Series Walkman, with its unusual and practical headphone design, an Editor's Choice nod largely because the first-rate audio belies its budget price. In particular, the reviewer praises the solid bass performance, which is often a weakness in low-end MP3 players. A CNET reviewer also commends the deep bass and absence of distortion. The comparatively pricey and traditionally shaped E Series Walkman earns heaps of kudos from users who posted comments at Walmart and Amazon, again for the impressive MP3 player sound, including deep, clear bass.

Users and experts alike give a thumbs-up to the sound emanating from the multi-function SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip (starting at $39). An expert MP3 players review at CNET raves about the audio quality in light of the very modest price. Although the Sansa Clip Zip can't compete with high-end players, the expert continues, its MP3 player sound is at least level with the performance of an Android smartphone. However, Tech Hive cautions that the included earbuds are "dismal," an assessment shared by some users who posted MP3 players reviews at Best Buy.

The Philips GoGear Vibe (starting at $49) scores with consumers, whose MP3 players reviews at Amazon commend the sound quality -- even when plugged into external speakers -- especially given the price. Experts at CNET likewise approve, and say but for the earbuds, the MP3 player sound rivals what you'd hear with an Apple device that costs at least five times as much. (Tip: Splurge on a good pair of headphones.)

Experts and consumers are of different minds about the iPod shuffle (starting at $45). An expert at Tech Hive isn't terribly impressed with the audio quality and lays much of the blame on the bundled earbuds. And yet, several MP3 players reviews at Target assert that sound from this little device is surprisingly loud and clear. And in comments posted at Walmart, purchasers write that they groove to the MP3 player's sound; one asserts only a live concert could sound better.

The Mach Speed Eclipse 180 (starting at $16) fails to win over users, whose MP3 players reviews at sites such as Newegg and Staples ding a variety of operational factors (e.g., controls and set up) and direct a few disses at the audio quality. We found similar complaints about the RCA M6104 (starting at $30), as well as grumbles about the build quality, in MP3 players reviews at sites such as Amazon. And, for a player that's been around for a while and carries a super-cheap price tag, the Coby MP550 (starting at $17) produces decent enough audio, according to comments posted at Walmart but disappoints users with its short battery life.

MP3 Player Memory & Extra Features

Obviously, the larger the MP3 player memory, the more music you can store. For most users, 2GB is sufficient -- that amount of MP3 player memory holds several hours of audio. (The number of tracks depends on the tracks' file size; higher resolution MP3s take up more space than lower resolution MP3s.) If you buy a device that can display photos or play video clips, however, you'll probably want one with at least 4GB of MP3 player memory because pictures and videos require a lot more space than simple audio files. Also, if you like to carry around a significant chunk of your music library, you'll also need MP3 player memory greater than 2GB. One model we looked at, the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip, comes with expandable memory slots -- an uncommon but much appreciated feature in a budget MP3 player. Note, though, that some consumers report in reviews at Newegg that the Sansa Clip Zip is fussy about microSD card compatibility.

The capacity of MP3 player memory doesn't really affect the size of the device. That is, a player with 4GB or more of storage is likely to be about the same size as one with MP3 player memory of 2GB. The Sansa Clip Zip is available in 4GB and 8GB versions but isn't significantly larger than the slim 2GB iPod shuffle. The (headphone) Sony W Series Walkman comes in 2GB or 4GB configurations, although the latter pushes you out of the Cheapism zone. The Mach Speed Eclipse 180 and RCA M6104 are 4GB players, and the Philips GoGear Vibe is available with 4GB or 8GB of MP3 player memory.

MP3 Players File Support.

Most people who buy an MP3 player have audio files in either the MP3 or WMA format, the two most popular formats outside of the Apple iPod universe. Some devices provide a broader array of MP3 player file support for additional, less common file types such as FLAC or Ogg Vorbis. If you buy an MP3 player with a screen, it will probably support basic picture formats such as BMP and JPEG. A handful of budget players, including the Mach Speed Eclipse 180, can also play video clips in formats such as MP4 or AVI. If your music library consists mainly of specific, less-common file types, make sure the MP3 player file support of your new player suits those files.

All the MP3 players we researched, but for the iPod shuffle, support both WMA and MP3 files. Some players are more generous yet in terms of MP3 player file support. For example, the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip supports Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, and Audible file types and podcasts. The Philips GoGear Vibe supports BMP and JPEG image files, as does the Mach Speed Eclipse 180 in addition to its MP3 player video file support noted above. The iPod shuffle, being an Apple player, supports copyright-protected AAC files, the preferred format for iTunes audio files, as well as MP3 files (no WMA files); additional MP3 player file support with the shuffle includes MP3 VBR, Audible, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV audio formats. MP3 player file support with the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip and both the W Series and E Series Walkman models also includes AAC files. The RCA M6104 supports JPEG photo files and claims to support video playback but doesn't specify which video file types.

MP3 Players Interface.

Given the way most budget MP3 players are used, simplicity is essential; you want to listen to your favorite music without a lot of fuss. Some players, such as the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip, Philips GoGear Vibe, Mach Speed Eclipse 180, RCA M6104, and Sony E Series Walkman, feature a screen that visually guides you through menus and song lists. Others, like the iPod shuffle and Coby MP550, forego a screen and rely on a few buttons to control the player. The Sony W Series Walkman is built into a pair of headphones, so there's no need or room for anything but a couple of buttons on each earpiece. Regardless of the design, user-friendly minimalism is the order of the day.

Most of the MP3 players we researched earn at least some applause for their interfaces and usability. An expert from Tech Hive says the Sansa Clip Zip's little 1.1-inch color screen makes navigating the device a cinch and consumer reviews attest to its user-friendly qualities. Tech Hive cautions that controls on the Sony W Series Walkman can be hard to use at first because you can't see the buttons when wearing the player (that would be the player-as-headphones), but after some trial and error, you should get the hang of it. The iPod shuffle has no screen, of course, but it does include a voice-over feature that tells you which song, artist, or playlist you're on, a feature that an expert at Tech Hive considers useful.

The RCA M6104 and Mach Speed Eclipse 180 are two examples of players whose interfaces don't meet expectations. In comments posted at Newegg, users slam the Eclipse 180 for counterintuitive controls and menus that are hard to navigate. We found many buyers at Staples who likewise grumble that usability is not this model's strong suit. At Best Buy several consumers gripe about the M6104's challenging navigation and at Walmart they go on about the difficulty downloading audio and video files; managing playlists is also a bear, users assert.

The Philips GoGear Vibe takes a few knocks for its interface, as well. A CNET review says the navigation pad is counterintuitive and awkward, and one user finally gave up on the Vibe, according to a post at Amazon, because getting it up and running proved too frustrating. Consumers who posted comments at several sites report the instructions are close to useless.

MP3 Players Extras.

It's pretty common for manufacturers to throw in a couple of extra features with their MP3 players. A built-in FM radio is a popular extra, and you'll find that feature in the SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip, Philips GoGear Vibe, Coby MP550, RCA M6104, and Sony E Series Walkman players. Some models, such as the Sansa Clip Zip and Mach Speed Eclipse 180, include a digital voice recorder and the RCA M6104 can record what's played on an FM radio.

Other frills sometimes pop up in the budget range. For example, three minutes of charging the W Series Walkman yields 60 minutes of playback, and five minutes of charge time gets you 90 minutes of playback with the GoGear Vibe. The W Series Walkman also has a "Zappin" feature that plays a song for a few seconds before automatically forwarding to the next song until you find a track you want. The aforementioned expandable memory slots in the Sansa Clip Zip and are a rare but nice extra that users often mention in their reviews, noting that it affords nearly limitless capacity.

The Coby MP550, a low budget MP3 player, comes with the fewest features among the products we researched. (It supports only WMA and MP3 files and includes an FM radio.) The iPod shuffle has wider file support but not much to offer in the way of extras besides the voice-over function to help you navigate.

Additional Products We Considered

Coby MP550 Review

(From $17.00 )

The Coby MP550's low, low price may be enough to make up for its shortcomings, and Coby MP550 reviews say it has a few. At Radio Shack and Newegg users complain that the battery life is both inconsistent and way too short, sometimes lasting less than an hour. Additionally, one Coby MP550 review gripes about the absence of a shuffle function, another complains the device freezes, and a third wishes for a screen. Still, one user praises the no-frills design and says the controls are easy to use; we did, however, see a report about a sticky navigation button. Coby MP550 reviews posted at Amazon are mixed. Some users appreciate the low price and good sound, but others grouse about limited durability and echo complaints aired at other sites.

Aside from the necessary basics, features are few and far between on the Coby MP550 (starting at $17, Amazon). It provides 2GB of memory and a built-in FM radio and support for MP3 and WMA audio files. There's a convenient clip on the back. It doesn't get more basic than that. Battery life is rated at a mere five hours.

If you're looking for a dirt-cheap and simple MP3 player, the Coby MP550 may not be a bad choice. But don't expect much from it. The battery needs frequent charging and it probably won't tide you over on a long flight or road trip. And if you like audio files in formats other than MP3 or WMA, this player just won't do. All that said, the Coby MP550's controls are user-friendly and the $17 starting price will attract some buyers who are on the hunt for the cheapest and most basic of MP3 players.

Sony E Series Walkman Review

(From $75.00 )

Consumers who pass on a pricey iPod in favor of Sony's E Series Walkman typically find that they've made a good choice. Many Sony E Series Walkman reviews at Walmart rave about the sound quality, with some saying it surpasses that of the rival Apple product. Users declare the quality of the bass to be excellent, with no shortcomings due to its small size. One serial-MP3 buyer went so far as to say in an E Series Walkman review that this is the best model he has ever owned. Some consumers who posted comments at Amazon also say they prefer the E Series to the iPod and other top performers primarily because of the superb sound quality. An expert E Series Walkman review at CNET also hits on a variety of positive attributes, including the player's clear, deep bass, bright screen, and easy usability. Note, however, that we read several reports of early breakdowns, and one E Series Walkman review grumbled about the difficulty of removing files.

The Sony Walkman E Series (starting at $75 for 8GB, Amazon) is available in 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB versions. The player features a 2-inch color display that supports JPEG videos and can play back MP4 and WMV video files. As for audio, the E Series supports MP3, WMA, AAC-LC and L-PMC file types. The E Series player includes an FM radio and a voice recorder function. Sony rates the battery life of the 16GB version at up to 30 hours for audio and four hours for video playback.

As popular as the various iPods are, they're not the only game in town. There are plenty of good, mid-priced MP3 players around and the Sony E Series is one of the best. Better yet, it's affordable, though not quite Cheapism affordable. The audio is by all accounts top-notch, particularly the bass, which is a weakness at the budget end of theMP3 player market. The E Series has plenty going for it, not least of all its value price.