Ask LH: Which MP3 Player Should I Buy?

Ask LH: Which MP3 Player Should I Buy?

Dear Lifehacker, I know the norm nowadays is to simply carry large amounts of music on your phone for every occasion, but there are times when I’d much prefer to just have a dedicated MP3 player and save my phone’s battery and memory for other things. What are the best options out there for dedicated MP3 players that are easy to use and reasonably priced? Thanks, Budding Listener

MP3 player picture from Shutterstock

Dear BL,

While modern technology is all about convergence, I’m definitely with you on owning a dedicated MP3 player. Between phone calls, text messaging, photography, social media and web browsing, my smartphone has enough on its plate without adding music to the list. Plus, MP3 players tend to be a lot more portable which is handy if you’re into running and the like.

With that said, I’d personally avoid iPod Touch-style devices that offer oodles of deluxe features. You’re better off plumping for something small and affordable that does the basics well. Think of it as the cup holder in your car (i.e. — it should have one function only.)

For the past few years I’ve been using the Samsung YP-U4 music player which is as bare-bones as they come — it doesn’t even have a touch screen or any video functionality. What it does offer is a pocket-friendly shape, battery life that lasts for days and a simple drag-and-drop interface that will accept most audio files.

In other words, there’s no need to lock your music library into a proprietary software ecosystem, such as iTunes. (On a related note, be sure to check out our roundup of the best music management software.)

The U3 also comes with an inbuilt USB connector which makes file transfer a breeze: if you’re one of those people who constantly misplaces their gadget cables, this is a huge plus. The YP-U4 is still being manufactured by Samsung although the company doesn’t appear to be selling it in Australia anymore. Subsequently, eBay is probably your best bet.

Some other basic MP3 players that are held in high regard include the SanDisk Sansa Clip+, the iRiver T9 and of course, the iPod Shuffle and Nano. If you go down the Apple route, it might be worth checking out their refurbished offerings to save a few bucks.

As always, we’d also like to hear what readers think. Let fly with your MP3 player recommendations in the comments section below!

Cheers Lifehacker

Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].


  • the best one I Had was the creative muvo:

    5gb of music and was tough. It survived a coffee incident early on in it life.

    If creative are still in the business of mp3 players, i’d go with them.

    ninja edit: funny i though it was 5GB, the pic says 4GB, either was back in the early 2000s that was a lot for me! (especially coming from a mp3 player that by itself held 6-8 songs and with the max SD card it took juuuuust managed an album.)

  • Sansa Clip – tiny, long battery life, decent capacity, super lightweight, cheap. I have one for running, I love it.

    • +1 for the Sansa Clip Plus. Can use a microSD, very lightweight, long battery life. And custom rockbox firmware.

      Also, has buttons that are very tactile, allowing volume and track adjustments on the “run”. Great for the Gym.

      And only $50 new, half the price of the Samsung.

    • The iRiver T9 claims to, but trades that with lack of MP4 support.

      A common gotcha for portable devices that support mp4 is that they don’t support “high efficiency” files often found in podcast services, so you have to convert them to “low complexity” files.

  • For top quality sound try a Cowon, with good quality ear buds or headphones. I’ve had a D2+ for ages and it’s given good service. I chose it originally because it had DAB tuner, but got more entertainment from the player.

    • Couldn’t agree more with a Cowon. Plays nearly everthing you throw at it and has much better sound quality than anything I’ve heard in yonks… battery still going strong on my old D2 too.

  • I quite like my Fiio X3. It’s a bit bulky, but it sounds great, supports FLAC files, and also works as a USB DAC which is awesome.

  • iPod shuffle is a fine choice if all you want is to drag/drop music/playlists.

    And I dunno if they’re MEANT to be waterproof, but I have left mine on my T-shirt and put it in the washing machine… twice. After a couple of days in the drying cupboard, it started up fine!

  • I searched and reviewed for a long time. I wanted a display but not be locked into the iTunes system. I eventually took the advice of the very many who suggested using an android phone and bought a Lumia. I have my choice of player apps, great battery life and 32 gb expandable storage with bluetooth, wi-fi and a backup phone if I need it. I am very pleased with my choice. Cheaper than an iPod and more flexible too.

    Edit: Love Lifehacker and its readers, Erin picked up my mistake. Not Lumia – Xperia. Do not ask why the heck the former was in my brain.

  • Wait… people still buy those things? don’t we have phones now that can do exactly the same thing and more?

    • Yeah, but as the opening lines state, to keep battery life and memory free, they want a dedicated MP3 player. I share their pain, as my phone is often flat by the end of the day (bad reception = more searching = drained battery), and it’d be nice to have a dedicated MP3 player.

      It’s strange that not many companies offer an iPod-touch like player, but running on Android. I’d be keen on an Android MP3 player that could hook up to my Google Music account..

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!