MP3 device shopping 2007

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MP3 device shopping 2007

In the summer of 2007 I was shopping for an MP3 player to upgrade the 512MB one I had.

I use my MP3 player in three key ways:

  • On motorcycle trips: day trips, multi-day, and even longer
  • In the car, to listen to podcasts during my commute
  • In the gym, to listen to podcasts while working out

Using it on the motorcycle means I want something with a replaceable battery (or a VERY long battery life): I might want to go more than ten hours without a chance to plug it in, and occasionally over 24 hours. Generally that means replaceable batteries instead of an internal rechargeable one.

Using it in the car means it should work as a USB thumb drive with no special drivers and preferably without a cable, because that's what I have in my car to play through the radio. Oddly, some thumb drives work better than others. The radio has a feature where it remembers where it left off as long as the drive's contents haven't changed. But this feature failed on a few devices I've tried: there must be something about those thumb drives that defeats the "content hasn't changed" test the radio performs.

I also don't want a special cable when using it as a thumb drive because I want to be able to plug it in at work and download music and podcasts. I guess I could put the right kind of USB cable in all the different places I use it, but that gets awkward. Everything has a standard USB socket.

And I wanted a 2GB player, because the whole reason to upgrade my Creative MuVO TX FM is to get more than 512MB of space. I was going on a week-long motorcycle trip and I didn't want to have to listen to the same songs every two days, or less if I also carried some hour-long "This American Life" or "Fresh Air" podcasts.

Another requirement is for playlists or folder organization. With 2GB I wanted to be able to load podcasts and at least two kinds of music (instrumental not), and you don't want to just "shuffle all."

Another is that you can turn the thing off in the middle of a "song" and turn it on again and have it pick up where it left off. Using the "fast forward" feature to scan 40 minutes into an hour-long podcast is not my idea of fun.


What I want is a 2GB player (or smaller with expandable memory) with a replaceable battery, direct USB connector (no cable), that works in my car USB player, with playlists or folders I can manage from a PC, with "shuffle just this playlist/folder" capability, and that picks up where it left off when you turn it off and back on.

Each of the devices I found fails one or more of these tests.


  • Sadly, this is the best so far. Nothing fatal, just annoying.
  • Does not have "shuffle this folder"
  • Does not pick up where it left off (except in root directory). Workaround: set the "pause" timeout very long, so I can pause instead of turning it off.
  • Buttons feel cheap, not durable
  • Very slow to start up when packed full
  • Very slow to  fast-forward/reverse
  • Only one level of subdirectories - better than none...
  • Limit of 500 songs in one folder; but this interacts with "can't shuffle one folder" to motivate splitting songs into multiple folders anyway. Otherwise you constantly start the same "road mix" randomly-populated folder at the start. Maybe use random play until hitting any song in that folder, then switch to normal play?

Creative MuVo V100

  • Fatal: Doesn't work in the car: the radio says "No Music." (As distinct from "No Device.")
  • Doesn't restart where it left off (except in the root directory)
  • Multiple subdirectories in three "Libraries" of only 500 songs max each

RCA $20 player at Fry's - Pearl? Gem? M2001?

  • Fatal: Doesn't work in the car: "No Device." This is because it's a multi-volume mass storiage device.
  • Also buttons are hard to work, icons hard to see, etc. 
  • Also needs a special cable, not standard USB

LG cell phone as MP3 player

  • Fatal: no folders, can't manage playlists from computer, only from phone.
  • I use this for podcasts now with a USB reader device in the car for the MicroSD media.

Conclusion: stick with my 512-MB player which does all these things perfectly, and return or don't use these larger-capacity players which fail me in one way or another. The smaller player is only inadequate for very long trips without a computer, which are rare.  


This page was last edited April 26, 2008.