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SanDisk Sansa e280When it comes to capacity, who knew SanDisk would be such a dominant player? The No. 2 MP3 player brand has messed with the flash-player market by offering an 8GB version of its feature-packed Sansa e200 series for $250. And the e200 series can be expanded an additional 2GB. Last we checked, $250 also got you a 4GB iPod Nano. Even the 6GB Sansa e270 is cheaper at $220. If you want a compact player that's feature-filled and has no moving parts, check out this list.
SanDisk Sansa e280 (8GB), e270 (6GB)
Editors' rating: 8.3
The good: The SanDisk Sansa e200 series combines copious features like subscription compatibility, an FM tuner/recorder, voice recording and photo/video playback into a compact, durable device. We like the tactile navigation wheel and well-designed software interface. The user-removable battery and Micro SD slot are nice touches, and the device has decent sound quality, processor performance and battery life. Finally, the series has a maximum base capacity of 8GB and offers a competitive price.
The bad: No AC adapter in package; buttons surrounding the scrollwheel can be difficult to press; mechanical scrollwheel can tire out some thumbs; photos and video must go through conversion with bundled software; the expansion slot can be used with music only, not other media or data; and recordings are made only in WAV. The scrollwheel is not as easy to use as the iPod Click Wheel. Low levels of system noise can be heard through headphones.
The bottom line: The e200 series offers a boatload of features for a reasonable price, in a package that's much nicer than past SanDisk models. For those looking for a high-capacity, compact, skip-free MP3/WMA player, start with the e200 series.
Apple iPod NanoApple iPod Nano (4GB)
Editors' rating: 8.3
The good: The iPod Nano has a gorgeous, superslim design with a bright, photo-friendly screen. It is easy to operate and works seamlessly with iTunes and the iTunes Music Store, which has the world's largest selection of music. It boasts a nimble processor and system performance with no skipping, thanks to flash memory.
The bad: The iPod Nano suffers from unspectacular battery life, and though the device is durable, it scratches easily; blemishes show up more drastically on the black version. The Nano is pricey in terms of gigabytes per dollar, and its 4GB maximum capacity is not a good fit for many power users. The player skips many sought-after extra features such as FM radio and A/V-out, and it doesn't work with Camera Connector. The USB power adapter ($29) is not included.
The bottom line: Thanks to its limited capacity, the gorgeous iPod Nano isn't for everybody, but it sets the standard for MP3 players to come.
Samsung YEPP YP-Z5Samsung YEPP YP-Z5 (4GB)
Editors' rating: 8.0
The good: The PlaysForSure Samsung YP-Z5 outputs clean and punchy sound and won't hog a bunch of real estate in your pocket. Its relatively large, bright color screen is great for viewing photos and navigating well-designed menus. We also like its solid aluminum chassis, sturdy dedicated controls, and extensive sound settings. Battery life is exceptional, though it's much less than the rated 35 hours, and you can simultaneously view photos and listen to music.
The bad: The Samsung YP-Z5's touch pad, due to its varying degrees of sensitivity, can be difficult to deal with, especially when scrolling through menus. The Z5 also lacks some extra features, such as an FM tuner, audio recording, PIM functions, and on-the-go playlists.
The bottom line: If you're looking for a tiny, well-built, color-screen MP3 player with excellent sound, the Samsung YP-Z5 is a great choice. Just make sure that you're comfortable with the touch-pad controller before you buy.