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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive
How to choose the best one for your sport
Hard Drive Players
Hard drive MP3 players can store much more data but are prone to skipping or failure if you mistreat them during a long run. Hard drives are delicate creatures, consisting of a moving read head and a set of aluminum platters that spin at almost 5000 rpm. However, if you're planning on keeping your entire MP3 collection in one handy device, a hard drive player can't be beat.
When looking for a hard drive player, consider your current music collection. Do you have hundreds of CDs? A huge collection of MP3s? Do you use a Mac or a PC?
Those who want a nice selection of music, about 1500 songs, and the ultimate in portability should consider a 4 to 6 GB player. These tiny players contain a miniaturized hard drive and usually last about 8 hours on one charge. Need more for the long haul? Consider a larger player with up to 60GB of hard drive space.
Quick Tip: Don't hold your hard drive MP3 player in your hand. Consider purchasing an arm strap or belt holder for long runs or rides. Dropping or swinging a hard drive is one of the quickest routes to a broken player.
For hiking: Mio 269 Sports MP3 Player/GPS Device
At almost $800, the Mio 269 is the most expensive of the bunch but features a full GPS system and huge touch screen for staying on track anywhere in the world. Best of all: the built-in 2.5-GB hard drive can even store about 120 MP3s. $799, miogps.com
For running: Apple iPod Nano 4GB
In terms of size, simplicity and accessories, the iPod Nano is great for runners. At 4GB (about 1,000 songs) the Nano has hard-drive capacity, but actually uses flash memory instead. That means it's completely skip-proof and drop-resistant. The Nano is also super-slim, weighs only 1.5 ounces and with an available Apple armband (for an extra $29) you will barely notice you're carrying it on a run.
For the gym: Rio Karma 20GB
The Rio Karma is a gadget-lover's dream. It supports most major audio formats and can hold up to 10,000 songs. The real draw is the big, backlit display and automatic playlist generation. The device is simple to operate--just drop it into its charging cradle between trips to the gym and the software can load music and playlists automatically.