01:29 PM

Review: 8 iPod Alternatives

iPods are the market leaders in media players today -- but are they necessarily better than their competitors? We look at 8 iPod alternatives and decide whether you should go Apple or not.

I'll go out on a limb here and say that you have heard of the iPod. I think I’ll go a bit further and say that you have seen and used an iPod. But have you ever heard of the Archos 604 Wi-Fi? What about the iRiver S10?

8 iPod Alternatives

•  iRiver S10

•  RCA Opal

•  Creative Zen V Plus

•  iRiver Clix

•  Sandisk Sansa Connect

•  Sandisk Sansa e280

•  Archos 604 WiFi

•  Microsoft Zune

Both these fine players do what the iPod does and then some. But chances are you have never heard of them because Apple controls such a significant share of the digital player market. Go to the park and look around at the people who are listening to music. The vast majority of those people will have white ear buds hanging from their ears while their thumb gently glides over a scroll wheel in search of the next song. Coincidence? I think not.

The digital music player market is flooded with alternative players that companies promise will be the next big thing. Many of these players are downright awful. But amidst the bad, the good shine through. And believe it or not, some of these players are actually better than the iPods that they are competing against.

I put some hands-on time with eight iPod alternatives to see how they measure up against Apple's market leaders in design, usability, and price. While you can't absolutely compare all the media players against similar iPods because of the difference in features and price, I've done my best to pit each player against the iPod model it is most likely to be compared against.

In most cases, despite some extra features, the competitors don't quite make it to the finish line -- but I did find a few surprises.

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