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Choosing your MP3

What's the best for your lifestyle

APPLE'S U2 IPOD IS IN A CLASS OF ITS OWN. It's black metal case speaks volumes about style, and the machine has enough storage to handle 7,500 songs, 25,000 photos and 75 hours of video.

In need of a soundtrack as you strut down Bank Street? Aren’t we all. With the popularity of MP3 players on the rise, the prices are going down, ensuring queer portable music seekers can pawn that bulky Discman for something smaller–and sleeker.

Currently the most popular hand-held MP3 is Apple’s iPod Nano. Although ripe with malfunctions–I speak from personal experience and am awaiting my second replacement Nano — it’s a gem when it works. Even the smallest one, with 1GB of memory, can hold sufficient songs for all but the most hardcore music addict–240 tunes. Still, you can get a 2GB one–500 songs–or the 4GB model that can handle 1,000 tunes–enough to listen to music for nearly three days solid without breaks or sleep. The 1,000-tune model starts at $149.

I can’t stay away because the pencil-thin iPod Nano packs the entire iPod experience into an impossibly small design. It was introduced last September, replacing the iPod Mini, which was discontinued on the same day. The Mini was a bit of a legend already and industry insiders were completely surprised that Apple would drop it. But Apple moved to flash technology, which got rid of the vulnerable moving parts in the Mini.

Still, there is a problem with the Nano: the screen is soft, which makes it very easy to scratch and thereby limiting its photo displaying capabilities. My advice would be to simply leave the plastic coating intact. Apple’s discussion forums had a 188 post thread on the topic, and they were removed from the company’s website. Other sites dedicated to this impurity, such as www.ipodnano-flaw.com and www.flawed-musicplayer.com, have been unceremoniously shut down. You can now purchase an anti-scratch case with your Nano–for additional cost.

Apple may have invented the technology and maybe even perfected it. But others are panting to catch up. Sony has released a music player to match its original Walkman — the NW-HD1. At the Merivale Future Shop one browsing customer puts it simply: “Too much.” The NW-HD1 is pricey: $50 more than an iPod. And the NW-HD1’s audio format limits you to Sony’s jukebox software and requires time-consuming conversions from MP3 and other file types. Sony pledges they’ll fix the problems soon.

For almost the exact same price as an iPod, you can purchase a Rio Carbon, which holds 20 percent more songs than an equivalent iPod as well as providing a longer battery life. However, the Carbon doesn’t have a hold feature that would keep users from pushing buttons while the player rests in their pocket.

Angie Aubin, a 21-year-old bisexual music lover, gives a mixed review to her Carbon.

“The scroll adjuster isn’t very sturdy, and mine broke, falling into the player,” Aubin laments. However, she concedes that proper care most likely would have prevented this, and Aubin has bought another Carbon as a replacement. That’s her third MP3 purchase; her first, a Rio Nitrus, was stolen.

For lighter storage, and at cheaper prices, queer consumers may want to check out either iRiver’s iFP-790 or JetAudio’s iAudio 4. With price tags under $200 and storage of about 100 songs each, these MP3 players are ideal for thrifty shoppers with short commute times. The iAudio 4 even has a feature allowing the listener to record songs directly off the radio airwaves. Nice flexibility.

Whatever your musical tastes, there’s an MP3 player waiting for you. Ready to provide your personalized soundtrack as you walk down the street of life. They all work. Let your budget be your guide.