With their solid-state technology, compact size, and abundant memory, portable mp3 players are the state of the art in portable music systems.
Most portable mp3 players feature storage systems that have no moving parts. This gives mp3 a distinct advantage over other portable music players, such as CD players, because there is no chance of skip, whether the user is jogging, taking a bumpy car ride, or cycling on a dirt path.
The mp3 songs, or other audible media, are usually stored on Flash Memory systems, either built-in or on the Sony Memory Stick, SmartMedia, or CompactFlash cards. These are the same cards and sticks that are often used for digital cameras, and work with the portable mp3 player in a similar manner.
Mp3 files are first prepared on a personal computer, either by downloading music from the Internet, compressing songs from a CD format, or creating original music on mp3 software. The files are then downloaded, via the computer's USB port or parallel port, directly into the mp3 player, or into a reader or removable drive that takes the card or stick of choice. Many portable mp3 players come with software programs to assist with the download process.
In addition to solid-state memory, portable mp3 players have an advantage over CD players in the amount of data they can hold. A song that requires 32MB on a CD will be reduced to about 1.6MB in the mp3 compression format. This means that even the cheapest portable mp3 player can carry around 4 hours' worth of music.
If the portable mp3 player is not going to be used in moving vehicles, or carried while walking, cycling or jogging, a model with a microdrive is an option. Microdrives are hard drives, like those used in personal computers, but much smaller. Like with regular hard drives, there is the possibility of skip if the portable mp3 player is jostled. However, microdrives have the advantage over Flash Media in both cost and storage capacity. Microdrives can carry anywhere from 10 to 150 times as much media as Flash, turning the portable mp3 player into a musical powerhouse.
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