Although it’s been more than 30 years since the Sony Walkman made music mobile, and more than 10 years since the iPod began the revolution on personal electronics, devices dedicated to downloading, storing and, of course, playing music still remain one of the most popular tech items for both youth and adults. Whether it’s playing songs you have in your own personal collection or streaming music from Internet-based services via a Wi-Fi connection, these five of the best MP3 players and digital music devices (including portable media players) available today are essential for anyone looking to bring the joy of music with them wherever they go.
iPod Touch – The iPod Touch remains the essential portable music player simply because of how easy they are to use and how pervasive the Apple brand has become. Sure, the iPod Touch is now basically a smartphone without the phone capability (and there are even apps you can download to provide that), but at its heart the iPod Touch is a simple way to sort, play and explore new music in a way that allows you to have even a vast collection of songs right at your fingertips.
SanDisk Sansa Fuze – Available for less than half of what a new iPod Touch will cost you, the Sansa Fuze has a port for SD cards to let you quickly expand or switch your music library. There’s also a built-in microphone so you can use the Fuze as a voice recorder, and an antenna that allows you to listen to live radio as well. Although the screen isn’t as big as other devices, it is still a touchscreen and can support video playback from a number of different formats.
Samsung Galaxy Player – The Samsung Galaxy Player is essentially the Android equivalent to the iPod Touch, offering a 5 inch display and access to a wide-variety of apps in addition to its music download capabilities. It does also have a built-in FM antenna that allows you to listen to live radio, and sports a front-facing camera and microphone so that with a Wi-Fi connection it essentially can function as a phone or video chat device.
Cricket Muve Music – Nearly any Cricket phone can serve as a music player with the company’s Muve Music service that offers access to millions of songs. Since many are using their devices as texting, chat or even video phones anyway with any number of apps, Cricket’s Muve service offers a way for users to consolidate devices and use a pay-as-you-go phone that has the memory and capability of devices like the Samsung Galaxy or iPod Touch.
Sony W Series Walkman – That’s right, the Walkman brand is still around, and while you’d expect Sony to have ditched the cassette format of the original, you may be surprised that The Sony W Series Walkmans are now self-contained within the headphones, making it perfect for exercising or even carrying anywhere where you just need music and no extra device. They hold up to 4 GB of music, and are even waterproof.
Are you a movie aficionado who drops a lot of money every month at the cinema? Maybe it’s time to consider building your own home theater. There are several compelling reasons to do it: the price of movie tickets is rising steadily, a bag of popcorn slathered in something akin to oily, melted plastic costs an arm and a leg, and the time gap between theatre releases and DVD/Blu-ray releases is steadily closing.
Of course, if you relish the public movie experience as it exists now—screaming kids, people talking on cellphones, sticky floors—that’s cool, too. Keep on keepin’ on. If you’re ready for something a little more personal and exclusive, though, here’s what you need to know about building an in-home system. Check out the following home theater buying guide for hints, tips and advice when shopping for hardware:
Go with an HD screen, but consider your viewing distance – Needless to say, you’re going to want an HD display for your movies. The question is, how big do you want that screen to be? “Bigger is better” seems like a philosophy you should subscribe to automatically, but that’s not necessarily the case. Only you can be the judge of what “works,” so go with your gut, but PC World’s home theatre buying guide reminds consumers of a general rule: “The diagonal screen size should not be larger than about half your seating distance. With a 42-inch TV, for example, you probably should not watch from closer than about 7 feet.”
Multiple-disc carousels are good – Getting up and down to change discs can be a bit of a hassle. A multi-disc setup will cut down on the number of times you need to stand up to change the movie, which will keep you in a viewing mood.
Start with three speakers – There’s little point in going nutty with your home theatre purchases at first, especially if you’re on a budget. Start by buying three speakers: left, right, and center. If you like what you hear, you can add satellite speakers and sub-woofers later on.
Make sure your AV receiver supports Dolby Digital decoding – For many movie-goers, sound quality makes the biggest difference between the public and home theatre experiences. Make sure your AV receivers can support Dolby Digital Recording, preferably Dolby Pro Logic II. Your home videos and regular music CDs will sound a lot cooler, too.
Make sure you buy from a store with a good return policy – You’re probably going to engage in a lot of hemming, hawing, and experimentation before you finally settle on a theater setup that works best for your living room. Make sure your purchases all come from a store that has a decent exchange/return policy—not to mention patient, helpful sales clerks.
Setting up a system is a big job, so for more information and home theater buying guides, check out:
How to Buy a Home Theater System at PC World
Things to Look Out For Before Buying a Home Theater System at Economic Times
Home Theater Buying Guide at How Stuff Works
Though buying a video game console may seem like an expensive purchase at first glance, it’s actually a great long-term entertainment solution for families. It’s an even better choice than ever, thanks to frequent price cuts and sales. But with so many systems to choose from, there are a few things to consider before buying a gaming system. Units currently on the market (e.g. the PlayStation 3, xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS/3DS and PlayStation Vita) offer a rich variety of content across multiple genres, including tons of educational and kid-friendly fare. Here’s what else you need to realize to successfully know how to buy a video game console.
There are lots of games for kids, but not everything is kid-friendly – Though video games are sometimes pigeonholed as a pastime for children, not all the software that’s for sale is appropriate for youngsters. Pay attention to the Electronics Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating on each game, and visit the ESRB’s website for detailed breakdowns of the potentially offensive content in each game.
Most game consoles—including handheld game consoles, like the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita—have parental controls that you can use to disallow children from playing games above a certain rating. With some parental control settings, you can also restrict the amount of time that your child is allowed to play.
Some consoles sell add-on accessories that are ideal for family play—Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has a separate attachment called Kinect that allows you to play certain games using the motion of your whole body. It was engineered with families in mind, and there are lots of fun, kid-friendly games that utilize the accessory. You can buy the Kinect separately, though Microsoft also sells it as part of a bundle (a common industry practice which can provide cost savings when determining how to buy a video game console).
The Wii is your cheapest console option, but has limited features – Nintendo found enormous success with its Wii console, thanks in no small part to the fact that the system is priced considerably lower than its direct competitors, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 (approximately $100 to $150 cheaper, depending on where you shop). That’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re on a budget, though there are certain departments where the Wii is a little lacking. Its online features aren’t as robust as its competitors’, it doesn’t support HD graphic displays, and third-party support for the system isn’t very strong (“third parties” refer to game developers that aren’t Nintendo itself). The Wii might not be the best choice for a savvy game player who craves gameplay variety and/or a strong online presence, but the system still has wonderful games in many of Nintendo’s best-known franchises, including Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Kirby, Donkey Kong, and Metroid. Tablet-powered successor the Wii U will also be out by year-end (it’s backwards compatible with Wii games), which may affect your purchasing decision as well.
Game purchases don’t stop at retail, and some consoles have stronger online markets than others – Buying a video game no longer means trudging through the elements to reach a game store—not exclusively, anyway. Modern game consoles also offer a plethora of downloadable games, including brand new titles and some previously-released retro fare for anyone who’s nostalgic for the “good ol’ days” of gaming. The Wii has the Wii Shop Channel; the PlayStation 3 has the PlayStation Network (PSN); and the Xbox 360 has Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA). Again, each online market has its strengths and weaknesses. XBLA and PSN are great for downloading original games, but if you want to play all those awesome NES, SNES, and Nintendo 64 games that were released in the past, you’ll have to go on the Wii Shop channel!
Don’t forget, mobile phones and tablets have a lot of cheap, fun games – Finally, if you have a mobile phone, particularly an iPhone, at your disposal, you already have access to a huge library of cheap (and free!) games. Tablets like the iPad are also striving to compete directly with consoles, and a short search through online stores like the App Store will yield a selection of decently-priced, high-quality games. You may even find some reasons to skip the console race entirely.
For more advice on buying a game console, visit: