Top 5 MP3 Players of 2010

top 5 2010 Top 5 MP3 Players of 2010

In a device world where many are lining up behind app stores and music players on phones are taking a portion of the portable audio market, the dedicated MP3 player is far from dead. 2010 was a little bit of a slow year but some really interesting shifts towards these App centric non phone media players is happening. We got a little taste of it this year but will see a lot more of it for 2011.
As for 2010, here are there players that were at the top for 2010.

#5: Creative Zen X-Fi2

creative xfi 2 Top 5 MP3 Players of 2010

Honestly, I’m still disappointed with Creative for not following up what I believe to be one of the best MP3 players of all time, the Zen Vision:M. A sore spot for many Creative fans, but it still hasn’t killed the enthusiasm for their other compelling players. The Zen X-Fi 2 is an OK player- typical to Creative but with an average resistive touch screen. What puts this player in the number 5 spot is the hobbyist development community that sprung up around it. This development community’s success can be attributed to Creative opening up the player with a simple Lua scripting language and promoting it. Equally important was the ground of developers that really creative yet simple apps for the device. Creative has even featured some of these apps on their official site. Buy one. X-Fi 2 Forum. Download XFi-2 Apps.

#4: Archos 32

archos 32 top5 Top 5 MP3 Players of 2010

Archos has always been bitter sweet to me. The hardware and price points have always been great, but the software/firmware has always lacked. It became quite a mess when Archos tried to overly customize Andoid for the last generation devices- See the Archos 5 IMT review. However, I think that Archos is at a turning point for the better. Their 8th generation of devices have been pretty impressive on both the hardware and their once Achilles – firmware. It might not quite be top notch yet, but it is certainly leaps better.

While Archos is cranking out some nice large sized tablets, they have not ignored the portable audio market. The Archos 32 is an Andoid 2.2 (at the time of this article it is a rather current build) PMP. It is at the low end and I would certainly call it a budget or lower end player, but it has great performance for its low $150 price point. Archos has also greatly improved the sound quality over previous generations. It won’t quite go head to head with Cowon, but it is certainly above average. Buy one. Archos Forum.

#3: Microsoft Zune HD

zune hd main Top 5 MP3 Players of 2010

The Zune HD returns to the list this year with a few updates and a lot more apps. Zune’s strong point is undoubtedly its user interface, but what is also very attractive is the $15/month subscription and social aspects of sharing and discovering new music. During 2010, many more applications were released even though the Zune HD still remains centered around entertainment and not a full blow app centric device. Though why the Zune HD didn’t make it higher on the list is because some of its features do count on the monthly Zune Pass subscription and the Zune HD hardware plus this pass is what makes Zune a remarkable portable entertainment device. Buy one. Zune Forum. Zune HD Review.

#2: SanDisk Sansa Clip +

clip plus main Top 5 MP3 Players of 2010

The Clip didn’t get an update in 2010 (Clip++ ?)but still remains one of the top purchased players on this site so we had to put it back on the top 5 list this year. There will always be a special place in our hearts for the Clip+ due to its high quality sound, memory expandability, and Rockboxability at an amazingly low purchase price. The Clip+ is easily the player that will give you the most bang for the buck. Ask any one of our regular forum members what players they have and more than likely it will include a Sansa Clip- it’s a staple in ABI member’s gear bags often in multiples. Buy one. Clip+ Forum. Clip+ Rockbox. Clip+ Review.

#1: Cowon J3

cowonj3 main Top 5 MP3 Players of 2010

Cowon’s S9 made the list at #3 in 2009 for its amazing sound quality and its fantastic looking AMOLED screen. The J3 builds and improves on the S9’s firmware, features, design, and UI- so much so that we felt that it needed to be at the number one spot for 2010. Cowon stays true to its audiophile roots with some of the most comprehensive sound tweaks including BBE sound enhancements, and a very robust EQ. Despite lacking some codec and container support video playback looks great on the AMOLED screen.

We love that Cowon stayed with a pure audio / video playback platform and stayed away from the Android mess of 2010, but we are looking forward to see how the Android based D3 device will play out in 2011. It would be great to see an audiophile centric Andoid player. Buy one. Cowon J3 Forum. Cowon J3 Review.


Barry on January 4, 2011 12:47 AM

Spelt Microsoft Zune HD wrong

anyway, kinda boring selection to be honest
hope 2011 brings more goodies

SoulSyde on January 4, 2011 12:53 AM

Considering my two portable DAPs are the J3 and the Clip+ I wholly-concur with your article. ; )

Phil (SoulSyde)

OnitsukaTiger on January 4, 2011 6:38 AM

Amusing that this selection vies for players that follow the same formula of quality, value added services, all round application and practicality that is so hated as a whole, because they are attributes of the Apple. Why is there no Sony, Samsung, iRiver? Also there are flaws in the Cowon that go unnoticed and surely the SQ cannot be so many miles ahead of any of the others on the market. Settings maybe but quality, no.

joyounghoon on January 4, 2011 6:57 AM

Ehh, to be honest, I feel that only the first two really need to be mentioned. The others were pretty meh.

Barry on January 4, 2011 7:52 AM

Yeah I agree with joyounghoon

T4b on January 4, 2011 9:08 AM

Im still happy with my S9 :-B

But it’s unfortunate that the Zune HD is not available in Europe…

nimicitor on January 4, 2011 5:55 PM

No Sony A847? WTF?

Confispect on January 4, 2011 6:06 PM

Congrats agreed with the list totally, about time O-o

Mike on January 4, 2011 8:31 PM

It’s funny but, I keep on reaching for my Clip when I leave the house–I guess it’s just the combination of small handiness, good sound, cuteness, and decent capacity (especially with the Clip+ and a card installed). I’m willing to accept the somewhat basic OF interface (which really could/should be updated at this point, presumably, to add some “fun” features like a clock, timer, and intelligent database options).

alabama hotpocket on January 4, 2011 11:23 PM

This was a crappy year for PMPs. Only the J3 was worthwhile.

Matt on January 5, 2011 12:51 AM

Zen Vision M is easily one of the greatest mp3 of all time (my first one) went through a a zvm (the best) , zen, zune 80 (not bad) and now an ipod touch (comes close to my zen vision m in likinb). CREATIVE!! MAKE A PROPER SUCCESSOR TO THE ZVM!!!

Lucien Dominick G. Tiojanco on January 5, 2011 1:28 AM

I always wanted a Zune HD, but they’re not available locally. SIGH. Too bad.

thunder on January 5, 2011 6:18 AM

this was a really bad year for mp3 players with most companies reeling under the economic crisis. its difficult to see companies wanting to invest in mp3 players. smartphones and tablets are all the rage now. even non-smartphone(or dumbphone) sales have declined. nobody wants a walkman phone nowadays. but ppl will give anything for a high-spec android. companies like sony ericsson and motorola have come out of their financial crisis thanks to android. i see mp3 player makers going the same way. samsung’s galaxy player will be a big hit if it delivers like the galaxy s.

thunder on January 5, 2011 6:21 AM

sony’s a840 and samsung’s galaxy player 50 should have been in the list

Mr. Chun on January 5, 2011 6:50 AM

I can’t help but feel that, as sad as it is, the mainstream PMP market is slowly dying away as it is replaced by smartphones (and maybe tablets); and I think 2010 took a bigger hit from that trend than the previous years.
Though I can still always see a market for lower-price point products as Clip+, the argument for higher-end products are truthfully dwindling as smartphone capabilities are improving ridiculously fast.

On a brighter note, maybe 2011 will be an improvement.

Tai Nguyen on January 5, 2011 12:47 PM

Love Zune HD so much , it’s nice & good . But I also want to try Cowon J3 ^_^.

mirskid on January 5, 2011 8:52 PM

I,m wondering if anyone here have tried the new Creative ZEN Touch 2 with the new chip. I’ve been waiting for some review here about it. Any idea if is any good? Thanks

happybono on January 6, 2011 2:31 PM

Love Zune HD 32GB so much , it’s nice & good!! Awesome AMOLED screen, Typography Interface, included Sensitive Touch Screen!

Also, HDMI TV OUT feature as well :)

Jorge Arevalo on January 7, 2011 7:12 AM

mwhahahahahaha! my loved J3 earned the top most place! i think it deserves it!

Pepe on January 9, 2011 4:12 AM

I guess 2011 will see a lot of Android DAPs coming :)

caz01 on January 9, 2011 4:28 AM

Death to MP3 players :D

I’m actually quite happy for smartphones to take over the market. only needing to carry one “gadget” around = win.

Martin Sägmüller on January 9, 2011 11:09 AM

Having your cellphone battery die because you were watching movies or listening to music = fail. Can’t have it all.

Justin on January 10, 2011 1:49 AM

@cazo1 If it could do everything as well as dedicated devices do, and had the battery life to support it all, then yea, one device would be great. But nothing does it all as well as a few dedicated devices do.

caz01 on January 10, 2011 7:26 AM

It shouldn’t be too long before those problems are taken care of. 4-5 years perhaps? :)

Mark Nongkhlaw on January 13, 2011 1:56 PM

Disappointing list. Should have figured the Viliv P3.

Grahm Skee on January 18, 2011 4:41 PM

the Viliv P3 was never released outside of a very select Korean market and not available to 95% of the world and about %100 of the readership of this site. Disappointing you didn’t know that.

AndySocial on January 19, 2011 4:57 AM

Physical buttons seem to be endangered on the Top 5 this year. Anyone else kind of like being able to push something real, rather than figure out a touch screen interface while jogging or hiking or…?

Martin Sägmüller on January 19, 2011 12:14 PM

Both the J3 and Clip+ have plenty of tactile buttons.

blegs38552 on January 20, 2011 5:57 PM

Afraid I have to agree that MP3 players are a slowly dying breed… and that is froma (mostly) highly satisfied Zune HD 32 owner. Ultimately, if the cell phone and PMP technologies can be combined into a single device, without bankrupting the purchasers, then it makes sense. If I can pay roughly the same monthly charges as I am currently paying for my cell phone and my Zune Pass, and buy the device for a reasonable cost(which, given the way that cell hpones are marketed, is prably a good bet), it makes sense to do so, as long as the audio and video quality does not suffer, and the amoutn of storage is the same (SDHC cards make this a good bet).

Jaigoda on January 25, 2011 5:11 AM

It’s a sad year IMO when the X-Fi2 and two players from 2009 make the 2010 list. Granted, the top 3 are all pretty great players, but it would have been nice to see a little more variety around. I still can’t believe no one really hit the mid-end market with the massive gap left by Apple and their 6th gen Nano. For players with a screen, you’ve got some meh sony’s, the sansa fuze (we all know Fuze+ is a mess), and some random other stuff from Samsung, Cowon, and other brands. No one really capitalized on that missing piece that Apple left so open..

Brian Ashburn on January 25, 2011 5:25 AM

I have a Zune 16 gig and love it, but I really really hate the crappy Zune software. It doesn’t sort music the way I want it to and unless everything is manual it will seemingly randomly add or remove songs from the player.

If Media Monkey supported it in the latest firmware version I would be all over that I think.

Sasuke on January 25, 2011 11:57 AM

Im happy with the ABI top 5 players :)

very much so with the Cowon J3 thats a really nice player in my opinion, however if it supported Mkv and other codecs.. that would be a bonus as well however it does support Avi which is nice oh and H.264 which is awesome .

The new cowon D3 looks nice from the outside but the insides aren’t that great with the 21hr battery life is pretty pathetic for a high end pricing point, As well with Cowon leaping for Android is a big rist and buy that move cowon made the Cowon D3 laggy and i hope that problem gets fixed for the ones who wants one.

over all love the J3. like the D3 but too over price. Cheaper to get a archos 70 250gb from for $349.99US which i hope will be not that different because i live in Australia.

StupidPhone on February 4, 2011 7:27 AM

Agreed, AndySocial. Touchscreen on a music player is useless. Maybe I’ll buy a Clip+ when they make them with decent capacity.

Martin Sägmüller on February 4, 2011 2:26 PM

The Clip+ has a MicroSD slot, so you can stick a 32GB card in it.

totas on February 6, 2011 8:40 PM

StupidPhone and AndySocial, if only there were more people sharing our opinion of touch screen’s uselessness on pmp’s. Even though I’d certainly go for a mp3 player with decent screen and video playback (I could cope with 2,5″), I hate how it’s always about touch screen this and touch screen that nowadays. Give me one great pmp without touch screen but still having reasonably good video capability and I’m truly amazed.

apoc9 on February 15, 2011 9:47 PM

I have Cowon S9 and J3. I liked S9 but the J3 is way better than S9. It sounds better, display is brighter and mostly the system is more stable.

UssTropicana on February 21, 2011 4:32 PM

I bought a Sansa Clip 4 years ago that worked almost 24/7. Great sound, reads multiple speeds without having to convert (16 kbps to ?). It’s still working great but I’ve decided to buy 2 more in march 2010 so it got a rest. I love the 384 kbps recording speed, sensibility and its very small size. It was very usefull for a legal purpose as the oposing party did not know she was actually being recorded. You should see that ‘deer staring in the headlights’ face she made when she got to know. You could hear the teardrops fall on her cheeks as she was still being recorded when she got aware of the situation… I plan to buy 2 more just in case they disapear from the market.
And no, I don’t have shares in the business… Great job, SanDisk !

briant1234 on February 21, 2011 5:18 PM

although i completely agree with the cowon j3 being #1 on the list, technically the J3 could have been bought in late 2009, not just in 2010. but i understand that since it was reviewed in 2010, it is on this list (so all im saying is that it was technically a 2009 player, but dont move it from #1!)

eSeM on March 16, 2011 8:30 AM

Disappointed to see the Creative Zen X-Fi2 on the list. I bought one of these last year as a possible replacement for my Zen but the touch screen is so bad that it is almost unusable, trying to adjust the volume is nigh on impossible. So I am back to using my Zen. (If only Creative sorted out that stupid ‘standby’ mode that drains the battery I wouldn’t be trying to replace it).

Tina on April 19, 2011 5:54 PM

Archos has a bunch of cool new players. Awesome!!!!!

DaddyC on May 4, 2011 3:04 AM

If only the Clip+ and Cowon could breed! I will continue to wish for an MP3 that is small, focussed on SQ, with great battery, consistently stable platform with an expandable memory. Ditch all those bells and whistles such as vid and photos (but I’d take a FM radio, calculator and clock if it did not compromise the unit). The Clip+ drops short with its battery. The Cowon drops short on stability (esp D2) and larger size (J3, S9). I’d call this new back to basics MP3 “The KISS”. The new Nano (6th Gen) drops it with the SQ and no expandable memory but battery and size are great.

Bob on June 28, 2011 2:59 AM

Is the Sansa Clip+ good for large music collections? I have over 6 gb of music, and I was dreading the hassle of having to navigate through all that with the Clip. Can it handle it well?

mohsen on June 28, 2011 11:21 PM

im going to change my mp3 player.according to your helpful website i got a lot of information.and now i just have a question
what is the best mp3 player by just regarding sound quality?
cowon j3 or d3 or sansa clip+ or microsoft zune hd or sony a 850 series
and if there is another one out the ones i said let me know.
for me its not important even if the player doesn’t have any screen .im just looking for the sound quality device.
thank you.waiting for your answer.

whiteknight on July 7, 2011 8:18 PM

Any sort of Cowon product seems to blow other players out of the water, I personally love them. The Clip+ seems decent too. But keep in mind if you are going to get Cowon, a good pair of headphones is needed to get the full effect.

DrSaxby on July 8, 2011 3:08 PM

Very interesting reading. I have Sansa clip and am tempted by Clip+. All i want is user friendly menu, great sound quality and able to handle variety of formats. I smirk when reading comments about Cowon products. Seems they have gone backwards since the A3 that holds pride of place in my gadget selection.Can’t beat it.I still use it most days after years of loyal service.

danno on November 4, 2011 7:04 AM

really hope you will be doing a ‘best of 2011′. smartphones and mp3s may merge eventually, but in the mean time crappy smartphone battery life means i’m looking forward to a new mp3 greatly. only wish zune was still an option.

Jay on June 24, 2012 3:37 AM

Despite their discontinuation, you can’t beat the ZuneHD as a dedicated pmp. Wolfson DAC, rich oled display, and the fact that the zune software doesn’t screw up your media tags unless you let it. It does everything right you won’t find a more intuitive interface. Screw rockbox’s stone age interface, I love scrolling through my album art to play an album with one simple press. Zune, you will be missed.

Marcus Widerberg on September 11, 2012 7:44 PM

My i7 is broken! Where is a replacement?


iaudio stopped making the i7 and there is no model like it.

The clip + has like a 20 min battery time.


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