Best MP3 Player 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

Despite the rapid rise in our smartphones going from mere calling devices to all-singing, all-dancing all-in-ones, MP3 players are still incredibly popular.

There is a whole host of reasons for this. Maybe your phone is one which just covers the basics and isn’t great at all the fancy stuff. Maybe you have no use for a phone but still want to listen to music. Or you could want to use a dedicated device which will help you listen to music when you’re working out, or on-the-go without risking the safety of your phone.

Whatever the reason, don’t panic – MP3 players are widely available. And they are much more advanced than they were ten years ago too.

The Best MP3 Players – Our Top Picks

Best MP3 Player

Apple iPod Touch

It may be a relatively old Apple product now, which hasn’t been updated since 2015, but the fact that it is still the most popular portable music player out there says a lot.

First of all, it has a whopping 128GB of space. There is a smaller 32GB model available, but the former is much better value when compared.

The reason for this much storage is partly because it isn’t just a device which stores and plays your music. You can also download other apps too, such as Maps, iMessage, FaceTime and your favourite social media platforms.

You also get an 8MP front camera, 1.2MP rear camera, HD playback and the Photos app, so everything you take can be stored and viewed when you wish. Music can be downloaded and stored using the iTunes store, and Apple Music is available on your iPod touch via the Music app.

There is also access to iCloud, which will store your data and make it available across all of your devices. So if you have an iPhone, Mac or iPad, your music and photos will be with whichever you have with you.

We said it hadn’t been updated in a while, but the 6th gen iPod touch far beats its predecessors when it comes to speed, efficiency and ability. It can work up to 10x faster, which means your music is on the screen quicker and your games are more responsive. Thanks to the ability to work up to iOS 8, you can also add voice and video to messages, edit photos and monitor your health.

This is on top of the brilliant battery life which iPods are well known for, and the clear crisp screen. You also have Bluetooth so you can send the music to a speaker when you’re hosting a party, some wireless headphones or your car stereo.

It would be a perfect alternative to using your phone for listening to music (maybe to save battery life or keep work and pleasure separate), or to give to a child when the parental locks are all in place as a phone-but-not-a-phone. It could also be ideal for travelling, as you have your emails and camera all in one place.

Our only niggle is that the battery life doesn’t last for as long as it suggests, but it is still generous enough to get a good day of use out of it


  • Storage: 128GB
  • Display: 4”
  • Battery Life: 40 hrs
  • Bluetooth: Yes

+ Downloads

Apple iPod Touch 128GB User Manual


We like

  • Good sound quality
  • Plenty of features
  • Easy to set up
  • Ability to listen to music through apps/streaming services

We dislike

  • Battery life is on the short side

Final Verdict

Loved by Apple users and music fans alike. The perfect MP3 for when you want a bit more function, but without the hassle

SONY NW-A45 Walkman Touchscreen MP3 Player with FM Radio

The Sony Walkman is perhaps the best known MP3 player that has ever existed. Sony revolutionised the music-player-in-a-phone technology, the clear sound and the ease of keeping your favourite songs in your pocket.

Thankfully though, as fab as they were at the time, technology has moved on. This model is a lot prettier, easier to manage and more advanced than their flagship MP3 Walkman from 2004, which was a step up from the portable CD players.

You can store 3,300 songs on this model, and if that is still not enough, you can pop in a microSD card. High-Resolution Audio is supported so your tunes can sound better than they would if burned to a CD, and you can also play them on your speaker or hi-fi using the Bluetooth ability. It also has NFC so you can connect it to other compatible devices.

A touch screen keeps you in control so you can change the song or add to a playlist or queue. Say you have a big train journey coming up and want the entire trip to be soundtracked without you having to lift a finger – just do it all before you are on board or once you have your seat.

The control buttons on the screen are all easy to see and press, and even though the display isn’t in colour, it is still informative enough and shows the appropriate artwork.

You can also listen to the radio if you fancy putting your playlist choices in the hands of someone else. Sound quality is high, particularly when played through a quality speaker, but beware that this at high volumes does sap the battery. Saying it will last 45 hours is a bit of a stretch, but it is relatively quick and easy to charge.

The price is pretty mid-ranging and great for an item which can hold so many songs. The display and design are a little uninspiring, and further functions are limited, but if you just want to play music on your commute or in the gym, then it does the job.


  • Storage: 16GB
  • Display: 3.1”
  • Battery Life: 45 hrs
  • Bluetooth: Yes

+ Downloads

SONY NW-A45 Walkman Touchscreen MP3 Player with FM Radio User Manual


We like

  • Easy to use
  • Slim and lightweight to carry

We dislike

  • Can be hard to make playlists and delete songs

Final Verdict

Great for sound quality, portability and storage space - everything we’d expect from the MP3 leaders

Sony NWWS413L.CEW MP3 Player

You want to go to the gym and listen to your own motivational playlist, but hate carrying the music player, popping it in your pocket or using a wrist strap. Maybe you fancy listening to music while you swim but think this is pretty much impossible.

Well, this Sony player has been designed with you in mind. It is an all-in-one, with the MP3 player and headphones all combined into one device. This means no wires getting in the way, no box and no difficult storage sorting.

It can hold up to 900 songs thanks to the 4GB of storage. If you have ever timed yourself using music, you’ll know that this means you can get an awful lot done without hearing the same song twice.

Talking of swimming while using it, the NWWS413L.CEW is completely waterproof when you use the interchangeable swimming earbuds. They will stay dry yet in place, and won’t bother you when wearing them. It can even cope in the sea with the force of the waves. When you get bored with the music, simply connect it up to your computer and drag and drop new songs in.

Battery life is short in comparison to other models, but we think the other selling points make up for it. It is available in blue, green and ivory, so there is a good chance you can also match it up to your swimming trunks or costume.

They’re a good price, and even if you are dubious that they will work, you won’t be set back too much. Battery life lasts 12 hours, and just a quick three-minute charge will give you an hour of listening. Which is more than enough for a fitness session in our minds.


  • Storage: 4GB
  • Display: N/A
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery Life: 12 hrs

We like

  • Waterproof
  • Dust and sand proof
  • Compact

We dislike

  • Not very loud when using waterproof buds

Final Verdict

Handy and pretty much one-of-a-kind. Great for all of you who simply must soundtrack your fitness sessions with a homemade playlist

SONY Walkman B183 MP3 Player

With space to squeeze in up to 900 songs, this is the perfect companion for travel trips, gym workouts and your morning commute.

It only weighs 30 grams and is 90mm long, so whether you slide it into your pocket or leave it in your bag, it won’t take up too much room or weigh you down. We would like it if there was a little clip attached, so it was more adaptable for those who want to use it when running or doing yoga, but it is still a nice size.

A three-minute charge will give you a couple of hours listening, and a full charge will let you listen for 20 hours uninterrupted. Just connect it up to your computer to transfer files via a USB cable. It will take both MP3 and WMA files.

There are no further features, such as radio or the ability to play songs on repeat, and the little cap which hides the USB connection feels a little loose when on, and we imagine it could simply pop off if the device is dropped or caught at all.

The buttons are also a little fiddly, and the screen is small. But we are being very picky here – for a device of its size, and indeed capability to a stretch, it still delivers the sound and is easy to add songs to. We see no reason why it won’t last for years to come.

You could buy a nondescript brand for half the price as it is a little expensive for what you get, or indeed one with a large screen, but the fact that it is so small and from Sony is worth the extra money and it still comes in under £50.


  • Storage: 4GB
  • Display: 0.9”
  • Battery Life: 20 hrs
  • Bluetooth: No

+ Downloads

SONY Walkman B183 MP3 Player User Manual


We like

  • Nice and small
  • Quick to charge

We dislike

  • Screen information is quite packed in

Final Verdict

For something incredibly portable and that will save you having to waste your phone battery, it is a great purchase and a lovely throwback to the MP3 players of yesteryear

SONY Walkman NW-E394 with FM Radio

All it takes is two hours of charging, and you have 35 hours of listening with this handy device. It will store up to 1,800 songs too, which is plenty to keep you going before you start to get sick of them.

When the time to replace them does come, just connect it up to a computer using a USB cable and drag and drop the tunes. Because it will accept several formats, other users have commented that they have even popped on language learning CD’s and audiobooks.

The ease of use doesn’t stop there either, as the overall control of the music is simple too. The buttons are large and clear, and the screen is a nice size for displaying information without overtaking the device.

It won’t remember the previous song or playlist that was playing, so you do have to scroll through again to find it. The setup is also a little time consuming, and the buttons can be unresponsive at times. It can also turn on by itself when in your bag or pocket as the slide is rather flimsy.

But it is a great price for something which is so future proofed. There is no SD card slot for further storage, but there is an FM radio tuner, and it comes in some eye-popping colours.


  • Storage: 8GB
  • Display: 1.7”
  • Battery Life: 35 hrs
  • Bluetooth: No

+ Downloads

SONY Walkman NW-E394 with FM Radio User Manual


We like

  • Nice size
  • Battery is reliable

We dislike

  • No shuffle function
  • No expandable memory

Final Verdict

Good for the price and definitely one to consider if you’re on a budget but still want a screen and radio functions

SanDisk Clip Sport MP3 Player

If you want a more traditional music player for your sporting activity, then this clip on is both secure and small enough not to bother you.

It is lightweight so won’t weigh your clothes down wherever you clip it on to. Whether you are doing a light jog or something a little more strenuous, it will remain in place. You aren’t just limited to music either, as it will also accept AAC and other common formats, so you can listen to your audiobooks and podcasts too. Or, use the built-in FM tuner for the radio.

The LCD screen is not the largest given the size of the actual device, but it is still clear, and the command pad is roomy enough to have good control. Don’t panic about storage either, as a microSD card slot will allow you to store even more songs than the average 2,000 which would be stored without it.

One charge should give you around 25 hours of listening. The volume is not loud, but having read some tips from other users, we found that if you set the location to ‘Rest Of World’ as opposed to the UK as there will be less restriction on the maximum level. We would also recommend finding some earphones which are a bit more comfortable.

But despite this, it is still a very handy little device with pretty unlimited storage capabilities. It is also becoming rare that you can find an MP3 which will play audiobooks, so this will certainly appeal to some out there. It isn’t going to blow your socks off with sound performance but will assist your workout if you need music to get you going.


  • Storage: 8GB
  • Display: 1.44”
  • Battery Life: 25 hrs
  • Bluetooth: No

We like

  • Ability to listen to audiobooks
  • Nice and compact
  • Easy to control

We dislike

  • Volume issues

Final Verdict

As a fitness-orientated MP3 player, it is pretty ideal and does the job for a great price

Help and Resources

MP3 Player Buying Guide


Think about what you will be using the MP3 player for. If it is the gym or your commute, then you’re going to want something quite small and compact which can either be clipped on to your belt/waistband or used on a wristband. You may even want something which eliminates the use of wires, either by using Bluetooth headphones or an all-in-one item.

If you want something which you can take on a dog walk and fits in your pocket, or to listen to when you’re on holiday and relaxing on the beach, then you can probably go a bit bigger. Also consider whether you need a big clear screen, as models with this will be larger.


Most batteries will last anywhere between 20 and 40 hours on a single charge. This data is often based on listening to quieter volumes, not using the player much to change tracks or play games etc. and not having the screen too bright.

How long the device takes to charge is dependent on the model – some offer quick boosts for an hour or two of listening with a charge of a few minutes, and others will need a few hours to get the battery going.


Most of the models above will hold a couple of thousand songs, and as long as you don’t skip through the majority of them to get to your favourite ten songs, you’re probably not going to get sick of them anytime soon.

This information is usually based on tunes which last around 3.5 minutes, and standard MP3 codec files. Remember that data such as artwork will maybe also take up some room, as well as photos.

Moving songs to your player will usually only require plugging into a computer or laptop and dragging them into the appropriate storage file. You will rarely find a model which can use streaming apps such as Spotify or Apple Music, so bear in mind you are limited in this sense.

Some do offer further storage with the use of an SD card though, which could accommodate an entire library if large enough.


This is the file format of your songs. Common incidents are MP3, WAV, or FLAC. Apple uses its own, AAC, which you will be familiar with if you use the iTunes Library.

Check the format of your existing music library before you buy a new device – you don’t want to have to change them all. Compatibility will be listed in the specifications.

Extra Items

Most MP3s come with a set of headphones, which will do for many people, but they aren’t going to be the absolute best available. You may wish to buy another pair if you want a particular shape or features such as noise cancelling.

You may also wish to buy an armband or case for transportability, so make sure there are some available. There are also neck straps and screen covers on the market.

Also, bear in mind the charging accessories. You will likely get a cable so you can hook it up to your laptop, but this may not be the easiest method for you. Consider buying a USB plug if you don’t already own one, or a car charger.


Do I Need Bluetooth?

You will only need this function if you wish to use the player to stream the playing music to a pair of wireless headphones or speakers. As they all have a 3.5mm headphone jack, however, you could just use a suitable cable to get the music to the speaker.

Will My MP3 Player Last?

Unlike smartphones, which are constantly becoming outdated and need an endless cycle of updates and upgrades, MP3 players are pretty much ‘as-they-come’. There will be no updates or any reason as to why you can’t own compatible music.

Even with the rise of streaming services, many people still prefer to buy CDs and buy their music. Once it is on your computer or your MP3 player, it is there for you to keep.

Of course, they are still small appliances packed with technology. And this can be unpredictable. But in general, they are built to last and will stand the test of time. After all, the first ones were released in the early 1990s, and the first iPod was released in 2001, and they are still here available to buy.

Should I Buy An MP4 Player Instead?

MP4 files are for video. Some MP3 players will accept video if they have a large enough screen, but not all.

This could allow you to view telly and films on the go if you own them. Think about whether this would be better for your commute, or whether you’d like to just stick to music. There is not as much choice as with MP3 players.

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