Apple's iPod may be the flavour of the month, but there are better and cheaper choices, says a computing magazine.
The iPod has become an object of desire
In a test of 18 digital music players available in the UK, PC Pro found the iPod lacking in comparison with other devices.
The iPod is the most popular digital music player in the world and almost three million have been sold.
"The iPod and iPod Mini are the two best known portable MP3 players because Apple has pumped money into a huge marketing campaign, but there are some fantastic lesser-known alternatives," said Nick Ross, PC Pro senior writer.
In just the first three months of the year, Apple sold 807,000 iPods, a 909% rise on the same period a year ago.
The latest and smallest version, the iPod Mini, has proved so popular in the US since its introduction in January that its international release has had to be put back until the end of July.
The success of the iPod has helped to increase the popularity and appeal of digital music players and consumers face a bewildering choice of devices.
PC PRO RECOMMENDATIONS
iRiver iHP-100 Series 20GB - £255
Rio Karma 20GB - £269
Rio Nitrus 1.5GB - £168
iRiver iFP-300 Series 128MB - £109
iRiver iFP-500 Series 256MB - £155
This month's issue of PC Pro magazine looked at 18 portable MP3 players and concluded that there were several lesser-known brands that noticeably outperformed the iPod.
"The iPod is over-priced when compared with these competitors," said Mr Ross.
"It also falls down on battery life, with some portable MP3 players lasting three times as long, while its lack of support for Windows Media files will upset many PC users."
Disk drive shortage
Apple declined to comment on the magazine report.
The California-based company is betting on the iPod mini to help maintain its position at the top of the MP3 player market.
It is facing stiff competition from others like Dell, Digital Networks, Creative Labs and Archos which are seeking to challenge that dominance.
But there is good news for music fans still waiting to get their hands on an iPod Mini.
Hitachi, which makes the 4GB disk drive for the player, has said it is going to spend about $200 million (£113.4m) to double production at its Thailand factory.
It means that the six-week waiting list for the iPod Mini is likely to get shorter by the end of the year.