With the growing popularity of audiobooks and the decreasing prices of both mp3 players and audiobook readers, you may be confused as to which is the best portable device for audio books these days. Keep in mind that the option that’s suitable for you, may vary greatly from the choice for another person.
For example, a casual user who only occasionally listens to audiobooks might want to get a device with less memory space, as well as a lower battery life.
In comparison, a serious book lover will always prioritize storage space and battery life over anything else. More storage space allows you to store and access more books, while a longer battery life helps you cover more chapters of the audiobook before having to pause for a recharge.
Then, there are some people who wish their audiobook devices to be capable of other tasks too, such as playing back mp3 files and songs, and some might prefer a tablet or an iPod so they can browse the web, watch videos and movies, as well as play games occasionally.
While the core function of any audiobook device is to play audiobooks, in case you are looking to spend a few extra bucks on something such as a Kindle or iPod, you may get a ton of extra functionality.
What factors to consider when looking for portable device for audio books?
Selecting the right device comes down to these factors, arranged from most important to least important: storage size, battery life, ease of use, audio quality of included earphones/headphones, connectivity options, and extra features.
Depending on how much of a book lover you are, the storage size probably plays the biggest role in selecting any given mp3 player or audiobook reader device.
You can obviously store more audio books and songs, and you will also need a device with a longer battery life to take full advantage of that extra storage size. One of the most overlooked things in any reader is the user interface and button layout. You should always choose the device that lets you play, pause, rewind, and jump with ease. A good example is the iPod, with its comfortable to use circular wheel with which you can switch back and forth between lines and instantly skip sections or pause.
Then, you need to consider whether a good default headphone is something you need. You don’t have to have audiophile grade headphones, but they should still be good enough for you to hear things clearly and loudly. A lot of older users or people with hearing weaknesses may need to prioritize this aspect of an audiobook reader more than the memory size and battery life. Last but not least, choose something that feels solid and will last for a long time. It should be able to play all major formats of audio books, and needs to have good connectivity options. The minimum is USB 2.0 compatibility and a 3.5 mm headphone jack for headphone output.
With all these points in mind, you may now take a look at best portable devices for audio books out there, arranged in the order of least to most expensive.
Thor 64 GB Slim 1.8″ LCD Media Player
Pro: Lots of storage space
Con: Included headphones are not very good
The Thor 64 GB Slim is a super compact mp3 player with tons of storage capacity and an incredibly long battery life. On top of that, it is priced very affordably and uses an exterior design similar to that of an iPod Nano, with the compact display and a circular play/pause switch beneath. The menu is really easy to access and is displayed on the 1.8″ color LCD screen, and the easy to access forward/backward buttons allow you to comfortably go back and forth between lines while listening to the audiobook.
The 64 GB flash storage lets you keep tons of music files and audiobooks, as well as plenty of photos and videos. You can play audio E-books on this device by using the built-in audiobook function. A USB 2.0 cable is provided for you to sync the player with your PC or Mac and download songs, files, videos, audiobooks, etc. from your computer. The same USB cable is also used to charge this device, and it will easily last 9-10 hours on a full battery. The only real con to this otherwise amazing product is the fact that you will need to buy a good pair of headphones if you truly want to enjoy music or want to watch videos. If you’re buying this just for audio books, then the included pair of headphones will do just fine.
SanDisk Sansa Clip+8GB Mp3 Player
Pro: Long battery life, easy to use interface
Con: Memory is slightly limited
The Sandisk Sansa is especially good for people who want a simple and easy to use interface. There is a large square console pad with a central selector button to select options from the menu, and a separately placed button on the top corner to easily return to the home screen. There is 8GB of onboard memory, which lets you store quite a few audio books, along with some songs. The screen does not include a color display, nor is the device designed to play videos so you should buy it only if you’re into audiobooks and songs.
It links up with your computer through the included USB cable and even has an SD card slot that accepts SD cards as large as 32GB. There is a built-in FM radio as well, with a 40-preset FM tuner. The rechargeable battery lasts 15 hours on a full charge, and there is a clip on the back so you can easily carry it around. Unless you use an SD card, it is not recommended to keep songs and audiobooks together on the built-in flash storage, since the space is limited to just 8GB, but you can’t really complain about that since you’re still getting an amazing deal for the price, and it is also built so incredibly well.
Creative Zen 4 GB Portable Media Player
Pro: Has a nice TFT display, includes many extra features such as FM radio, clock, alarm, etc.
Con: Could use more memory
Creative is known for making amazing audio products, and the Zen 4 stays true to that tradition by delivering incredible sound quality at an amazingly affordable price. The device comes with 4GB of flash memory and supports all major formats such as MPEG, WMV9, mp3, etc. It has a 2.5″ TFT color display and a large square shaped console pad with easy to press buttons that let you control all major functions such as play, pause, forward, back, rewind, etc.
There is an SD card slot included to support additional memory. The entire device is extremely compact at just 3.3″ x 2.2″ x 0.5″, and only weighs 2.1 ounces. The 16-hour battery life means that you can listen to as many songs and audio books as you want, without needing to recharge the Zen 4 more than once a day.
Apple iPod Nano 7th Gen, 16 GB
Pro: Amazing sound and display, solidly built
Con: Hard to find
The Apple iPod Nano combines all the features of the world’s most popular mp3 player, into a highly compact form factor. It is built solidly and sports an incredibly light, yet premium feeling anodized aluminum shell, along with a display that shows lively colors and sharp, detailed images. Even though it is the slimmest iPod ever at just 5.4 mm, it still includes a ton of amazing features such as a built-in pedometer for fitness monitoring, Nike+ support, Bluetooth 4.0, FM radio, and widescreen video playback on its beautiful 2.5” multi-touch display.
There is 16GB of onboard non-expandable storage to keep all your audiobooks, music, and movies. The battery will easily last between 20-30 hours depending on your usage. The Apple Lightning to USB cable lets you connect your iPod Nano or iPhone to your computer via the USB port and you can charge the device or sync it with iTunes and download all your playlists, audiobooks, movies, etc. The 3-way volume/play/pause button lets you control media playback with a flick of your thumb, and the included Apple ear pods sound incredibly good.
Zune HD 32GB Video Player
Pro: Amazing OLED display, tons of added functionality
Con: Battery may get depleted quickly
The Zune HD 32 GB Video Player is equipped with an excellent 3.3″ OLED screen for you to comfortably stream movies and videos, and its inbuilt HD radio lets you access local stations with crystal-clear quality at zero extra costs. The 32GB lets you store up to 8000 songs, or you can store a couple hundred audiobooks on it.
There is built in Bluetooth and WiFi so you can buy, stream and play movies and songs online, as well as download games from the Zune store. It supports 720p TV shows, movies, and videos. You can use it for browsing the internet too, it is extremely compact and can sync with your Microsoft PC or Xbox with ease. Battery life lasts really long while using it to listen to songs or audiobooks but may get depleted super fast if you watch videos or stream movies.
Apple iPod Classic 160GB, 7th Gen
Pro: Plenty of storage, amazing sound with included earphones
Con: Hard to find
The Apple iPod Classic 160GB has the best display of all the devices on this list, as well as the largest onboard memory size, at a whopping 160GB. It comes with a premium price tag too, but you get an incredibly well-built device and a pair of Apple headphones that sound really good. You can use it to play games, browse the internet, watch and stream movies, or read audiobooks.
The battery life is very good, it will easily last an entire day even more if you only use it for listening to audiobooks and songs. It can sync with your iTunes library and features a ton of extra features such as an FM radio, pedometer, etc. There is hardly anything wrong with this device, other than the extravagant price tag.