Digital Media Players: What’s the Difference Between MP3, MP4 and MP5?

When you’re looking for a device that lets you play music and perhaps also watch videos while you’re on the go, the hardest thing is probably figuring out which one to buy. There are so many different digital media player models out there that it’s easy to get confused. Then there’s also the question of whether you want an MP3, MP4 or MP5 player. And what’s the difference between them anyway?

MP3 players have been around for several years now, so you have probably used one at some time, or played MP3 music files on your computer or cellphone. MP3 is a file format for audio files, which can also be played on media devices made for later file formats. Portable MP3 players are still very popular, and are available as standalone devices or incorporated in cellular phones, laptops and tablets, and even sunglasses, headsets, watches, pendants and many other items.

Like all media players, portable MP3 devices are available with various storage capacities. The smallest versions come with a memory chip, while there are models that let you store your entire music collection of, say, 30 gigabytes, on an internal hard drive. However, even a tiny 1GB player has room for 500 tracks, and some of your favorite photos as well.

MP4 is also a file format, properly named MPEG-4 Part 14, and is used for storing and playing videos. An MP4 player is thus a significant upgrade from the previous version as it can play not only audio files but also movies and video clips. In addition, most models will also play files in other formats such as AVI, WMA and WAV.

The LCD screen is usually larger than on an MP3 player, for the obvious reason that you need to be able to view videos comfortably. A lot of MP4 multimedia players sold these days also let you play games, listen to FM radio and read ebooks, as well as taking photos and shooting video with an onboard DV camera. Some also allow you to upload a variety of external apps for a truly multifunctional experience.

Now that you can also buy MP5 players you’re probably wondering what the extra features are and whether it’s worth getting one. One thing you should know is that there is no MP5 file format – it’s simply a trade name that is used by Chinese manufacturers to show that these are more advanced than MP4 players. You’ll also see some products sold as MP4/5 players – some of these are just MP4 devices with some extra bells and whistles, while others are actually “true” MP5 players.

The general definition of an MP5 media player is one that supports a wide range of video and audio file types. This means the user doesn’t need to convert the file to an easily playable format, the way he would with a previous-generation player if he want to play something recorded in RM, RMVB, Divx, 3GP, ASF, DAF, FLAC or APE, for instance. Since there is no official definition, it’s always a good idea to check the exact product specification before you buy, however. Many MP5s do pack in a lot of other extras such as enhanced sound quality, though, so you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how much you get for your money.

Whichever type of portable media player you go for, make sure you’ve considered your needs first. If you just want to be able to listen to music while you go jogging or work in the yard, a tiny MP3 player that clips onto your belt or hangs around your neck could be ideal. However, if you also like the idea of watching movies, reading or playing games while you’re on the train or just relaxing at home, you’ll need an MP4 or MP5 player. Remember that they all come with earphones, and that most can also be connected to external speakers, so they can truly be used in a variety of situations.