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Christmas Gift Guide
MP3 Players

Santa, please don't bring me an iPod!

Want an MP3 player for Christmas but can't stand the abdication of humanity required when purchasing an iPod? We take a look at some of the quirkiest alternatives to those boring white boxes...

Crave dreams of a world where everyone owns an iPod, drinks coffee in Starbucks, eats in McDonalds, sleeps in Ikea beds and listens to Coldplay, but if for some twisted reason you don't, there are alternatives.

For those who deplore the iPod and all that it stands for -- such as good design and ease of use -- consider the forthcoming Samsung YP-K3 (pic 1). Information is scant, but it looks slimmer than its predecessor, the YP-K5, so it probably doesn't have the K5's slide-out speaker. Hopefully it has also shed the niggling interface problems.

Interestingly, the interface design team behind the K5 was headed up by a guy who worked on the original interface for the iPod. This makes the relative obscurity of the K5 all the more puzzling. Perhaps the K3 will make 2007 a better year for Samsung's players in the West.

If Samsung's designs can't draw you away from Apple, how about LG? The company's worn-thin Chocolate brand is now extended into the MP3 player market. The screenless UP3Flat (pic 2) is a 2GB player that edges suspiciously into iPod Shuffle territory, while the OLED-screened UP3Sharp says a rather underwhelming "Boo!" to the iPod nano.

Army fetishists will like the BenQ MusiQ Dog Tag (pic 3), which resembles the little metal tags soldiers wear around their necks to identify them when they're dead. Cheery stuff, BenQ. What's next? MP3 players shaped like handguns?

Bona fide geeks can hope to receive a Turbolinux Wizpy (pic 4) in their stocking. Yes, it does support Ogg, as well as WMA and AAC. There's a 44mm (1.7-inch) screen, FM radio and 4GB of internal flash memory. The Turbolinux FUJI hybrid OS lurks within, as well as Firefox and Skype, which means you can use it to boot any computer to Linux. The Wizpy will retail in Japan for around £130.

Fashionistas can content themselves with the new Toshiba Gigabeat P series (pic 5), which boasts swappable face-plates. If you think this sounds tacky, you're not entering into the spirit of things. Swappable face-plates are the new Spokey Dokeys.

Toymaker Hasbro's Massively Mini Media Player (pic 6) is hilariously not massive at all. Not much bigger than a matchbox, the 128MB player is not just for kids, but for kids with an exceptionally small music collection. The interface looks a bit fiddly for young fingers, but then most children can code raw C++ before they can walk these days, so maybe Hasbro is right not to patronise them.

Finally, quirky gypsy types may enjoy the Soundwave MP3 Ball (pic 7). It's a golfball-sized 1GB player, perfect for swallowing when the RIAA busts in looking for pirated music.

Watch out for more details about all these players as we get them. -CS