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What Is a Portable Digital Media Player?

The Apple iPod is a type of portable digital media player.
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  • Written By: Contel Bradford
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2014
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A portable digital media player is a compact device that is capable of playing various types of digital media. This generally includes digital media audio, digital media video, and various image formats. Some of the more sophisticated models have advanced features such as Wi-Fi capabilities, and act as personal digital assistants (PDAs). Because of their portability and extensive playback capabilities, it is not uncommon for a modern cell phone to be considered a portable digital media player.

Nearly every portable digital media player supports audio playback. Most are compatible with the MP3 format, but several others are capable of playing Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), Windows Media Audio® (WMA) and WAV. Some devices even support open-source audio formats, such as Free Lossless Audio Code (FLAC) and Ogg Vorbis. Regardless of the format, each device has a bit-rate limit that determines the overall quality of the audio files.

JPEG is the universal format for any portable digital media player that is capable of displaying images. Some players, however, have the ability to display additional formats such as GIF, PNG, and TIFF. Because there are so many formats available, some players are integrated with conversion software that enables the device to support other types of files.

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Many of the newer portable digital media player models support video through the MPEG-4 format. Some are compatible with Windows Media Video® (WMV) and AVI, which is the standard container format for Microsoft® Windows®. Digital media players are increasingly being developed to support video in DivX format, as well as Xvid — its open-source counterpart. While a portable digital media player may or may not come bundled with conversion software, most support third-party software that allows the user to convert video files into formats compatible with their device.

The portable digital media player has advanced very quickly. A number of players have the ability to record video, while others include memory cards to provide users with additional storage. Some devices support games and even rich media technologies, such as Adobe® Flash Lite®. Other advanced features may include built-in radio receivers for listening to FM stations and web browsing capabilities.

While it is largely viewed as consumer device geared towards entertainment, a portable digital media player has a multitude of purposes. It can be used to record an interview, display business presentations, or simply playback an intriguing audiobook. These devices are widely available, with the iPod® and Microsoft® Zune® being among the most popular brands.

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