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updated 5/6/2005 4:26:00 PM ET 2005-05-06T20:26:00

It might be easy to forget that there are companies besides Apple Computer that make portable digital-music players. In fact, the market for portable players, which initially used flash memory instead of hard drives, was born way back in 1998.

Apple gets most of the attention in the digital music arena -- its iPod is a runaway success -- but Apple just recently introduced its first flash-based players. This category is growing fast and will eventually dominate the digital music player market. Market research firm IDC says the flash player market will hit 50 million units worldwide in 2008, up from 12.5 million in 2003.

Players that use flash memory are smaller, lighter and cheaper than hard drive-based units like Apple's iPod and Dell's Jukebox. But they also hold far fewer songs -- usually up to 1,000 versus up to 10,000 songs on some hard drive-based players.

Given the anticipated growth in flash players and the broad range of choices available, we decided to test five players: from D&M Holdings, iRiver, Creative Labs, GoVideo and Apple.

Which flash-based music player gives buyers the best bang for the buck? Click on the links above to find out.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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