I need a new MP3 player. Just a small one to hold my newest music; I find that my new music disappears into the depths of my player — which I usually have set to play all songs randomly — and I need a small one I can use for the ten most recent albums, plus a few hundred other songs.

Normally this would be an easy exercise. Ever since I bought my first MP3 player nine years ago, I’ve been a loyal Creative user. They’ve always been solid devices that never break, don’t force DRM or native file formats and are incredibly easy-to-use.

Lately, though, Creative just doesn’t seem to be keeping up. Their players have always been utilitarian (read: ugly), which was fine because (unlike most people) I don’t buy an MP3 player to be a fashion accessory. But their new players look almost comical, their features are falling behind and their models don’t seem to fit what I need.

Now, there’s an obvious, ubiquitous suggestion: the iPod. Problem is, I’ve never been an iPod fan…they’re expensive, I don’t like the wheely interface, they occasionally require ridiculous fixes like being dropped on the floor, iTunes sounds like a nightmare and, I’ll be honest, I’d hate feeling like a sheep every day when I passed fifteen grandmothers and tweens shaking their Shuffle on the subway.

But goddamit, their devices seemed like the only viable ones still out there. I started to wonder if anybody was even left in the game, or if all the other manufacturers had simply ceded their ground to Apple. I’m not getting a Zune, especially not after that whole ‘every 30GB device in the world blew up at the same time’ incident, and besides they look like they were produced in the Cold War era Soviet Bloc.

I had started to resign myself to the iDea of being an iPod oWner, but then I found anythingbutipod.com…and all was right with the world once more. The 8GB Samsung P3 looks pretty nice…maybe I’ll check one of those out.