There are a few things I look at when considering a music gadget for personal use--OK, who am I kidding? I look at everything. But some key points top my list. One of them is design; I prefer devices that are stylish or unique in some way without sacrificing usability. Other necessary features include solid sound quality, a customizable interface, and handy features.
The 32GB Creative Zen scores high in most categories. It's a high-capacity device with a slim, compact design, a large screen, and a customizable interface; it sounds fantastic; and it's a breeze to operate. It also packs in features that I really use, such as an onboard calendar and a contact list (that can by synced from Outlook), FM radio, and support for subscription music. For the gym, I prefer the SanDisk Sansa Clip, which offers a removable belt clip, a tiny chassis, and impressive sound quality. Plus, it's super friendly on the wallet and works with Macs. Finally, we have the Sony NWZ-A810, which garners my attention with its stellar audio quality and fantastic battery life. In fact, I bought this player for my brother.
Of course, you can't make the most out of any MP3 player without some worthy audio accessories. For me, there are a couple that stand out from the crowd. In the $100 range, I'm really digging the Philips SHE-9850 earphones because of their solid sound quality and super sleek and small earbuds. Plus, they're super comfortable. For active pursuits, my top choice are the Sony MDR-AS50G Active Headphones. Their unique design keeps them secure on the head and they sound good, too. Finally, there's the iMainGo 2 portable speaker case, which comes in a variety of colors, fits most MP3 players, and packs a punch in the audio department without adding to much bulk to your carry-on.