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iRiver T10 1GB digital music player

One for the road?

iRiver T10 MP3 playerReview iRiver's Flash-based T10 is one of the chunkier digital music players I've seen. It's clearly pitched at a more sporty audience - it's got yellow trim, always visual shorthand for a 'sport' model - and both its size and heft are intended to appeal to folk who maintain an 'active' lifestyle, whatever that is.

Actually, I quite like it, even though I'm not the target audience. The T10's weight gives it a solidity that's reassuring, and its size, while nowhere near close to challenging a hard drive-based player's girth, makes it easier to hold and use. Unlike iRiver's T20, it's not so small that it's just too darn fiddly to use.

iRiver spoils it, a little, by introducing a bend in the T10's body, presumably so it hangs properly when suspended from a neck lanyard. The big strap connector matches the player's chunky theme, and for once is easy to connect and disconnect. Next to it, on the player's front, is a round five-way control that melds track skip and volume buttons with a central 'select' key that doubles up as the menu button. Wrapped around them all is a neat rotating Hold switch, perfect for use when you're reaching in to an inside pocket to flip before you, say, adjust the volume.

It's all let down by the orientation. Next to the control cluster is a cute colour display, that's nice but unnecessary - it doesn't show album art of photos, and would be too small for then anyway. The controls are aligned to the landscape screen, but when the player's hanging from your neck or tucked in a pocket, they're in the wrong position: you expect volume to be up and down, but now it's left and right. And iRiver's standard bundled earphones don't use a right-angled jack-mount, so they poke out some way from the side of the player.

Alongside the earphone socket are Play/Stop, play mode and Record buttons, all raised above the casing and easy to select and press when the player's in your pocket. When you're listening to music, the Record button doubles up as a second play mode key, calling up a list on the screen of all the options and cycling through them. Consequently, to record a voice memo - all the T10 will do; there's no line-in - you have to select the Recording option from the main menu then press Record, which detracts from the spontaneity voice-memo recording usually involves.

iRiver T10 MP3 playerBeyond the buttons is the bung-covered mini USB port, which sits on top of the T10's AA battery compartment. Rechargeable batteries are all very well, and maybe cheaper in the long run, but it's reassuring to know that if your T10 does run out of juice you won't have to wait until you get home to recharge it. Using regular batteries makes the T10 ideal for travellers and anyone who spends a long time away from a computer.

iRiver claims you'll get around 53 hours' playback from a single alkaline AA cell, though that assumes you're playing 128Kbps MP3 files and you don't have any of the player's custom EQ set to anything other than flat, or its SRS audio enhancer enabled. However, since you can't turn SRS off, you're inherently going to get a shorter battery life than that.

The T10 also plays Ogg files, and will handle WMAs, with and without DRM. When it comes to copy-protected songs, it's compatible with all the premium subscription services. Curiously, the manual mentions an FM tuner. There isn't one, no doubt to avoid the extra import duty imposed by the European Union on radio-equipped products - it is present in other territories, Reg readers inform me.

Verdict

The T10 isn't for folk who prefer their digital music players to be as small and discreet as possible. But if you prefer something a little bulkier, a little more rugged then this could well be the player for you. It's a solid machine that will appeal to anyone off on a trip, not only for its relative resillience but its use of over-the-counter AA batteries. The T10's sound quality is as good as it gets.

The colour screen is redundant and, worse, pushes up the price. Around £140 is a lot to pay for a 1GB MP3 player these days, particularly when iRiver itself offers cheaper, more feature-packed alternatives. ®

 

iRiver T10
 
Rating 75%
 
Pros Solid, chunky design; great sound; very long battery life.
 
Cons Unnecessary, costly colour display; designed to be operated one way, worn another.
 
Price 512MB: €149 (£102); 1GB: €199 (£136)
 
More info The iRiver T10 site

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