Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/14/review_iriver_lplayer_8gb_mp3_player/

iRiver Lplayer 8GB MP3 player

Small and perfectly formed

By Alun Taylor

Posted in Hardware, 14th July 2008 12:32 GMT

Review After the disappointing E100 we're happy to report that iRiver's is getting back into its groove with the second device to hit the UK this year, the tiny Lplayer.

Our first reaction was, 'where the blazes are the controls?' The unit itself is only 60 x 43 x 13mm while the 2in, 320 x 240 screen is, well, small. And you don't need a calculator to work out that the unit is thus only a few millimetres larger than the screen in any given direction.

iRiver Lplayer 8GB MP3 player

iRiver's Lplayer: where the blazes are the controls?

The clever thing with the Lplayer is that the entire screen and its bezel is mounted on a four-way pressure pad, so control of the usual iRiver D*Click user interface is accomplished by pushing down on one of the four edges of the screen. OK, at the end of the day it's a sort of a shrunk-in-the-wash version of the Clix, but as a way of maximising the screen:player size ratio it's a tough idea to beat. At 41g, the Lplayer is among the lighter players on the market.

To be honest, the L-Player does have some conventional external controls. Tucked away on the bottom are the on/off switch and the volume control, while around the back is a key-lock slider.

In day-to-day use, the design stands up rather well. To activate the relevant command, a pretty deliberate push is needed to make an adjacent on-screen arrow flash to show the command has been accepted, but this is doubtless a necessary compromise to prevent inadvertent knocks and bumps activating the player.

Once mastered, the controls allow you to zip around the menus with abandon, and there is little in the way of lag or pause. Scrolling through lists could perhaps be just a tad faster, but we could live with it as is.

Format support is what you would expect from iRiver, which has always offered plenty: MP3, WMA, Ogg, ASF and Flac on the audio side of the fence, and MPEG 4, WMV and Xvid on the video. The L-Player also comes with a recordable FM radio, variable bitrate voice recorder and support for JPEG, BMP, PNG and GIF still images. It'll display text files too.

iRiver Lplayer 8GB MP3 player

Around the back is a 'hold/lock' slider

The Lplayer doesn't support Audible .aa files, but does allow you to bookmark audio files, which is handy if you want to rip your own audiobook CDs.

The FM radio comes with a handy “auto-pre-set” function that will quickly scan through all available frequencies and allocate a pre-set to each one. Sound quality was one of the few things the E100 did well, so it would be a major surprise if the Lplayer didn't at least match it.

On board are the same EQ pre-sets and SRS WOW HD sound modification system. The latter allows for all sorts of wild and wacky spatial effects, which are either a great idea or a total waste of time depending on how you like your music.

Just sticking with the basic EQ settings, 'Rock' for Melissa Etheridge's 1999 album Breakdown and Toni Child's criminally under-rated album début Union and 'Classical' for Gabriele Santini's 1965 Decca recording of Verdi's Don Carlo, the Lplayer proved more than capable player.

The delicate interplay of the vocal and string lines on Child's track Dreamer were clearly defined and spacious, while the anthemic Angels Would Fall from Etheridge's record came across in all it's pumping AOR glory.

iRiver Lplayer 8GB MP3 player

The supplied earphones are best discarded

Slight moments of absolute silence between some arias aside, the Lplayer handled Verdi's masterpiece with equal aplomb, the Classical EQ setting bringing the strings and vocals nicely to the fore.

Though smaller than the screen on the E100, the Lplayer's is an altogether superior bit of kit. Playing the exact same 15f/s AVI file of Pixar's The Incredibles and 30f/s AVI of Band of Brothers as we used on the E100, the Lplayer's screen proved to be brighter, clearer, more colourful and had a wider angle of view.

In everyday use, some of the problems encountered on the E100 do unfortunately still crop up here. To start with, the Fast Forward and Rewind speeds have to be pre-selected rather than ramping up the longer the control is held, and iRiver's insistence on separating the Artist and Album views of the music library continues to get on our tits.

What is so difficult about making the navigation tree run Artists-Albums-Songs? Another niggle is the lack of a system to set up playlists of the hoof.

The Lplayer wasn't quite as reliable at reading ID3 tags as we would have liked, either. Our copy of Aimee Mann's album Bachelor No. 2 vanished into the pit of “unknown” artist and album when copied onto the Lplayer, but when the same folder was copied onto a Sansa Clip we had to hand, all was well. Oddly enough, when the music was accessed through the Directory menu, the Lplayer did manage to work out the name of the artist and the title of the album. Ho hum.

iRiver Lplayer 8GB MP3 player

At 41g, the Lplayer is among the lighter players on the market

The supplied earphones are best discarded, being neither particularly comfortable nor especially musically competent. iRiver quotes a battery life of 12 hours for audio, 3.5 for video. We came up short on both counts getting just over nine hours 30 minutes for audio and two hours 45 for video, which is acceptable, but nothing more.

The Lplayer is available in 2, 4 or 8GB versions and comes in pink, chocolate, white or black. Although we can't honestly see anyone being tempted by the chocolate or pink variants.

Verdict

Small, neat and clever, the Lplayer is one of the better mini MP3 players we have come across simply because it combines a small and tidy form-factor with a reasonably sized screen and pretty good sound.