Apple's IPod used to be the benchmark for portable MP3 players, but now everyone appears to be gunning for the IPod Mini. Joining competitors like the Rio Carbon and the Creative Zen Micro is IRiver's $280 H10. I tested a shipping version of the 5GB player, and its versatility and quality won me over.
The highlight of the H10 is an attractive 1.5-inch display that, along with an improved hardware-and-software interface, makes the player a joy to use. Navigating your music library is easy with the touch-sensitive slider control, and IRiver has dropped its oversimplified folder-structure interface for one that allows you to browse by genre, artist, album, or song title.
Music sounds good on the device--provided you upgrade to a better set of headphones than the included earbuds. You can add individual songs, but not albums or artists, to an on-the-fly playlist called QuickList. The player does more than just play music: You can listen to and record FM radio, record audio with a built-in mike, and display text files. The unit also stores and shows photos, but because it offers no easy way to output those photos to a TV or PC, that ability is more a novelty than a useful feature.
Included is a replaceable, rechargeable battery that ran about 10.5 hours between charges. Rounding out the package is an exceptionally useful, protective rubber-skin case that allows full access to the device's navigation controls.
So how does the H10 match up to the $250 IPod Mini? Though it's a hair larger, it offers an additional 1GB of storage. The touch-sensitive controls aren't quite as slick as the Mini's, but they're intuitive. Finally, the H10 has features--including the radio, recorder, and color screen--that the Mini lacks. If these features are worth an extra $30 to you, consider the H10.
Versatile audio player's friendly interface and color display should make the unit a stiff competitor to Apple's IPod Mini.
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This story, "IRiver Scores With Latest MP3 Player" was originally published by PCWorld.