Rio's 5GB Carbon is the sleekest MP3 player I've ever laid eyes on. Happily, the $199 device isn't just about looks: A simple interface and amazing battery life mark it as the new chief rival for Apple's $249 6GB IPod Mini.
The Carbon's wedge-shaped design makes the unit easy to slip into a shirt, pants, or jacket pocket (even when enclosed in its simple case). A smooth-operating directional pad up front and a clickable dial and menu button on the right side streamline navigation. Rio keeps other buttons and ports to a minimum: Aside from a power-on button, there is a headphone jack, a USB 2.0 port, and a built-in microphone for recording memos.
The USB 2.0-based Carbon appears as a drive when you plug it in, or you can use Rio's solid Music Manager app to transfer songs. I loaded 906 MP3 songs encoded at 192 kbps into my preproduction unit (Rio claims that the device can hold up to 160 hours of WMA music encoded at 64 kbps). Both the unit's sound quality and its volume were good.
The Carbon lets you select songs by album, artist, genre, or track--or by when you last heard them (in increments of a day, week, or month). The Carbon's greatest weakness: It doesn't let you generate your own on-the-fly playlists.
In my informal tests, the rechargeable lithium ion battery ran for an admirable 20 hours, 37 minutes.
I would recommend this truly impressive MP3 player to anyone who would be satisfied with 5GB of storage.
Impressive 5GB player looks great and works even better.