The iRiver E100's mediocre music playback quality and unintuitive interface make it an also-ran in an increasingly strong field of flash-based media players
With its cream-coloured plastic casing and minimalist controls (the entire area beneath the 2.4in display is a four-way mechanical rocker with a small center button), iRiver's E100 resembles a slightly overweight Apple Nano - or maybe a small early-generation iPod.
But the iRiver E100's mediocre music playback quality and unintuitive interface make it an also-ran in an increasingly strong field of flash-based media players.
The iRiver E100 can play most popular audio formats (Audible, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA), but we had trouble even finding suitable video to use for our tests. The device supports only certain .avi files and variants of Windows Media (.wmv) files.
It also plays FM radio, and you can configure up to 20 presets once you learn that you have to hold down the rocker on the iRiver E100's righthand side to do so (the supplied manual proved indispensible for helping us figure this out).
The iRiver E100 displays photos and text, and has an integrated microphone and a line-in jack for voice recordings. The iRiver E100 also comes with a USB cable (for transferring content and for recharging the unit's battery - there's no AC adaptor) and hard earbud headphones.
We tested a preproduction version of the 2GB model; 4GB and 8GB editions are available as well.
To transfer content to the iRiver E100, you can download the free iRiver Plus 3 desktop software from the company's website, but you might not need it. Another option is to use Windows Explorer to drag and drop most content into the appropriate file on the player, which shows up as a drive when connected and set to data transfer mode. Alternatively, the unit supports PlaysForSure-compliant services such as eMusic.
The desktop software was useful for converting and transferring a couple of videos from my desktop to the iRiver E100. But iRiver Plus 3 couldn't handle several Windows Media Video files, and it wasn't clear why. Still, the converted YouTube video we played on the EiRiver E100's 320-by-240-pixel display looked clear, crisp, and faithful to the original.
The same cannot be said for music playback. Anything with lots of bass or percussion produced unpleasant buzzing effects at higher volume. The buzzing didn't go away when we switched to high-end earbuds, so we don't fault the uncomfortable set bundled with the unit.
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