iRiver's Lplayer is an 8GB portable media player so small and cute you'll want to take it home and adopt it. And at 41g, it's no heavyweight, either.
The 60x43x13mm Lplayer has a 2in 320x240 screen and a dearth of hardware controls. There's an on/off switch and a volume control, and that's your lot. Instead, most of the front of the iRiver is made up of screen - a good thing. You control the player via the screen: - it's not a touchscreen, the Lplayer's screen is mounted on a four-way pressure pad.
This works well, and in a relatively short period of time we found ourselves navigating tracks without liberating the Lplayer from our pocket.
Music quality is - to our untrained ear at least - better than average, with healthy amounts of bass and midtone even using the iRiver Lplayer's bundled headphones (branded by iRiver - with a healthy dose of realism - as 'Basics'). As well as the usual suspects (MP3, WMA), the Lplayer supports OGG, ASF and the increasingly popular lossless FLAC audio file formats.
You get a USB cable to connect the Lplayer to your PC, and it works with Windows Media Player on Windows Vista and XP systems.
Video and image display are supported, although the Lplayer's screen isn't the brightest. Let's face it: you're not going to buy a player with a 2in screen to watch movies, but the Apple iPod nano's screen knocks the iRiver into a cocked hat. And while we're on the nano, it's worth pointing out that the almost entirely plastic Lplayer will feel a little too light and fluffy to some fans of Apple's metallic player.
In general we like the Lplayer, but there are a couple of potentially fatal flaws. First up, the initial sync takes way too long - more than 15 minutes for 6GB of music files, on one occasion.
Much more important, despite synching from a perfectly ordered Windows Media Player library, artist and album listings on the Lplayer bear no relation to the alphabet. Drill down into an artist, and the tracks are listed, but there's no mention of album. If you have more than one album by an artist makes moving from one track to another a laborious, irritating task.
Another flaw: rather than the abrupt gap between tracks that bedevils some music players, the Lplayer gently fades down and up. This is elegant on albums with clear gaps between songs, but annoying when listening to classical, dance or prog rock music. And it adds another hold up to the already interminable navigation of the iRiver Lplayer.
A petit and stylish player with extensive format support and good audio quality, it's not without its faults, but we do like the Lplayer. And while it's unlikely to have Apple quaking in its boots, the iRiver Lplayer is a well priced media player that has that unmistakeable x-factor: we want one.