The flash Ibiza's QVGA screen is on the large side for a flash player--good thing, given the size of the device itself. At 2.5 inches, the display is on par with that of the Creative Zen. However, the interface in general brings to mind that of the iPod, because of its blue-white tinge and simple, hierarchical organization. The main menu includes direct connections to Rhapsody Channels and the Rhapsody catalog, which is handy for subscribers. Also handy is the search field that shows up along the top of the screen once you delve down into artist, albums, and songs. And we're keen on the way the Ibiza handles album art: there's a full-screen, faded-out image behind the thumbnail on the main playback screen. It's a cool effect.
Now, the overall design of the flash Ibiza is fine, though nothing shockingly new or stylish. However, the array and implementation of features is truly arresting. There's support for MP3, WMA (DRM 10 included), WAV, AAC audio and MPEG-4, WMV, AVI, and H.264 video. (PNG and JPEG are the supported photo formats). You get an FM radio with autoscan and integrated podcast support--with a separate menu selection and the capability to update podcasts on the go from any Wi-Fi hot spot. The flash Ibiza can also access the Rhapsody catalog and Channels from anywhere with wireless access (if you have a subscription, a 30-day trial is provided).
As yet another added bonus, the flash Ibiza lets you access video on the go through AOL Video--for free. (Some videos offer better results than others.) The Ibiza has the useful ability to set and save wireless keys as well as get past terms and conditions pages for public hot spots. Additional features include an airplane mode that shuts off all wireless, and the ability to download new themes (called Airskins) for the player on the fly--and they are sweet. There's even a basic Web browser, though entering in new addresses is time-consuming. In short, there appears to be little this player can't do--Haier has even added some EQ presets to the player (these weren't initially present on the hard-drive-based player, but made available via a later firmware update).
The Ibiza Rhapsody is an impressive performer in some respects, but not in others. The processor is definitely up to the task; we were able to download Airskins while listening to our music uninterrupted--even if that music was being streamed simultaneously from Rhapsody. And we got the same result while browsing Web pages and the AOL Video library. At no point did we experience any crashing. The player's rated battery life of 15 hours for audio is adequate, though not spectacular; unfortunately, we couldn't even match that in CNET Labs testing, eking out a mere 12.7 hours of music.
Using the included earbuds, we were not entirely impressed with the audio quality offered by the flash Ibiza. The 'phones are heavy on the low-end and, as a result, music sounds slightly mushy and muffled overall. It's still better than most stock earbuds, but we threw on some Shure SE310s to really test the player's capabilities--these earphones improve the experience. The low-end response is nice and tight in bass-heavy tracks, but is tough to detect where it is more subtle. High-end clarity is definitely acceptable and the mids are well-represented, but music is not as quite as rich or encompassing as we like. Rather, it leaned toward the bright side. We'd give audio quality a solid "good" rating, nothing more or less. Video looks good on the screen, but we had issues getting content to transfer. When we tried MPEG4 videos, we got an error message prompting us to transcode. Both WMV and AVI files transferred fine, but then wouldn't play back on the device. If you're looking for the smoothest possible video experience, the Ibiza does not deliver. However, encoding software can help the situation, if you are familiar with it.