Of course, the heart of an MP3 player is its digital music playback, and the Iriver Clix is no slouch in that area. The Clix supports MP3, OGG, and WMA files, including DRM-protected songs purchased from online stores such as Yahoo Music or downloaded as part of an on-the-go subscription service such as Urge and, especially, Rhapsody (more on this below). You can transfer playlists to the device or choose from two on-the-fly options: make your own Quick List or let the player decide based on your song ratings. You can also rate songs on the fly. For music playback, the Clix offers the standard Shuffle and Repeat settings, and you can select from 13 EQ settings (Normal, Classic, Live, Pop, Rock, Jazz, Ubass, Metal, Dance, Party, Club, SRS Wow, and a user-defined mode) and preview them in real time. For those who like audio books, the Clix supports Audible content as well.
As icing on the cake, the Iriver Clix supports MPEG-4 and WMV9 video, though there's no easy way to get this content Ã la iTunes. That is, you'll have to convert your files before playing them on the device. While Iriver's user guide clearly documents the parameters for compatible video and describes how to transfer footage to the Clix, it doesn't explain the conversion process. The easiest way to do this is to simply transfer the videos through Windows Media Player, which can automatically convert them to WMV9. However, if you would like to encode to MPEG-4, Iriver's Web site has all the info, along with the necessary software, called iRiviter, created not by Iriver engineers but by die-hard Iriver fans. In our tests, the software made easy--though not exactly quick--work of several video files, but other files proved impossible to convert. Another option is to purchase an MPEG-4 encoder plug-in for WMP 11 so that the app will do the work for you (we haven't had a chance to test this out yet).
Rhapsody DNA integration
As it did with SanDisk last year, Rhapsody has now partnered with Iriver to offer its DNA Platform on the new Clix. Players distributed after July 11, 2007, will come in Rhapsody-branded packaging and will offer enhanced support for Rhapsody Channels and Rhapsody's Internet radio programming. Upon start-up, the Clix displays the Rhapsody logo; once you dive into the menus, there's a new "Rhapsody Channels" selection (click for screen shots) for organizing the dynamically updating stations from the service. (You hand-select the Channels you want on your device.) Additionally, you can view editorial information about artists whose songs you've transferred from the service. Overall, it's a nicely immersive experience for Rhapsody users, though it's hard to improve on the Clix's already wonderful interface.
If you purchased a Clix prior to July 11, don't fret: unlike with the Sansa e200, you won't need to buy a whole new player with an "R" attached to the name. Rhapsody and Iriver will offer the DNA integration via a voluntary firmware update.
What a sound!
Plain and simple: the Iriver Clix sounds fantastic. The catch, however, is that you'll need some earbuds that are up to the task. The ones included in the package offer fine playback quality, but if you really want to experience the full aural spectrum that the Clix is capable of offering, try it with some Shure SE310s. Tunes sound rich, warm, and encompassing across genres, and the high-end detail and low-end response are both impressive. The Clix also gets very loud--in fact, you'll want to watch that when switching between headphones.
The Clix also offers snappy processor performance and relatively speedy transfers over USB 2.0. The player's lovely color screen handles video playback, but there was noticeable pixilation in the sample clips. Still, color saturation and detail are good, though I still wouldn't suggest watching full-length films on such a small screen. The rated battery life of 5 hours for video and 24 hours for audio is more than adequate. Unfortunately, CNET Labs was only able to eke out 16 hours of audio playback, which is not all that great. Finally, the Flash games are surprisingly engaging and colorful, FM reception is excellent, and the related autoscan feature works well.