The onboard mic did a good job tracking voices and not the rest of the room, even when we used it near a fairly loud fan. Unfortunately, the mic also did a good job of picking up anything that touched the case, such as your fingers shifting on the device when you move. It didn't completely obscure the recording, but we found it annoying, particularly since other portable MP3 recorders don't suffer this problem quite so badly. The iFP-890 also packs a line-in jack for recording from an external audio source. The sessions are recorded in a proprietary REC format with a user-selectable bitrate. The files are converted to MP3 when moved from the player to the PC using the iRiver Music Manager software; a conversion wizard opens in the software when dragging REC files from the player to a PC. In addition, the iFP-890 can record from its onboard FM tuner, though we doubt we'd use it too often: the FM quality ranged from mediocre (occasionally) to poor (most of the time), and we were testing in a neighborhood with fairly solid FM coverage.
We've come to appreciate the ability to use a flash player to store files we need on the road or to grab something while you're at a buddy's house. The iFP-890 isn't practical for that purpose since you need to install iRiver's driver and software first. And that's assuming you've brought your cable--there's no built-in USB plug. Instead the iFP-890 utilizes a five-pin minijack.
Also, the iFP-890 never shows up as a drive letter on your computer--with or without software. However, once the driver is installed on your computer, you can use Windows Media Player to transfer audio files, which is the only method of transferring protected WMAs.
While we're picking nits, we should point out that CNET Labs found the average file-transfer speed for the iRiver iFP-890 was roughly 1.41MB per second. That's a bit slow for a USB 2.0-equipped flash player. On the plus side, we charted an outstanding 40.9 hours of playback from a single AA battery.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.