The Iriver P7 is an attractive touch-screen portable video player, offered in 8GB ($169) and 16GB ($199) capacities. Like its smaller cousin, the Iriver SPINN, the P7 sports an aluminum design and offers music, video, radio, and photo playback, as well as voice recording and a text reader. You won't find advanced features such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on the P7, but its relatively low price and large, 4.3-inch screen make it a tempting purchase for video fans.
We have some legitimate gripes with the P7, but design isn't one of them. The P7's sleek aluminum body looks like it belongs in a modern art museum. In fact, even the plastic carton the P7 is packaged in looks like a design student's graduate project.
The P7 measures 4.5 inches across, 3 inches tall, and a relatively svelte 0.5 inch thick. The overall form is more pocket-friendly than the chunkier design of the Cowon O2, feeling more like an Archos 5 with a shrunken screen. The majority of the P7 is operated using touch-screen control, however, you'll find teeny, tiny buttons for power, menu, and volume on the top edge of the player. The P7's headphone jack is on the right edge, along with a hold switch, and a microSD memory slot covered by a plastic door.
While the P7's hardware looks like it takes a few cues from Apple, the touch-screen interface is entirely unique. Iriver appropriately describes the main menu screen as magazinelike, laying out each of the player's functions on a single screen, compartmentalized into an attractive arrangement of boxes. If you're accustomed to scrolling though menus, the P7's Mondrian-esque layout takes a little time to grow on you. After spending some time with it, we can't say the layout offers any practical advantages, but it's a pleasant break from the norm.
Once you dial down into the P7's music and photo menus, the single-page interface of the main menu eventually gives way to a more common list view. Unlike the iPod Touch's smooth, swift, and responsive song lists, sorting through your music on the P7 requires patience and a precise touch on a slim graphical scroll bar. If you plan on storing a large music collection on the P7, prepare for some navigation frustration.
The P7 is easy on the eyes, but the features are nothing to write home about. Despite the movie-worthy 4.3-inch screen with a 480x272 resolution, video really isn't the P7's strong suit. On paper, support for formats such as AVI, MP4, WMV, MPG, FLV, XVID, H.264, and a handful of others, makes the P7's video capabilities seem very impressive. In practice, however, we found that the P7 didn't offer the kind of drag-and-drop video format and resolution flexibility we've seen from competitors such as the Cowon O2 or Archos 605 WiFi. Just like the smaller-screened Samsung P3 or Iriver SPINN, we found ourselves spending extra time converting the videos we wanted to watch on the P7 using the included software. Power users and the patient-minded may be able to put up with the P7's particular video requirements, but people looking for drag-and-drop simplicity should look elsewhere.
In spite of our complaints about the sluggish, unfriendly design of the P7's music menu navigation, the audio capabilities of the P7 are arguably the best feature of the device. The P7 supports MP3, WMA, FLAC, WAV, and OGG file formats, along with album artwork and lyrics, but leaves out the AAC format critical for playing back music purchased from iTunes. Songs are listed in either an ID3 tag sort (Album, Artist, Genre, Playlist) or presented as the user's own custom list of folders. Once a song is playing, you can apply custom or preset EQ (there's also some nice SRS WOW HD enhancement settings), change the playback mode (shuffle, repeat, etc.), rate the song on a five-star scale, and even view song lyric information embedded within the file's ID3 tag. There are also settings for bookmarking, looping, or saving files to a custom playlist.