Rio S review:

Rio S

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MSRP: $129.99
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Belt clip; excellent user interface; expandable to 576MB; solid, rounded design.

The Bad No radio; only 64MB onboard.

The Bottom Line This player might not ship with loads of memory, but its design is top-notch, and it can be expanded to hold more music.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0


The Rio S10 is essentially a less expensive version of Sonicblue's Rio S50. This model includes only 64MB of memory, but that can be expanded with an SD or MMC card. The S10 also lacks the FM tuner included with the other models in the line, but it offers the same smooth design and reliable performance.

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.

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When the player is in the case, it's well protected but a bit harder to use.

Measuring 3.1 by 2.2 by 0.8 inches and weighing 3.2 ounces with the battery, the S10 is understated. It sports a slightly trapezoidal shape, a light-blue front, rubber sides, and a backlit LCD with a rounded aesthetic. Expanding text bubbles and graphical sliders, controlled via the large, round, four-way toggle button on the front, enable easy song and menu navigation. The cable of the included earbuds barely reaches from your belt to your ears, but that's fine by us since we don't like wires swinging around everywhere we go. A padded, black, faux-leather case protects the S10's already durable body and attaches it firmly to your belt. Occasionally, the buttons on the player don't line up precisely with the holes in the case, but you'll still be able to operate the S10.

Unlike some other MP3 players, the S10 comes with a USB cable that actually reaches from the back of a computer on the floor to the top of a desk. If you don't have a hub and must connect the cable directly to your computer, this will save you a lot of aggravation. The S10 is Sonicblue's budget option, so no voice-recording features are available. To add bass or treble while playing MP3 and WMA files, you can access six EQ presets manually or with graphical sliders. You can bookmark your place in a file--great for audiobook fans. The standard repeat and shuffle features are included as well. The S10 comes with only 64MB of onboard memory for digital music storage, but it has an MMC expansion slot for adding more.

The included RealOne software does a fine job of encoding MP3 files at bit rates of up to 320Kbps (compared with the free version's 96Kbps), and the clean and simple Rio Music Manager transfers files to the player. Mac users will find that iTunes handles both functions with aplomb.

You also get a trial version of MoodLogic, which fixes incorrect song information in the ID3 tags of 100 MP3 files before asking you to register. While the step-up models in the Rio S series have a removable AA nickel-metal-hydride battery, the S10 comes with a regular alkaline battery. However, if you buy your own nickel-metal-hydride battery, you'll be able to charge it directly within the unit using either the USB connection or the AC adapter (available separately). Sonicblue claims the alkaline AA has a 35-hour life, and we got just less than 20 hours from a nickel-metal-hydride battery--both very respectable times.

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Rio Music Manager does a fine job of transferring songs to the S10 without getting in your way.

When we listened to music through the included headphones, the S10's sound quality did not knock our socks off but was definitely acceptable. Our test headphones improved the sound, though perhaps not enough for serious audiophiles with exacting standards.

The S10's file-transfer speed is a relatively decent 0.42MB per second, meaning it takes about three minutes to fill the 64MB capacity.

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