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iRiver's new DAB-sporting B20 pulls into shore with a high price -- £209 for 4GB makes it one of the most expensive flash-based players we've ever seen, and £80 more costly than a video-playing 8GB iPod nano. Slightly cheaper 1GB and 2GB version are available for £149 and £169 respectively.
The big question is: Does the inclusion of DAB radio make this player worth such a premium over iRiver's?
Well, if you liked the look of iRiver's new Clix -- the Clix 2 to some people -- then there's a good chance you'll like the B20. It's basically a fatter version of the Clix. The innovative four-way Direct Click control lets you browse the player by physically clicking the screen. It's a nice feature, but a rough hand could pull the screen away from the player.
The plastic-coated 56mm (2.2-inch) screen has a glossy finish and because of the Direct Click controls, fingers frequently touch the screen. Despite this, greasy fingerprints aren't as noticeable as they are on the iPod touch. Whether it can survive a post-KFC fingering remains to be seen.
The 170mm telescopic aerial swivels 360 degrees and folds away to the rear. Scattered around the player's edges are physical volume controls, a proprietary USB port and a mini-USB socket.
The B20 supports MP3, WMA (protected/unprotected), OGG and Audible.com audiobooks, but it won't play WAV, lossless WMA, FLAC or AAC -- a big shame, especially considering the player's price. MPEG-4 video with 320x240-pixel resolution is compatible, though, and software comes with the player for handling video conversion. Images suffer few restrictions -- as long as your photos are in JPEG format, they'll load painlessly on the B20.
In DAB mode you're given an alphabetical list of available stations. Typical DAB data -- signal strength, radio station genre, show title, etc -- is displayed along the top and bottom of the screen. FM works in much the same way, though no show data is available. Both FM and DAB broadcasts can be recorded and a range of recording options are available. It's also possible to save recordings to miniSD.
iRiver has built in a great voice recorder, flash games (including Sudoku!), an alarm clock and a text file viewer. Line-in recording would've added big value here too considering the miniSD inclusion.
For those who crave a bit of customisation, the B20's advanced option menu lets you choose a variety of options. For example, it's possible to use connected earphones as the radio antenna instead of the telescopic aerial. Playback speed is adjustable, too -- good news for audiobook fans. There's also a tiny built-in speaker for out-loud listening. It's quiet, but potentially useful.