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From creaky plastic to solid, weighty aluminium, iRiver's E-series MP3 players have finally been vaulted into the world of metal. Particularly ours, which is full of Cradle Of Filth, Meshuggah and Blotted Science. Also, a Smurfs album.

The E200 is the latest aluminium-encased turnip to be harvested from the South Korean firm's plashy tech field -- we promised way back in April last year it would eventually surface. It comes complete with 4GB or 8GB of memory (a 16GB model is in the works, we're told) and a 71mm (2.8-inch) 240x320-pixel display.

Sadly though, from the moment we switched it on, the E200 popped its budget champagne into our perhaps overly optimistic faces, showering us in fizzy, sticky disappointment. The slick design and casing successfully masks what is quite obviously still a very cost-focused set of innards. The screen is deeply average, the menu system feels like time itself has slowed down, and video file format support is paltry at best.

The actual file types supported are MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC and OGG audio, and 320x240-pixel WMV. The spec says the player supports MPEG-4 SP, though our reference file wouldn't play. This, ladies and gents, gave us incurable sadface, since it plays on most other devices.

Oh, we should mention that like iRiver's new B30, which we actually tested out yesterday, the E200 uses touch-sensitive controls, and backs each button tap with tiny haptic vibrations.

So, any positives? Well, it sounded decent through our reference Denon AH-D5000 headphones. It has a bunch of equaliser options, which will help out if your headphones are essentially vibrating slices of dung encased in plastic. Plus at £89 it's also an affordable alternative to the £107 8GB iPod nano.

But, and we think you know what's coming, it's just not good. It's sluggish and unresponsive, with a poor screen and weak video-format support. It won't play AAC files either, unlike the similarly priced and much better Creative Zen, which rules out support for your iTunes downloads.

It's a shame for such an attractive player, but its redeeming features are tarnished by inexcusably butchered performance. If only iRiver released the B30 without DAB and shipped it in the E200's enclosure, it could've been one of the sweetest iRiver players since the Clix 2.

It'll be available from mid-August for those of you only after an admittedly great-looking bargain, and will be exclusively shipped by our friends at Advanced MP3 Players. Check out our hands-on photos over the page.

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Beauty, but no brains, sadly.
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The touch-sensitive buttons fade away when not in use.
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Here's a list of artists, only slightly visible thanks to the screen still being a sack of shiznit even on its highest brightness.
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A USB socket sits next to a microSD slot for expanding memory.
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A power button sits on top of the player.
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Being quite thin: a concept demonstrated here by the E200.
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