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MP3 Players

Hands-on with the iRiver E100: nano botherer hits UK

We're very excited to have been given a first-in-the-UK look at iRiver's cute E100 -- an affordable, video-playing MP3 player set to rival the iPod nano. We've got a boat-load of photos for you

Ever since seeing iRiver's new range of MP3 players back at CES in January, we've been itching to get models to take home and use. We've just been sent one of the first iRiver E100 players in the UK and in many ways we're extremely taken.

The 4GB (£80) and 8GB (£100) capacities on offer are expandable with microSD up to 8GB, and the players come with built-in microphones, line-in sockets, built-in mini stereo speakers, video playback and, like the iPod nano, come in a variety of colours.

The player itself feels pretty lightweight and it's reasonably attractive. It's a little reminiscent of the Archos 105, meaning it's got a slightly budget feel to it. However, that big ol' 61mm (2.4-inch) colour screen is better than the Archos, despite being fairly low-res, with individual pixels clearly visible. Navigation is very simple -- if sluggish to use -- and requires the use of a simple four-way control pad underneath the screen.

After getting some music on to the players by simply dragging and dropping MP3s through Windows, we had a quick blast to test sound quality. iRiver has never blown us away with audio performance, but it's always been acceptable. The same is true for the E100 -- it lacks the in-your-face quality from Cowon or Apple's iPod classic, but it's above average. Paired with our Denon AH-D5000 reference headphones, the difference between the iPod classic and the E100 is obvious. But using cheap bundled headphones, it's less so.

Video quality's average, and again it's two steps behind the iPod nano in terms of sharpness and colour depth, and a step behind iRiver's own Clix 2 -- a player we're still in love with from 2007.

This all said, the E100 is more affordable, and a step up from cheaper alternatives, such as the mediocre Archos 105. After spending a small amount of time with it, we'd say it's a usable and friendly alternative to anything by Apple, but if you use the two side-by-side, you'll realise the extra money spent on an iPod or a Creative Zen gives you significantly better video and audio performance, though usability is on a par with the Zen.

Expect our full review extremely soon. In the meantime, click through our extended gallery for a plethora of snaps to give you a closer inspection of this likeable new player.

By the way, did you know this player shares a model number with a £50 toilet seat? No, neither did we. -Nate Lanxon

Update: Read our full iRiver E100 review

This is the four-way control pad used for navigation, with the select button in the centre.

On top is the microSD slot, covered by a flap.

On the bottom of the E100 is a standard mini USB port, 3.5-inch line-in and headphone sockets, and a lanyard strap.

The Creative Zen, iRiver E100, Sony A818 and iPod touch side-by-side.

The iPod touch is just a shade thinner than the E100.

The main menu is icon-driven and attractive.

Similarly, text-based menus are easy to read, clearly labelled and intuitive.

Finally, video playback is okay, but we've certainly seen better screens before now.