The device is laid out similar to a mobile phone, complete with a spacious numerical keypad and dedicated volume buttons on the side. A numerical keypad may seem like an odd choice of navigation for a portable audio player, but in its defense, few other interfaces are as instantly and universally recognizable to the touch.
The top edge of the Stream includes a Mini-USB port for connecting to a Mac or PC, an SD card slot that supports SD and SDHC cards up to 16GB, and a power adapter connection. Humanware includes a power adapter with the Stream, which is a good thing since the internal battery can't be charged with a USB connection. The battery reaches full charge in about four hours, offering up to 15 hours of playback time. The battery is also replaceable through compartment on the back, making it possible to keep multiple batteries on hand or easily replace old batteries after they wear out.
A button for recording voice memos is located on the right edge of the Stream, along with a headphone output and a minijack microphone input. A microphone isn't necessary, though, since there's an excellent internal mic on the front of the player. Recordings are made in a rare AMR-WB+ audio format, which can be converted to WAV using the included Stream Companion software.
Below the keypad are basic playback controls (play, pause, reverse, and skip), each differentiated by the shape of their key. You'll also find an oval shaped key above the play button that advances the built-in sleep timer in increments of 15 minutes, in case you have a tendency to doze off while listening to books.
Another big advantage the Stream has over the iPod is the capability to directly convert any text file (TXT, RTF, HTML, XML, BRF) into speech using an onboard synthetic voice (Nuance Vocalizer for Mobile).
Regardless of file type, one feature of the Stream that audiobook fans will find advantageous is the ability to place and recall multiple bookmarks--up to 9,998 of them, in fact. Unlike the iPod's single automatic placeholder capability, bookmarking with the Stream makes it easier to share the device between multiple users without running the risk of loosing one's place in an audio file.
Overall, the VictorReader Stream is a solid product with a design and capabilities that reveal a considerable amount of thought on behalf of the manufacturer for its audience. The $349 price tag isn't cheap, but the expense is reflected in the quality of the product and rare, desirable features such as text-to-speech and support for NLS audiobook formats.