As an option, iRiver offers a cradle pack ($69.99) and an accessory kit ($29.99). The former includes an IR remote, a retro-looking docking cradle, a USB cable, and a minijack-to-minijack cable for line-in recordings, which are possible with only the dock. Once you pop the iRiver Clix into its bright white cradle, the whole thing looks like a mini TV, complete with built-in speakers. There's even a snooze button on top for the onboard alarm clock. On the back, you'll find line-in and line-out jacks, as well as a mini-USB port. The accessory kit consists of a rubbery plastic case, an armband, a screen cloth, and stick-on pieces of film to protect the LCD. The last two are particularly useful.
The iRiver Clix is a bargain once you factor in all the features. It costs the same as the 2GB iPod Nano, yet the Clix is packed with useful extras. You get an FM tuner (with up to 20 presets) and a voice recorder; with the dock, you have an option for line-in recording. There's a calendar and an alarm clock, as well as support for Flash games. Our test unit came with several titles already loaded, but keep in mind you can't listen to music while you play these games; they have their own built-in sound. If you need to keep your eyes busy, the iRiver Clix delivers in that area too. You can view text, JPEG photos, or slide shows while listening to music. Plus, you can tinker with the background of the interface itself, choosing from seven sharp-looking color schemes based on the days of the week or an automatic setting that cycles through them each day; alternatively, you can use your own photos. We're also happy to report that the Clix, unlike the U10, supports album art, which is definitely nice to look at on the crisp color screen.
As icing on the cake, the iRiver Clix supports MPEG-4 video, though as yet, there's no easy way to get this content à la iTunes. That is, you'll have to convert your files before playing them on the device. While iRiver's user guide clearly documents the parameters for compatible video and describes how to transfer footage to the Clix, it doesn't explain the conversion process. However, iRiver's Web site has this info, along with the necessary software, called iRiviter, created not by iRiver engineers but by die-hard iRiver fans. In our tests, the software made easy--though not exactly quick--work of several video files, but others proved impossible to convert. Another option is to purchase an MPEG-4 encoder plug-in for WMP 11 so that the app will do the work for you (we haven't had a chance to test this out yet).
The heart of an MP3 player is its digital music playback, and the iRiver Clix is no slouch in that area. The Clix supports MP3, OGG, and WMA files, including songs purchased from online stores such as MSN Music or downloaded as part of an on-the-go subscription service such as Urge and Napster To Go. You can transfer playlists to the device or choose from two on-the-fly options: make your own Quick List or let the player decide based on your song ratings. You can also rate songs on the fly. For music playback, the Clix offers the standard shuffle and repeat settings, and you can select from 13 EQ settings (Normal, Classic, Live, Pop, Rock, Jazz, Ubass, Metal, Dance, Party, Club, SRS Wow, and a user-defined mode) and preview them in real time. However, there's no autoplay; that is, when you turn the player off and then on again, it doesn't automatically resume playback. If you're on the playback screen, all it takes is a simple press of the right side to start, or you must navigate to Now Playing and hit play. In both cases, the Clix resumes where it left off in the song or the video.
Thankfully, the audio features don't go to waste, because the iRiver Clix sounds great and gets really loud. We preferred our custom EQ to the flat setting, but however you slice it, you get clear highs, a defined midrange, and tangible lows. But if you really want to experience all the Clix has to offer in the sound department (especially the bass), pair it with high-end headphones; we prefer Shure's E4cs. The included earbuds sound surprisingly decent, but they're uncomfortable after 20 or 30 minutes of consecutive use. The iRiver Clix's rated 25-hour battery life is also solid, though not as good as the U10's 28 hours. Unfortunately, the U10 outperforms the Clix in practice as well; while the older player achieved an amazing 31.5 hours of playtime (music only) in CNET Labs' tests, the Clix squeezed out 18.7 hours. That's not bad, but we're disappointed that iRiver couldn't match the U10's stellar battery performance. Transfer speeds over USB 2.0 were speedy, coming in at 3.7MB per second.
Overall performance is similarly impressive in our real-world tests. The Flash games are surprisingly engaging and colorful, FM reception is excellent, and the related autoscan feature works well. Menu navigation is speedy, though you don't get the U10's accelerated scrolling through track lists. The Clix scrolls through long lists fairly quickly, but it's hindered by a lack of acceleration. Videos load speedily (comparable to the iPod), and they look nice--though small--on the bright color screen. There's no video-out option, but clips formatted for the Clix's display would no doubt look subpar on a full-size screen anyway.